A Conservative Case for Capital Punishment

A Conservative Case for Capital Punishment
Steve Farrell
Oct. 26, 2000

Since the dawn of creation the law of God to man has been: "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." Today, we refer to this Biblical principle as capital punishment.
Interestingly, regardless of the fact that the death penalty´s origin is found in the Bible, every society, religious or not, has adopted the death penalty as a suitable way to deal with murder. There´s a good reason for that. The death penalty makes great sense.

Think about it; as harsh a sentence as death is, the penalty fits the crime:

1. Murder is a crime for which the victim cannot come back and say, "I refuse to press charges." The victim has no voice.

2. Murder is a crime for which no payment by the criminal will ever fully satisfy the debt incurred. If one robs a store, the captured thief can pay back the debt, and in fact, under Biblical law (which is better than today´s law) would be tasked to work for the man he robbed until the debt was satisfied seven times over. The thief is then freed, and by his labor, restored to a position of trust.

But a murderer can never bring back life. Thus, no matter how hard he labors, he can never regain society´s trust. His victim is dead and will remain dead.

3. The legitimate role of government involves the protection of life, liberty, and property. Just as the role of the government is to raise an armed force and rain down deadly force upon a bloodthirsty invading army, so also the government is duty bound to inflict death upon the man who chooses to slaughter fellow citizens in his own backyard.

No person endowed with a functional human brain would object to the use of deadly force against an invading army. Yet, those invading soldiers, ordered to fight, or whipped up by propaganda to go to battle, are far less deserving of death than the assailant who has been proven guilty and convicted in a court of law by a jury of his peers of shedding the innocent blood of his neighbor, and this of his own free will. Governments must protect life.

4. Murder revokes citizenship. Some defend the murderer upon the claim that he/she, like anyone else, has certain rights, including the right to life. This is true, prior to conviction.

In this country we assume a man is innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, the accused has all the same rights in the legal system as anyone else: i.e. the right to know the crime for which one is being charged; the right to a speedy and public trial, the right to counsel, the right to face one´s accusers, the right to trial before a jury of peers, the right against forced self incrimination, the right not to be tried twice for the same crime, the right to be only convicted for capital punishment only upon the testimony of two witnesses, and the right to appeal.

But after all this has taken place, and the jury proclaims his guilt and decrees his sentence, his rights as an American citizen end. He freely chose to break the law and take the life of a fellow citizen, however, he is not now free to avoid the consequences of his heinous choice. If the jury assigns death, his fate is sealed.

5. The Death Penalty is not, as social activist lawyer Clarence Darrow once claimed, "an act of revenge;" it is an act of justice.

Liberals and libertarians have made hay of people driving by a penitentiary in Michigan City shouting "Burn baby, burn!" as a man - who raped and strangulated a mother and drowned each one of her three children one by one - was electrocuted.

But let´s address a more important issue here. Why do we suppose some people react that way? Could it be they are bearing testimony to the slayer and future would-be-slayers that murder hurts? Could it be they are witnessing to the murderer, and those who take murder lightly that murder is not just a crime against an individual, but against all those who loved that individual, all those who depended upon that individual, all those who were and may yet have been influenced by that individual, and against all those who fear that a similar act might someday befall upon them or their loved ones?

Certainly, no normal human being pastes on his face a perpetual smile after a loved one, or fellow citizen has been brutally murdered, nor should he.

Consider the counsel of King Arthur to Sir Lancelot in the movie "First Knight:" "A man who doesn´t fear anything, is a man who loves nothing." Or with slight adaptation: "A man who has never known anger, has never known love."

Could it be that some activist lawyers and pundits - who don´t believe in Judeo-Christian morality anyway - are guilty of confusing righteous indignation with revenge?

It appears so. Even so, a spirit of revenge does not change the nature of the crime, the proof of the murderers guilt, nor the necessity for proportional justice. Murder is murder.

6. The justice of the death penalty is strengthened, not weakened, by the advent of new technologies such as DNA testing, which have recently been utilized to more firmly establish guilt or innocence. It does not logically follow that the death penalty should be abolished because such evidence "might" have reversed the fate of some previously put to death. It´s too late for that. What´s past is past.

7. Racial profiling and rich/poor lawyer success rates are poor excuses to eliminate the death penalty, and thus rob justice. That some people inevitably get off because of the skill of a lawyer, because of celebrity status (i.e. O.J. Simpson), or because of political power does not negate the validity and necessity for laws and penalties. It should only motivate us to find a way to make these "untouchables" accountable before the law. We can´t have anarchy.

8. Life imprisonment is a poor substitute for the death penalty. Such a plan heaps additional punishment upon victims by insisting that they pay for the living expenses, the education expenses, the recreation expenses, the medical expenses of the man who killed their kin. Such a plan is in fact socialism for in behalf of butchers.

But even worse, life imprisonment unnecessarily puts at risk prison guards, lesser criminals, survivors, jurists, judges, lawyers, witnesses, family members, little children ... everyone.

Face it, murderers have been known to kill in prison, order a hit on a civilian while in prison, and to kill once they get out of prison. That´s why the average murderer on death row has killed 3 people before he is finally put to death. This is a paltry example of the so-called "progress of the law." Putting a man to death the first time around is better. It saves lives.

9. Finally, a society which honors the sanctity of life by putting to death those who are destroyers of life, is not murderous, but Godly.

The question was asked by National Review´s "conservative" reporter, Carl M. Cannon, in a front page June 19, 2000 feature article, "The Problem With the Chair: A Conservative Case Against Capital Punishment," "if a democratic society executes criminals with the foreknowledge that some percentage of them are innocent, are all members of that society implicitly guilty of murder themselves?"

Since many of you have heard this question before, it is worth addressing.

To be honest, Mr. Cannon never presented one shred of evidence that such an execution has ever taken place in the United States, only evidence that last minute revelations have saved a number of innocents - a fact which reflects the sense of justice and fair play which still exists in the United States, not an absence of it.

But as for any Hitlerian/Athiestical sentiment of collective guilt - which would advance the proposition that murderers should be set free because "we are all murderers," such conjecture could only be motivated by one who has an ax to grind against those who do their best to uphold the laws of God and man. It is representative, also, of the childish rhetoric of weaklings who try to justify their sinful conduct by claiming that "everyone is doing it." Everyone is never doing it.

Moreover, we believe that our God is more just and merciful than that. We trust, as did our forefathers, that if we do the absolute best we can to uphold his laws, God will judge us by the intent of our hearts in those areas where we may have remotely failed. It is He who established the law for the death penalty. His law is good.

A better question then, is this: If after a fair trial, a jury of 12 peers are thoroughly, and unanimously convinced that a man has committed a murder, lawmakers step in and RECKLESSLY overrule their finding, ten thousand times over in ten thousand different cases, just because it fits neatly into their political agenda for the "progress of the law," will those lawmakers be held partially responsible for the deaths those murderers will yet commit?

It is that question, a thoughtful and responsible conservative writer ought to ask of his readers, of his liberal and libertarian friends, and of himself.