1.20.2006

On Capital Punishment

Note, I've made this post a little sticky so as to not lose it in my ever growing tide of posts.
I promised a post expounding on my views of capital punishment in the wake of Stanley Williams' execution. So let me try to explain how and why I believe in the death penalty.

At its most basic level, its an attempt to create a tautology, a balanced equation. An eye for an eye has a natural balance to it. If someone kills then shouldn't they forfeit their life as payment? Doesn't that follow naturally the one from the other? What I mean is that prematurely and wantonly ending another person's life, that is, capital murder cheats another person out of the fullness of their life. I have zero issue with attempting to "fix" that imbalance by removing the life of the person that wantonly ended the other's life. No, its not perfect but its the best we can, until we can reanimate the dead or take a killer's life force and implant it in the dead body of the one they killed. If it were possible to repair the damage their murder caused then I'd have no worries with ending capital punishment but we don't have that particular technology yet.

And tonight, Clarence Ray Allen will be put to death for the murder and conspiracy to commit murder of four people, three of whom were killed after he was behind bars. The issue has been that he is too old to be put to death and should be allowed to die naturally. But naturally would involve him running from some lions or maybe a hungry pack of gorillas. That he is an old murderer does not invoke any sympathy from me. He engineered the deaths of three people while behind bars. That tells me that life without parole ISN'T a deterrent to murder. It tells me that the death penalty does end that person's capability to inflict suffering on the world.

I'd like to revisit that too old to be put to death argument. I heard an anti-death penalty person being interviewed on TV say that, because of his age, Clarence Ray Allen posed no threat to anyone. Which is, in reality, utter bullshit. He orchestrated the murder of three people while behind bars, what would stop him from doing so again? His age? How and why would his being a mean old murderer stop him from having other people killed? He DID represent a threat from behind bars, he WAS a dangerous criminal to have locked up and, with his execution, he's no longer able to exert his evil influence on anyone anymore. That isn't to say that he couldn't have had plans to have someone killed after his death but he's done making those plans. So yeah, he was a threat and a danger even as an old and mostly infirm man. Life without parole means life behind bars without further repercusions from your actions so why not work through your enemy list and see how many more you can cross off before dying? Life without parole is no deterrent to a murderer, execution without the chance of further harm is.

Perhaps that is cold and ugly to read or consider. But I consider the death penalty to be a resolution and closure. You killed and so you are killed.

[Update: I forgot to mention the typical counter-argument to capital punishment, that it is more expensive to put someone to death than it costs to keep them alive for the rest of their life behind bars. That's a symptom of a problem with the administration of the death penalty, not with the death penalty itself. The imbalance of expense can be repaired by fixing the system because I agree that its ridiculous that it costs so much more to put someone to death than to keep them alive and under lock and key for 30 years.]
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