09:31 AM CDT on Sunday, April 15, 2007
We asked some of the regular contributors to our Community Opinions pages what they think about the death penalty.
It's argued that the harshness of the death penalty doesn't deter murder. That's not provable. How many people will admit they've entertained the idea of murder but rejected it because of the death penalty? We can make an equally qualified statement that, without the death penalty, more killings will take place. Each are assumptions, not proven facts.
Every law that proposes a penalty for breaching its mandate serves a purpose; fewer people will break that law than if no penalty existed. Yet such punishment should be proportional to the crime. When a person is convicted of first-degree murder and is given a sentence less than that of his victim's death sentence, it's not proportional. Justice is saying that the lives of those murdered victims are less important than the lives of their killers.
An "eye for an eye" is not about harshness; it's about proportional retribution.
GM assembly plant worker
The death penalty is right and necessary for our legal system's integrity, protecting our laws from becoming compromised and toothless. We as individuals have no moral right to retribution (vengeance is God's, according to Deuteronomy 32:35 and Romans 12:19), but that does not apply to the state. And our legal system is based, among other tenets, on payback. In order to have a completely consistent and effective system of justice, the ultimate penalty of death is necessary for the most heinous crimes.
From an institutional point of view, some people deserve to die based on the evil they do. And to die not like in other states where the death penalty is rarely carried out, but within a legal system willing to impose the penalties it sets. If, as in Texas, mistakes such as wrongful convictions are made, focus should be on the prosecution of individuals, not on the standards of punishment.
Prosper media relations freelancer
In a perfect world, I would not support the death penalty because, in a perfect world, there would be no perpetuations of violence, no murders, no rapes, no child molestations. Our culture and society would understand that the hate and anger necessary to commit these crimes take root in a person's childhood, when ignorance and poverty have been permitted to plant themselves there. An unvalued child will grow to inflict his pain into the hearts of others. Knowing this, we would value all children. We would have the confidence to place the health and well-being of our children beyond the rights and comforts of adults.
But at some point, the cycle has to be stopped, and until we are ready to address the issues that allow children to grow into violent adults, the death penalty is our only way of saying enough is enough.
of children's novels
Most believe the privilege of life is our most important right – many believe it a gift. We cling to every moment as though it is the greatest treasure. It's little wonder we address the intentional ending of anyone's life with the utmost concern and an abundance of questions.
Are there any circumstances under which one ought to forfeit their right to life?
Why should one who chooses to end the life of another without just cause have the right to exist?
Why should one whose uncontrollable perversions preclude children and women from living a life without fear have the right to a life of terror?
The society that cares more about the right of the evil to exist than for the right of the innocent to exist without fear has lost its moral compass. Justly ending another's life should never be done without apprehension. But the moral society bravely embraces rather than cowers from responsibility.
Plano philosophy teacher
and financial analyst
I strongly oppose the death penalty from a moral and legal perspective. As a Christian, I believe the death penalty contradicts biblical values of grace and forgiveness. While the death penalty is sanctioned in the Old Testament, when the nation of Israel lived under Mosaic Law, the New Testaments paints a different vision of the Kingdom of God. This vision lacks capital punishment. The Bible contains several stories of Christ preaching against the death penalty, particularly its unjust application. Christ called his followers to turn the other cheek rather than enforce an eye for an eye.
Also, with the flood of overturned convictions due to poor jurisprudence, Texas should not execute anyone. One person wrongly executed is too many, and there are too many cases of wrongful prosecution and condemnation to take that risk. I support punishment, but we should resurrect old traditions involving public humiliation and put capital punishment to death.
E. KYLE STEINHAUSER
Frisco technology marketing manager and Baptist minister
Thou shalt not kill? Texas accounts for only 8 percent of our nation's population, but 36 percent of all executions since 1976 and 89 percent of the death sentences carried out this year. We may be "tough on crime," but at what cost? On average, Texas spends $2.3 million on each execution, the same as locking up a criminal for 120 years. Is Texas justice foolproof? Nationwide, 69 people have been sprung from death row based on newly discovered evidence, 21 since 1993.
Dostoevsky is said to have observed, "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." If you support capital punishment, go to Huntsville and watch a death penalty carried out. Maybe it won't take 34 minutes of screaming agony, like Angel Diaz's execution in Florida last December. But I'll pass. I am ashamed enough already, for all of us.
As a death penalty convert, I believe the argument that it serves as a deterrent is specious. Back when the condemned did the "rope dance" in the town square it may have set one or two would-be horse thieves on the righteous path, but now executions are virtually invisible, witnessed mostly by prison officials. Besides, the majority of applicable crimes are not being perpetrated by individuals behaving rationally.
Numerous cases indicate that our system of justice is driven by a rush to prosecution regardless of the facts: Investigators and prosecutors withhold information, "expert" witnesses may not be objective, lab results can be incorrect, and eyewitnesses are unreliable. With our imperfect judicial system, the verdict can be more influenced by the defendant's wealth than his complicity.
Our societal sense of revenge against heinous criminals is ancient and emotional. Some will quote Scripture to justify the death penalty as the ultimate means of justice. But when innocents are executed, all that is served is injustice.
emergency room RN
The death penalty is an affront to human dignity. Its use is not a deterrent or justice, but revenge by a society interested in neither.
Our justice system is a delicate balance of human frailties. Its operators are not infallible, incorruptible or unbiased despite their best intentions. While a civilized society does not execute its members, our state unconscionably does so without certainty of the condemned's guilt. Government should not have the power of life and death over its citizens.
If, as I have, you shake the hand of someone who's spent a decade on death row for a murder he didn't commit, you'll face the capriciousness of the death chamber. And you won't forget the humanity of its victims.
LISA M. VIRGOE
What do you think? We encourage readers on all sides of the death penalty debate to share their thoughts, analysis and opinions with us and our readers.