Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why I'm Against Capital Punishment

Jacob pointed me to this article at where Radley Balko wrote about the staggering number of people who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime and later exonerated by DNA evidence. I used to be a ravenous advocator of the death penalty, seeking revenge on those convicted of capital offenses, but my opinion has changed over the years.

First, as Balko points out, the State gets it wrong too often. With the emergence of DNA testing, many wrongful convictions are now being revealed. How many more innocent people must be put to death before the pro-capital punishment crowd is convinced?

Another reason is that aggressive violence NEVER solves anything. This is not to say that one should not defend himself against an armed intruder if his life is in danger, but there is nothing defensive about putting a noose around a man’s neck, or in today’s terms, a needle in a man’s vein. Many supporters of the death penalty invoke a verse from the Bible that states, “an eye for an eye…”. Overlooked is that pesky passage from the Ten Commandments: “Thou Shalt Not Kill”.

I only reference the Bible in this application, because oddly, and sadly, there is a large contingent of death penalty supporters who align themselves with the Christian faith and use the Bible as the guide to which all things are measured – if it supports their particular side of the argument. (see Pro-lifers)

Most of all, I can’t think of a person less qualified to end a man’s life than a government bureaucrat. Those who truly support liberty cannot in good conscience support a system where the State is the arbiter of life and death, as this is the only collective group that lacks the incentive to reach the right conclusion in criminal justice cases.

Politically expedient and career driven prosecutors climb the ranks with convictions, not acquittals, and exonerating evidence is often suppressed in an effort to reach that conviction. Perhaps the solution would be to create a real incentive for prosecutors to get it right: negative personal consequences for those who have committed an act of willful negligence or other means of obstruction of justice leading to a wrongful conviction.

That’s right – the prosecutor must serve the sentence charged to the wrongfully convicted victim.


  1. Yes, it's always struck me as very bizarre that many of the people who claim to be the most distrustful of government also seem to support the death penalty the most strongly. That's not true for everyone, but certainly a large portion of the political spectrum in this country.

  2. What kind of a correlation do you think would be found between the death penalty supporters and the war supporters? Distrust for government usually applies only to domestic welfare programs (rightly so), but not when it comes to government sponsored killing. (Womb safety zone excluded.)

  3. Based on my unscientific poll of talking to the idiots that I work with, I would say the correlation is quite high.