22 oct. 2003

Why I am against the death penalty:

1. The argument from international opprobrium : I'd like to see the US be at the forefront of human rights issues. Most advanced democratic countries no longer employ the death penalty, and we shouldn't either.

2. The argument from injustice of application . It is applied in a notoriously unjust way across racial, socio-economic, and geographical lines.

3. The arguments from inefficiency and and inefficacity . It doesn't work as a deterrent (so I'm told) and is expensive and inefficient to apply. All those endless appeals that even the proponents of state execution complain about.

4. The argument from brutalization of the society as a whole and in particular those who are forced to implement the process . It coarsens the social fabric and damages those who actually have to carry out the executions.

5. The argument from irrevocability . Once you execute someone, that's it. Innocent people have been executed in the past and will in the future as well.

6. The argument from respect for life itself . The death penalty is usually applied in murder cases. Murder is frowned upon because it is the taking of a life, and the punishment should logically reflect a respect for life itself.

7. The argument from the unsatisfying nature of retribution . Retribution does not lead to a wholly satisfying feeling. Many relatives of murder victims have ultimately come out against the death penalty for this reason.

8. The argument from the advisability of limiting state power . I really don't want to give the state this ultimate power to decide life and death.

9. The argument from distortion of process . To be certified as a death-penalty juror, you have to be in favor of the death penalty. Thus the juries in such cases are more conservative and more likely to be sympathetic to the prosecution.

10. The argument from cruelty . There is no really humane way of carrying it out.

This is apropos of nothing in particular, and has nothing to do with habitual content of this blog. I was driving in my car a week ago and heard an interview with novelist/attorney Scott Turow, who has written a book against the death penalty. Since I had three or four more hours to think about this, I decided to think of as many reasons as I could to justify my own position. These are listed in no particular order, and there are probably more arguments I haven't thought of yet. None, obviously, is original with me. The only two arguments in favor are the some people are monsters argument and the if your family member were the victim you'd feel differently argument. I reject those, because I feel they are fallacious and outweighed by my arguments 1-10. If you are already against the death penalty, you've probably learned nothing new from this post. If by some chance someone reading this is in favor of it, I hope you will consider these arguments seriously.

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