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Death Penalty Quandary

July 25, 2012

Capital punishment, as I’ve noted elsewhere, is, pardon the phrase, poorly executed in America.  I don’t like the death penalty, and I’m uncomfortable with a government practicing it.  But like John Wayne, I recognize that some people just need killing.

I’ve heard a lot of people crying for the death penalty for the Theater Shooter.  I dislike this for a few reasons.

1) We don’t know the full story,

2) We don’t know what motivated it,

3) We don’t the guy’s mental landscape.

If there anything that could mitigate what he’s done?  No.  It doesn’t matter why he did it or what his state of mind was; incarceration is mandatory.  The death penalty should be reserved for individuals who commit heinous crimes with no regret, who understand the consequences of their actions, who WILL do it again, and who have been proven guilty definitively, not just beyond a shadow of a doubt.  DNA evidence, photographic evidence backed up by witnesses, but never on just witness accounts or circumstantial evidence.

This self-professed Joker is deranged obviously, but does he meet the criteria?  He didn’t have escalating crimes leading up to this, he may have been unstable with outside influences pushing him over the edge (which generally means outside influences could bring him back).

Not sure if I blogged about this already, so skip it if I did, but awhile back a mentally handicapped man committed a heinous crime and hearings were held to determine his capacity.  Because of the nature of his crimes, the hearings were controversial.  I think they were good and necessary.  People of diminished capacity are easily manipulated.  Was he the perpetrator or the weapon of another perpetrator who took advantage of him?  I don’t know, but I want to find out before levying the death penalty on someone who could be “deprogrammed.”

Can anyone be deprogrammed from evil?  No, I don’t think so.  But I’m not confident enough in that belief to decry anyone who stands against the death penalty.

Pen and Teller had an interesting commentary on why they oppose capital punishment.  Normally, though profane, their commentaries are very logical.  In this they doubled the length of their presentation and completely failed to make their case.  We’ve spoken before about morality and atheism aren’t mutually exclusive; however, I’m not sure morality is concrete for atheists since it is based solely on a “social contract” rather than rooted in the authority of God.  I’m no longer and atheist, though, so I stand to be corrected, but at base, survival of the fittest is the only logical conclusion for an atheist; anything else is illusion.

I think the most cogent argument against the death penalty is that a country who condemns willful slaughter committed by rogue nations would be hypocritical to execute its own citizens.  And so it may be true.

I believe God has given that right to nations, but if a country decides they won’t practice it because they don’t feel they can do it well, I’m okay with that.  If it were outlawed here, I would accept the consensus.  If it could be proved that murder or recidivism rose, I would call for it to be instituted again.  At the same time, I’m glad I’ll never be a part of a jury that has to levy such a sentence.

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