There has been a lot of hullaballoo about the death penalty in light of the Troy Davis execution (or murder, depending on your point of view). This commotion, centered on the Davis case, has escalated to the moral stratosphere adding fuel to death penalty abolitionist’s outrage. Arguing pro death penalty is very tricky to do without offending anyone. So I’m not even going to try. Here’s my opinion—people should suffer accordingly for their wrongdoings whether it’s a whoopin’ on the tush for disrespecting their mother or a needle in the vein for disrespecting the sovereignty of life.
The most basic argument in favor of the death penalty is deterrence. Deterrence works by letting would-be murderers know that if they should be found guilty of certain crimes, then their own lives are forfeit. It’s impossible to gather accurate statistical evidence on whether deterrence works; however, it is my sentiment that it does. Here’s why.
Punishment is something that is instilled in our minds from a very young age. For example: no one touches a burner on the stove twice. The pain experienced from the first meeting is enough to deter everyone from ever touching the burner again. Your mind learns to recognize the burner as a threat. You know that if you touch it, then you will pay the consequences. Similarly, the death penalty is a known consequence. People know that if they murder someone then they will get burned (executed). This naturally challenges any sentient being’s primary instinct: self preservation.
Deterrence in the modern world, while effective, is less effective than it was in older, more barbaric times. Why is that? Because people are not subjected to public humiliation or physical pain en route to their execution anymore. Instead, they are out of the public eye and are allowed a completely painless death (though this fact is contested by the bleeding hearts). Look, I’m not saying that we should go back to the old days of drawing and quartering people—I’m just saying that it makes sense to think that a would-be killer is much less intimidated of lethal injection than he would be a public, painful death.
There is also the convoluted but fascinating Japanese argument for the death penalty to consider. Japan currently has the death sentence, but only executes a handful of people each year (compared with China’s 1,000+ and the USA’s 100+). Why then, do the Japanese even bother with allowing the death penalty? Japanese psychologists argue that the death penalty is important to the Japanese people because it reinforces the idea that all things are rewarded. The Japanese workplace is one of the toughest, bleakest and hopeless working environments in the world. The Japanese view the death penalty as criminals getting their “reward” for crime. Thusly, the Japanese worker’s view is that if they continue on with their bleak job then eventually they will be rewarded with prosperity—as the murderer is rewarded with death.
I can’t go any further ignoring the abolitionist point of view. Abolitionists argue two primary theses. 1: That all life is sacred, and 2: That innocent people are occasionally executed. Valid points both. However, in response to the former: do you not believe that by snuffing out another life that the killer has forfeited his claim to humanity? I believe that with all crimes an eye for an eye is necessary, an ear for an ear, and a tongue for a tongue. This translates into a life for a life. All life is NOT sacred—if murderers, rapists, and sodomizers are examples of sacred existence then I would hate to see examples of evil.
The second abolitionist point–that innocents are sometimes killed, is tough to challenge. It’s true, innocent people have been put to death in the past only to be exonerated posthumously, decades, even centuries after their death—that’s obviously wrong. Protecting the innocent is the purpose of the state, not to kill. The only thing I can say to this is consider the thousands upon thousands of people who were rightly executed. Out of these thousands one “may” be innocent. As in the Davis case, death penalty rulings are not lightly arrived at. It took several hearings to determine that his claim to innocence was “smoke and mirrors”. That sounds like he was given an ample opportunity to me.
I don’t always have the most faith in the justice system. Human error and the fragile human psyche are evidence enough to be skeptical. But in the event that a human life has been taken, and the court is staring at the person who beyond the shadow of a doubt is responsible for taking that life, then that person deserves death. And probably deserves a death more painful than lethal injection. Remember: an eye for an eye.