Long Live the Death Penalty

by | Feb 20, 2003

Is the death penalty, by its very nature, “arbitrary and capricious” as the governor of Illinois and the Reverend Jesse Jackson have suddenly erupted into insisting? No. And they should be made to prove that it is. People cannot and should not be executed unless there is proof positive of their guilt. If you subscribe […]

Is the death penalty, by its very nature, “arbitrary and capricious” as the governor of Illinois and the Reverend Jesse Jackson have suddenly erupted into insisting?

No. And they should be made to prove that it is.

People cannot and should not be executed unless there is proof positive of their guilt. If you subscribe to the philosophical view that certainty is possible — particularly in this age of DNA evidence — then you can’t oppose the death penalty on grounds that we can never be certain of whether a killer is guilty or not. Of course, it’s fashionable today to doubt certainty whenever and wherever possible; liberals particularly like to question certainty when it comes to holding killers and terrorists responsible for their actions. This is why the Illinois governor has become the folk hero du jour to political liberals, a group known for supporting the notions of philosophical skepticism and moral relativism.

It’s actually quite hard to execute people in this country, as well it should be. Convicted offenders stay on death row for literally years and are granted extensive appeals. The death penalty is only reserved for the most severe of crimes and under the most exacting certainty. I wouldn’t support the death penalty unless the most rigorous of standards were applied to enacting it. If those standards failed in Illinois, the standards and the officials should be blamed — not the death penalty itself. At the same time, to argue that the death penalty is wrong because you might kill someone innocent is like arguing that war is always wrong, without exception, because you might harm innocents. My reaction to both positions is the same: So what are we supposed to do? Refuse to defend ourselves against the violent altogether?

The onus of proof is on the opponents of the death penalty to prove that certainty is impossible. The onus of proof is also on death penalty opponents to prove that because errors can be made — and discovered in time, as apparently they were in Illinois — that people who are known to be guilty of heinous crimes should not have to pay the ultimate price. Many seem to be saying that the Illinois example proves how the death penalty is wrong. Yet doesn’t the fact that errors were apparently discovered in time say something about how the current system works? Yet the answer, some insist, is to scrap the death penalty altogether.

I wonder: do the Illinois Governor and Jesse Jackson (who glorifies him) want to bring Timothy McVeigh back from the dead? To be consistent, they would have to say yes. I, for one, am glad that McVeigh and others like him are gone for good.

What about the terrorists who planned the attack on New York City and Washington DC in 2001? Should we refrain from executing them too? Should we refrain from executing Osama bin Laden if our government ever manages to bring him into custody, and assuming he’s still alive? No answer will be given, of course, but the requirement for logic and consistency will nevertheless intervene. You might reply: “Bin Laden is different. He killed thousands.” Is this supposed to comfort the family of a victim of a serial killer who killed, say, only ten?

Aside from terrorism, violent crime has diminished in recent years in our society. There must be some reason for this. If the death penalty goes by the wayside, I think you’ll see that trend reverse in fairly short order. Vicious, violent criminals know they can exploit the legal system with unprincipled attorneys, liberal judges and stupid juries. (Remember O.J., who got away with murder? Or Andrea Yates, who almost did?)

Death, as opposed to the non-justice practiced by our liberal judicial establishment, is absolute. When utilized rationally and judiciously, the death penalty is the last best hope we still have in this country against the worst element of violent offenders.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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