Right Side Deadly Decisions

The Matter Of Capital Punishment Is Settled By The Sentiments Of Many Of Those Who Have Lost Loved Ones Through Acts Of Murder

There are practices and traditions that we as a society have moved beyond for which we should congratulate ourselves. Scarlet letters, bloodletting, banishment, pantsuits, etc. The separation from such antiquated contrivances shows human progression in thought, science and the cherished rights of the individual. Yet not all activity that was once held sacrosanct need be tossed aside under the mantle of progress. A judicious use of capital punishment is a perfect example.

I often hear the argument from those who are against the death penalty that we as a society have grown beyond the brutal, emotional, eye for an eye retaliation of killing someone because they have killed. I find this argument strange because it is intertwined with arguments about what they think the punishment should be. It’s odd because it is an acknowledgement that a price is to be paid for violating the law, which is, of course, what the death penalty is. The argument, therefore, is not about being a more genteel group of folk; it’s simply about the degree of punishment. We assign a value to all matter of crime. That lost value is repaid to the victim or society in terms that we deem fair. Since we value the life of the individual more than all else, what jail time or monetary fine could ever be reimbursement for something that can’t be replaced?

Once we get beyond that part of the debate, we move on to the issues of constitutionality, deterrence and morality per the Bible. The constitutional questions arise from the “cruel and unusual punishment” wording in the Eighth Amendment and the “nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” language in the Fifth. The Eighth Amendment concerns have been addressed by the Supreme Court in 2008 and 1958, while the Fifth Amendment issue is readily settled by the simple fact that due process of law is given through what are typically lengthy, expensive, high-profile court cases.

For the life of me, I don’t understand the deterrence naysayers. At what point did we institute the death penalty because we thought it would prevent murders? The idea of the death penalty goes back to the book of Genesis (“Whoever sheds man’s blood, his blood will be shed by man ... ” –Gen. 9:6) not as an act of prevention, but for debt owed to society. Are we to believe that someone who is plotting murder may decide otherwise because if caught they would be put to death rather than get life without parole? People commit murder on a premeditated basis because they don’t think they will get caught. But just for argument’s sake, I can tell you that the analysis of capital punishment is all over the place. About 80 percent of criminologists say it has no value as a deterrent, while the FBI makes the case that it does.

Finally, we come to the issue of the Bible and “What would Jesus do?” In the Old Testament we find the use of capital punishment referenced in more than a dozen verses. In the New Testament those references revolve around the use of grace and mercy. But in Romans 13:1-7 we are told, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities ... ”

Which brings us back to how we as the governing authorities dole out appropriate punishments. With the advancement of DNA technology, we can now focus on other moral concerns. For me, the matter is settled by the sentiments of many of those who have lost loved ones through acts of murder. They are not the unaffected ones picketing the governor’s mansion on execution day. They, the ones who have had so much taken from them, are the ones who are given some semblance of closure through an act of justice that has stood the test of time and scrutiny.

Dave Parker hosts The Dave Parker Show on AM 790 WNIS weekdays from 10 a.m.–noon. He can also be heard each afternoon on US1061 and reached at dparker@wnis.com. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two daughters.

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