It’s Time to End the Death Penalty

Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders.     Albert Camus

Since 1976 when it was reinstated by the Supreme Court, more than 1,400 people have been executed in the US and there are currently over 7,800 on death row. Thirty one states, the federal government, and the military still allow for capital punishment. For decades the death penalty could be used for a variety of offenses including theft and rape but today is limited to murder, treason, espionage, and large-scale drug smuggling, although the last time it was used for such offenses was the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1953 for passing along top secret information on radar, sonar, and nuclear weapons to the Soviets.

For many years I was a proponent of the death penalty as a fitting punishment for murderers but have since come to the realization that it is unjust and should be abolished completely, with no exceptions. While the issue bubbles up into the national consciousness on occasion, unfortunately there has been little sustained discussion concerning its application of late.

Before I lay out my case against capital punishment let me first point out a couple of oft-cited arguments against that don’t factor in my reasoning and conclusions.

– China and Saudi Arabia. What moral authority can the US claim when we apply the death penalty just as the autocrats of those repressive regimes do? While not a baseless point, we should not use foreign examples to make a case here in the United States. It paves the way for a game of moral relativism with no end. Let’s terminate the practice not because awful governments do it nor because “good” countries don’t do it, but because it is the right thing to do.

– The religious argument. Once again I don’t believe it to be without merit nor do I intend to denigrate someone’s faith but religious systems can be interpreted in vastly different ways, from within and without the faith. The Bible itself contains passages for and against execution.

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