The Death Penalty - a Defence

Chapter 1 

INTRODUCTION 

 

WHY THIS BOOK? 

From the beginning we want to state that we respect all active abolitionists (opponents to the death penalty). They are people who are convinced that they are fighting for a good cause and they have high ideals. Even if we sometimes strike hard at several of their opinions we never lose our respect for them. 

However, we have found that one may as actively fight for the good cause but from an opposite starting point. We therefore hope that no one will doubt our honest motives, but that we also will be met with respect. 

Our primary goal with this book is to show that the death penalty easily can be defended and should have a natural place in every civilized state all over the world. Secondly we want to give knowledge to all people who support the death penalty, but who not as yet have been able to formulate many arguments for their standpoint. Thirdly we want to try to put an end to some misconceptions and untenable arguments that the abolitionists brings forth. And fourthly we want to bring attention to the victims of the crimes and their relatives. They deserve to be placed in the limelight and have our solidarity considerably more than they do today. In chapter 5 we finally show that the death penalty easily can be defended from a Christian faith that is founded on the Bible. 

THE DEATH PENALTY IN THE US 

In the US - the leading democracy in the world - a strong majority of the people support the capital punishment, around 70%,(1) and most presidents have been supporters of the death penalty, including the last ones; Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W Bush. 38 states of 50 have the death penalty. 

However, one should be aware of the fact that very few are executed in the US. Ever since 1976 when the capital punishment was reinstated in the US (after a few years moratorium) until April 2005 only about 960 criminals were executed. And yet, between 15-20,000 people are murdered every year in the US. 

And unfortunately the US does not always set a good example when it comes to death penalty cases: There is a long waiting time for the execution to be carried out after a death sentence. Usually the convicts have to wait for about nine years in prison ("death row"), before an eventual execution is carried out. There are frightening examples of as much as 20 years on the death row.(2) 

Criticism has been made against that blacks and poor are sometimes being treated special in the courts in a negative way.(3) Criticism has also been aimed against capricious law practice. It is reasonable that criticism aimed against capriciousness (that is a certain measure of chance) in capital crimes can to a certain extent be justified, since so few are executed despite the great amount of violent crimes and murders that take place. 

Justified criticism has to be brought to the light and revealed. The US needed to take further precautions to get an improved, developed and consequent law practice when it comes to capital crimes.(4) 

This criticism, on the other hand, gives no reason to question the capital punishment itself, since the criticism only points to some possible flaws within the legal system. 

THE DEATH PENALTY IN THE WORLD 

The capital punishment has existed on the earth throughout the centuries. There has never existed a great opinion against the death penalty in history. 

There are exceptions, individuals have reacted against the death penalty, and governments in some countries have abolished it at certain times. And there are examples when people have reacted rightly against capricious and unjust capital sentences and have also reacted when they have seen how the authority has in repulsive ways made public executions into horrific spectacles. Furthermore, the process of law, the legal rights and the penal law have often been undeveloped. 

In other words, there have been good reasons to oppose the death penalty during the course of history. But despite this, it is generally speaking only during the second part of the 20th century that a noticeable change has taken place regarding the attitude towards the death penalty among some of the governments of the world. And this has lead to the fact that several nations' governments have chosen to abolish the death penalty. This mainly is the case in Europe. 

However, a thoroughly changed attitude among the people of these countries has not taken place according to polls made. And any international unity around the subject of the death penalty does not exist naturally, and will probably never exist.(5) During 2006 there was 3861 criminals from 55 different countries who were sentenced to death, and 1591 criminals in 25 countries were executed. The most executions were performed in China. In the US there was 53 criminals executed. 69 countries in the world did have the death penalty. 

This shows that there are extremely few executions that are performed in the world every year. There is not one country today that has the death penalty and consequently apply it according to its laws. We mean that there is therefore a need for a worldwide movement which act to give the capital punishment its rightful place in the whole world. 

CRIMES THAT DESERVE DEATH 

The death penalty can only come into question when it comes to the most heinous crimes. Each state governed by law should have the freedom to determine for themselves what those crimes are. We mean that for the following crimes the death penalty should be imposed: 

- Murder -

The death penalty should be a rule when it comes to murder.(6) Also for a person who instigates and determines a murder but who does not himself carry out the crime the rule should be the death penalty. Even for attempted murder or for planned murder the death penalty should be considered. 

- High treason/Treason -

During an imminent threat of war, the death penalty should be the norm for treason and espionage that would mean the loss of human life in wartime. For crimes in wartime that would mean the loss of human life the norm should be the death penalty. 

- Terrorism -

One who by acts of terrorism or acts of outrage cause people to be injured or killed, or has had the intention to injure or kill people, should as a norm be sentenced to death. These three types of criminals - murderers, traitors and terrorists - will from now on be summarized by the expression "murderer". 

- Repeated aggravated assault -

One who has been convicted of aggravated assault (or manslaughter, or brutal rape), who has served a punishment, and has gone through treatment, and after that is convicted of aggravated assault again, should be sentenced to death. Advanced, lengthy and refined form of aggravated assault, i.e. torture, should mean death without the demand of relapse. Continuously in this book such recidivists (and torturers) will be mentioned with the expression "violent criminal".(7) 

PERSONS WHO SHOULD NOT BE SENTENCED TO DEATH 

One who is below the age of 18 ought not to be sentenced to death. The death sentence should, as a rule, be converted to a very long prison term without parole and after that custody and rehabilitation. Pregnant women who have been sentenced to death are not to be executed during the pregnancy. Insane people are not to be sentenced to death, but should be placed in a closed nursing home for a very long time. 

MERCY 

The State should be able to give mercy to a criminal sentenced to death, and the alternative should then be lifetime imprisonment without parole. This instance of mercy can be considered as a kind of a third legal proceeding instance. (In criminal cases where the death penalty could be imposed, the norm should be two trials.) If the condemned one asks for mercy this instance should only examine if there are extenuating circumstances that were not regarded carefully (enough) during the trials. If that is not the case the death sentenced should be performed. 

(link to Chapter 2 after footnotes)

 

Footnote 1. Abolitionists often refer to surveys made in the USA that shows that if alternative forms of judgments to capital punishment are given for instance lifetime without parole, then the support of capital punishment is reduced. This is natural. One can also assume that some of those who vote for e.g. the alternative of lifetime without parole do this because they feel that it would be a harder punishment. But it is important to realize that if someone instead of voting for the death penalty votes for the alternative of lifetime without parole this does not mean that the death penalty is rejected as a legitimate punishment by that person. Let us say that people have to vote on what punishment should be imposed for economical crimes and the alternatives are fines or a prison term and the majority votes for the prison term alternative, this does not mean that they reject the fine as a legitimate punishment. And the death penalty as a legitimate punishment has for many years had the support of approximately 70% of the population of the USA. 

Footnote 2. One reason for the long delay is that aggressive lawyers today is doing everything they can to delay the process: "A lawyer for a condemned prisoner hoped above all to have the prisoner's death sentence invalidated, but the second choice was to make the litigation last as long as possible ... Lawyers thus brought repeated claims of constitutional error before the courts, right up to the moment of execution. Knowing they could not win with a frontal attack, abolitionist lawyers fought a guerilla war, seeking to sabotage the machinery of capital punishment by tying it up in litigation. These efforts ... caused the average lenght of time between sentencing and execution to increase. From 51 months in 1977-1983 ... and 134 months by 1995." Stuart Banner, The Death Penalty - an American history, 2002, page 292-293. 

Footnote 3. See for instance the investigation made by the U.S. General Accounting Office; Death Penalty Sentencing: Research Indicates Pattern of Racial Disparities, 1990. But see also the American Supreme Court’s rejection of the criticism concerning racial discrimination in "The McCleskey verdict" in the year 1987. 

Footnote 4. "The Furman verdict" by the Supreme Court of the USA, in the year 1972, when the death penalty was declared unconstitutional, had as a consequence that judicial usage and legal security in capital punishment cases came to be improved in the USA. In "The Gregg verdict" in the year 1976 the Supreme Court of the USA declared that the death penalty once again could be united with the Constitution. Criticism of the USA that concerns the time before 1976 is today fairly irrelevant. 

Footnote 5. See for instance. Roger Hood, The Death Penalty, 1966, page 53-55. 

Footnote 6. See also Chapter 4, "There is a difference between murder and murder."

 Footnote 7. The federal laws in the USA provides the death penalty for murder ("first-degree"), and for: Destruction of aircraft, motor vehicles, or related facilities resulting in death; civil rights offenses resulting in death; espionage; treason; death resulting from offenses involving transportation of explosives, destruction of government property, or destruction of property related to foreign or interstate commerce; mailing of injurious articles with intent to kill or resulting in death; willful wrecking of a train resulting in death; bank-robbery-related murder or kidnaping; death resulting from aircraft hijacking. (The different states in the USA have, separately, specific laws regarding the death penalty.) 

To CHAPTER 2