Wednesday, July 13, 2005


Pro-life, even for the bad guys

The Mouth usually likes to stick with areas where the weight of facts is so obvious and blunt that resistance to my heavy-handed logic is futile. You know the usual: President Bush sucks, Tom Delay is a crook and so forth. I usually stay on the popular side of public opinion and operate from the assumption that the average American really agrees with me and only thinks he or she is conservative.

Today I'm wading out against the overwhelming weight of popular opinion to discuss capital punishment.

I bring this long-running debate up today as headlines surface that we may actually have killed the wrong man here in Missouri a decade ago. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce plans to reopen the investigation into the 1980 shooting death of Quinton Moss for which Larry Griffin was executed in 1995. Seems that a second man shot alongside Moss and who was never asked to testify at Griffin's trial says it was not Griffin who shot him or Moss.

Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee is considering a bill that would speed up the death penalty appeals process and make it easier to execute someone. In spite of all the highly publicized instance in recent years of innocent men freed from Death Row, our Congress wants to speed up the line to the gurney.

The reopening of Griffin's case is quite remarkable, and for Joyce to agree to this is quite laudable. Capital punishment proponents often make the factual, although dishonest, argument that no documented case exists of a wrongful execution. The reason this has never happened is because, until now, no official attempt has ever been made to investigate allegations that they killed the wrong guy. In fact, prosecutors on at least three occasions in both Texas and Virginia successfully fought to destroy possibly exulpatory DNA evidence after questions arose that they got the wrong man.

So let's quickly run through the arguments why capital punishment is a bad idea and flat-out un-Christian:

*It's quite easy to execute the wrong person. Although numbers seem to vary, we can document over scores of innocents who have been freed from Death Row. Some were placed there due to prosecutorial misconduct. Others landed there because they were represented by really bad lawyers. Do you really think that no innocent person has ever been executed?

*It costs too much to execute, what with years of appeals and whatnot. Let them live out their lives in prison. Sounds worse than death to me. For years, Texas lawmakers refused to enact a life-without-parole sentence, because they knew too many jurors would be quite comfortable with imposing it. As long as even the worst killer could be possible for parole in 40 years, lawmakers figured, jurors would be more likely to send them to Death Row.

*It's not proven to be a deterrant. I'm aware of no study that directly links raises in capital punishment with lowered crime rates. I've looked at a lot of studies today in researching this issue, and so many try to play games with cause-and-effect. They give arguments like the fact that crime went down in Texas as the Lone Star state's death machine cranked into high gear in the 1990s. Those researchers can't explain, however, why crime rates also fell precipitously in Michigan, a state with no death penalty, and New York, a state that enacted capital punishment in the '90s but has not yet used it. Were there other extraneous factors leading to this lowered crime rate? Probably so. Besides most murder are committed in passion and are not pre-meditated.

*It defies the teachings of Jesus Christ. Grab your Bibles and turn to John 8; Matthew 7; Luke 6:35-37; Romans 12:14-19. Death penalty advocates like to ignore these verses and take a pair of scissors to the Old Testament, picking and choosing the verses that best suit their agenda. The Hebrew law of the Old Testament and the teachings of the New Testament often appear to stand in opposition (Matthew 5; Galatians 3:21-25). I don't have all the answers as some Christians say they do, but I choose to err on the side of the New Testament, where I see not one verse justifying capital punishment and quite a few criticizing it.

*You cannot be pro-life and pro-capital punishment. To be truly pro-life means to oppose abortion, oppose capital punishment, stand up for economic and social justice, support only military action that passes the test of "just war" theory, and always fight for human dignity. So many professed pro-lifers try to rationalize capital punishment. They aren't really pro-life, merely anti-abortion. The right to life is the most basic right we enjoy; it applies even to bad people.

These arguments aren't necessarily the easiest to make. I admit that I sometimes feel great satisfaction when I hear that a thoroughly foul person has been executed. I would argue that this person even deserves to be executed. Still, for us to do it is wrong, and if we think we're satisfying agendas beyond bloodlust, we're simply lying to ourselves. I know I'm in the minority on this position, but let's see what comes of this investigation of Larry Griffin's case. You might be agreeing with me before too long.

Read for yourself:
Catholics Against Capital Punishment:

Open Hand Capital Punishment Page:

Capital Punishment in Missouri:

U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics:

Since I believe in your free will to make up your own mind, here's a pro-death penalty page. The writer makes some good arguments, while sometimes resorting to predictable conservative name-calling:

Texas is our most-frequent user of the death penalty. That state's Department of Criminal Justice has a heavily detailed page with all sorts of stats and info. on people who have been executed and who currently await execution. Ghoulish but fascinating:

Rove rage

The past couple of days, I've been sharing quotes from the Bush administration from a couple of years ago, showing their vow to fire anyone responsible for the outing of an undercover CIA agent. With Karl Rove's outing this past week as the leaker, here's what Bush spokesman Scott McClellan had to say yesterday:

"Any individual who works here at the White House has the president's confidence. They wouldn't be working here if they didn't have the president's confidence."

"Everybody who is working here is helping us to advance the agenda and that includes Karl Rove in a very big way."

Great commentary on capital punishment. All too often, the conservative evangelical Christian's logic on capital punishment is stupefying. What we are really telling society is that we would rather dispose of the murderer than rehabilitate. That he is beyond society's help. Thank God that Jesus Christ did not have that attitude with the human race. Let God be the sole ultimate authority on the disposal of life. Capital punishment does nothing but fulfills the base human instinct of bloodlust, and weakens societies value of life.
Concerning your comments on the death penalty...yes, there are problems with the execution (no pun intended) of the death penalty. However, lets not throw the baby out with the bath water. The death penalty, instituted by the God of the old and new testament for the Isrealites, is not only an instrument of order, but of justice. While I'll agree with you that justice is not, and will not be perfectly just in this world, God has set forth those in authority (governments) to establish order and justice on this earth (Romans 13:1), and, according to the NEW testament, carry out that justice with the SWORD. I'll include the actual text here for the benefit of our nonchristian friends:

Romans 13:4
"But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he [the government]does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer."

So, there is your one verse justifying capital punishment. AND, I have to say, that I did not see any argument against capital punishment in the verses you included. If you'll be more specific, I'll be glad to address the passages. For instance, I'm guessing that you're arguing that Jesus was against the death penalty because he sent away the guys wanting to stone the prostitute. However, an understanding of Hebrew law shows this not to be the case (and the fact that Jesus did not tell them not to prosecute the girl, but rather disqualified them as judges). The law of Moses reqired two or more witnesses for someone to be put to death, (Deut 17:6; 19:15; Matt 18:16; John 7:51; 8:17,18) and, by this account, there were no witnesses.(By the way, I am against cap. punishment on the basis of circumstantial evidence or on the basis of one witness) Further, because the stoners had not brought the male adulterer (death for both participants was mandated for adultery (Lev 20:10, and Det 22:22)), the woman could not legally be stoned, even if she did have two or more witnesses, and this also showed the stoners true intent of trying to trap Jesus.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?