Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Death Penalty

It has been loud in the news the last few days, Tookie to be executed - now gone. I have posted about Cory Maye in Mississippi. I have been finding myself really exploring my feelings about the death penalty a lot and I think if any good comes from the coverage of Tookie Williams it should be precisely this process. I have long held the opinion that I support the death penalty in any case that is 150% proven - i.e. none of them. The risk of executing the innocent far outweighs the "value" to society. My thinking has undergone great changes in the last few days - forced to truly consider the ramifications.

It has been shown in countless studies to have no effect as a deterrent to capitol crimes. There have been no statistical differences in the number of such crimes committed in areas where one could be executed for them vs places where there is no death penalty. I would theorize that while some people may well be deterred from such a crime if their life could be forfeit, others may well fear life in prison more than execution. Whatever the reason there is no statistical justification for the death penalty as a deterrent.

Some argue that execution helps bring closure to the families of victims. While some may feel "better" knowing that the perpetrator of some crime against a loved one is dead, I suspicion many more feel no better for the vengeance society has enacted for their benefit. When we watch television and the movies showing a death chamber scene, the families getting "peace" it's easy to get swept into the emotions and feel a certain satisfaction in that resolution. I think this is mainly something that exists only in the movies. The reality is that revenge eats away at the soul. It is not peace it is a hollow "victory" whose effects regardless of anything else will not bring back the victims.

It is easy to say "if that happened to my kid I'd kill the fu^$#@!!" But that is why we have a justice system - we don't have to take that into our own hands. We have courts to decide whether a person is guilty and what the punishment should be. When we decide that the punishment should be death, though, this lessens us as a society, as a whole. We become the criminals, advocating behavior that, for all the self righteous indignation, makes us no better than them.


jenny said...

duwayne, i agree with you. and your facts are right, in fact, the murder rate actually goes UP in states with the death penalty around the time of an execution. VIOLENCE BEGETS VIOLENCE, PERIOD. We can't advocate for vengeance which is what I believe the death penalty is, rather justice. Families are sold a bill of goods that execution is what will bring them closure but it will not, and in fact, it delays closure for years because of the long process of appeals, etc. I have seen many Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation speak, and they get it, that forgiveness is the only way to achieve true closure.

Beth said...

Wow, I wrote a very similarly themed piece at my blog yesterday.

They say great minds think alike.


DuWayne Brayton said...

I have seen the statistics that say the rate goes up but I also noted that they were limited in scope. I will try to find the reference but I read in a book that when comparesins were made between cities and smaller municipalities that shared similar charecteristics, i.e. same median incomes and the like, the averages were about the same.

I totaly agree that families need to find forgiveness. It is the only way to keep from being hardened and broken.

DuWayne Brayton said...

I would swear I went by your blog ad didn't see it. Now I do - hmmmm?

Beth said...

I had written two things on the 13th, maybe you only read the first and didn't see the second.

I'm surprised myself that I check your blog all the time but hadn't seen your Tuesday entry until Wednesday.

Hmmmm indeed!

Jenny is right, that violence begets violence. Why is this concept so difficult??

DuWayne Brayton said...

Actually this post was started the 13th and finished yesterday. Apparently the time stamp on blogger stamps the beginning point rather than the finish. . .