21
Aug
07

Killers: Life, death, and the gray paradox in between…

Given that earlier today, I posted my opinion on what I think the criteria of a true “killer” is, I find it ironic that I should run across an article dealing with the ethics of the death penalty for a person who meets the legally circumscribed definition of a “Killer”:

“The European Union notes with great regret the upcoming execution in the State of Texas,” the Portuguese presidency of the 27-nation bloc said in a statement.

Texas is expected to hit the 400 mark on Wednesday — putting it far ahead of any other U.S. state — with the execution of Johnny Ray Conner for the 1998 shooting of a grocery store clerk.

The European Union, which on Tuesday called the death penalty “cruel and inhumane,” is opposed to all capital punishment and has called for its worldwide abolition.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the use of the death penalty serves as a deterrent against violent crime,” the statement said, adding that its irreversibility meant that miscarriages of justice could not be redressed. – [Yahoo/Reuters]

What I find most interesting about this article, is the EUs objection to the death penalty on the grounds that it:

  1. Has not proven to be a deterrent against violent crime.
  2. Is cruel and inhumane.

Oh really? I might actually have bought reason one, if the sole purpose of the death penalty was to be a deterrent to violent crime. But most of the people whom I think would think deserve the death penalty are people who could watch someone getting brutally massacred right before their eyes without batting an eye, and proceed to enjoy a steak dinner like nothing happened and then sleep like a baby that night. IMHO The death penalty is not a deterrent. It’s cleanup.

That’s not to say that the death penalty couldn’t be a good deterrent for the more normal types of killers. It’s just that nobody thinks it’s going to happen to them unless they actually see it happen, up close and personal. Humans are visual creatures. If you really want to make an impression on them, you have to show them. How many people you know have actually ever seen an execution occur? I’m willing to bet few to none. So how exactly is it intended to be a deterrent?

And point 2 is laughable at best. Is life in prison supposed to be less cruel than death? Sure you’ll be alive, but it won’t exactly be a picnic either. Many who get life ending up serving a reduced sentence anyway due to bing killed in prison. And inhumane? There are such things as humane executions. Is death by lethal injection inhumane? I don’t think so. If I had to go, what better way than to just fall asleep an never wake up again. Quick and painless. I don’t think it gets any more humane than that.

Now obviously, I have no intrinsic objections to the death penalty. There are some people who will never be able to function in a socially constructive way, and can never be rehabilitated. And I think these people only pose a continuing threat to the well being of everyone else, and can safely (in my opinion anyway) be removed from society. But there are problems.

The biggest problem, is the only valid objection I saw in the article. The fact that the death penalty is irreversible, and if there is a mistake there is no way to rectify it. I can’t argue that, because our legal system has many flaws. Innocent people are found guilty and the guilty walk free. On the basis of that alone, we ought to abolish the death penalty. Not because it’s not a good solution for eliminating incurably violent criminals from society, but because the system too flawed to accurately determine who really deserves that penalty.

The legal system, for all of it’s massive and highly detailed rules and regulations, is still run and decided by living, breathing, human people. Each person has different belief system, different ideas of right and wrong, and different thresholds and tolerances for things. And few cases feature objective and irrefutable evidence like a video camera or an audio tape that tells the whole story in an accurate and objective manner. The judge and jury often has to make assumptions and decisions based on assumptions. It’s just isn’t morally or ethically responsible to base anyones death on human assumptions and feelings.

But even if the system could determine with 100 percent accuracy who should get the chair, we can’t kid ourselves about what we are doing. There is a paradox to this way of thinking. We are, in effect murdering a person in cold blood. Yes, we are doing it to save the lives of others that we know could be killed if the killer is allowed to continue to live. But we are being killers ourselves, simply because do not have, and cannot come up with, a better solution. Imagine that. We have no imagination…

EU urges Texas to halt executions before 400 mark – [Yahoo/Reuters]

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