The Death Penalty - a Defence

Chapter 2 

Page 1 (2) 




Violent crimes and murder are part of the cruelest, most inhuman and disparaging crimes that exist and they violate the victim’s rights, and with murder the victim´s right to life. 

These are a few important primary causes to why each civilized state governed by law should impose the severest judgment - death penalty - on such heinous crimes. 

In itself the death penalty is not something desired. But this awful punishment is forced by a sometimes ice-cold brutal reality. And the reality is that the door back to paradise is closed. Therefore each country is continuously forced to fight an uneven fight against all forms of the destructive. The capital punishment should be viewed as one instrument among many in the fight for a more righteous and better world. 

There are two words that often return when we defend the death penalty: justice and human dignity. And these words also constitute a foundation for that which is called democracy and civilization. These two realitys can also be regarded as two bearing pillars in the defence of the capital punishment. 

Justice is a highly regarded word in society and in politics, but within the judicial system and that which concerns crime and punishment, justice has, both as a word and as a conception, ended up existing in the shadows. But we want to lift forth this truth in the light, since justice should be the foundation within the legal system. When the death penalty is discussed the aspect of justice should be allowed in the foreground first and foremost. 

With human dignity we point the spotlight on the victims of crimes. Respect walks hand in hand with human dignity. Man has an inviolable dignity and therefore deserves the highest respect. Human dignity and respect, not foremost for the one who hurts his fellowman but for the victims of crimes and his relatives, is something that should be brought forth considerably more than today, and especially in connection with the death penalty. But the prerequisite for that is that sympathy and solidarity with the victim should increase in society.

We will here give some arguments for the death penalty. The arguments should be regarded in their totality. They make up a chain that receives its strength by the fact that all the links together form a strong and convincing totality. 


The Death Penalty is the only just punishment for violent criminals and murderers

Justice has always been the cornerstone of every state worthy of the name. All discussions around the death penalty should therefore be initiated by the question of justice in relation to the crime that has been committed. 

And justice is not only about capturing the criminal and getting a conviction, but first and foremost about the penalty of the sentencing, which has to be just. While jurists and criminologists over the course of time have worked with different theories of justice - every time has had its theory and its emphasis - one reality is remaining and never disappearing from the vast crowd, and that is justice. 

Even if the aspect of justice hasn’t had an especially large part in some nations criminal policy, it is nevertheless in the soul of the people. And it will always remain there. If a State authority is going to win the respect in the long run for it’s criminal policy it must be based on justice. 

The inner core of the capital punishment is in other words the existence or non-existence of justice within the walls of the judicial system. Do we want a society where one within the legal system strives for justice as much as possible? Or should the so-called "humane criminal policy" that puts the well being of the criminal in the focal point take the place of justice? How highly do we want to rate justice within the state governed by law? 

That which constitutes a society where there is law and order is that justice is administered. But if the state governed by law refuses to administer justice and instead shows the criminal a kinder face, then we have got something else than a JUST society. 

What then is the consequence if justice is once again placed in the high seat in the state governed by law? When it comes to the violent criminal and the murderer the death penalty becomes natural, because no other punishment can be called fair and just if proportion to the crime committed is to be maintained and defended and respected. 

We need to ask this question: If we on the one scale place the victims of the violent criminal and the murderer, what do we have to place on the other scale in order for it to be even and just? 

Maybe we can answer the question more easily if we stop and ask questions of the darkest character to ourselves. These questions hurt but they need to be asked. Suppose that you yourself today became the unfortunate victim of the hand of a murderer. If it was possible for you to express your will, what punishment would you want the murderer to receive in order for you to feel that it was the most just punishment? 

Then suppose that the hand of the murderer afflicted the one that you care for the most, your partner or your child, your mother or your father, your best friend. What punishment would you want the murderer to receive in order for you to feel that it was the most just punishment? 

If you answer these questions from the perspective of justice - which you should first and foremost - the death penalty should to most people be the obvious answer when the most just punishment is to be served. Only the death penalty evens out the scales of justice. 

It is important that we dare and have the strength to place ourselves in the place of the victim since it is among us living that the victims of tomorrow lives. Our voice is the voice of the victims. This is the voice we should make known to society. Every year it is too late for a number of people to make known how they feel and think. 

The laws of countries are not always based on justice. One consequence of this is the rejection of the death penalty. For example in Sweden the murderer is sentenced to prison, usually between 6-18 years.(1) This short time also has as a goal to rehabilitate the perpetrator. Afterwards the criminal is released and, normally, has a whole life in front of him and is able to fulfill his dreams. 

This is to be compared with the victim of the perpetrator who may have received lifelong injuries and harm, or death and the grave. And contrary to the perpetrator the victim is not released from the grave after a few years. This is also to be compared to the deceased’s relatives and friends who are forced to live with this trauma for a whole lifetime. This great difference does not even come close to something we can call justice. 

Someone may suggest a lifetime prison term as an alternative. But this does not mean justice either. A lifetime prison term will, in countries like Sweden, mean that despite the depriving of liberty there will be times to be on leave, good and nice times, care and rehabilitation. Furthermore lifetime prison in Sweden is in reality only around 10-18 years. There is the comforting hope of release, a hope that is almost always fulfilled. 

But how many good and nice times can the deceased expect to have? When will he be released? What hope does he have? Even if it were a lifetime sentence without parole or mercy, the convict would get used to his new life in prison. He would soon adjust to this new world that he in a limited way can form so that the existence still becomes fairly decent for him. The prison term cannot be made unbearable for him, because then the prison becomes like a torturing pain, which would be inhuman. The prison term must therefore be made tolerable and humane by the state governed by law. But then justice falls flat on the ground. 

The deceased victim does not get to participate in the good of life, not even a fraction of what the lifetime convicted criminal takes part of. The victim’s lot in comparison to the convict’s cannot even be compared; the difference is so complete. One got death, the other life, even if it is a life with limited freedom. No one can call this justice. On the contrary, it is scornful injustice and means that the victim’s value in comparison to the convict becomes exceedingly small. 

As long as a punishment bear no proportion to a crime the justice is weak and deadly sick. 

There is therefore no alternative to the death penalty for the violent criminal and the murderer. Every measure against him from the State’s side, which replaces the death penalty, means that complete justice is not performed. A lost human life can best be fully compensated through the death penalty. 

As long as this does not happen there will, in a symbolic way, be the call of blood from the ground with the message that the crime has not been atoned. Most of us understand and feel that there is a debt that has to be paid in a just way. There is a debt to the victim, to the relatives of the victim, and a debt to the world.  And this atoning, recompense and compensation that can silence the cries from the victims is the death penalty. The capital punishment means that society comes as close to justice as possible. 

Today the state governed by law is far away from this justice and atonement. Today the state governed by law is foreign to words such as guilt and atonement. Today, on the contrary, the violent criminal and murderer receive much pity from the laws. He is taken care of while those affected by him on one hand are afflicted by his cruelty and then also by a judicial system that does not give the perpetrator a just judgment. 

This should not be accepted. That which has to characterize a civilized state governed by law is that the State authority institutes as just punishments as possible. 

Since justice is such a determining ingredient in the civilized State and since certain crimes demand the death penalty in order for full justice to be administered it is clear that the capital punishment and civilization is closely intertwined. 

Always and everywhere within all areas of society justice has a high priority. As soon as anything is unjust we humans react. The code of justice is written in our genes and everyday there are situations where we react based on what this code of justice says to us. 

And if there is any place where justice should be handled carefully and with respect it should be in the courtroom. There justice should be revered and respected more than in any other place on earth. And if it is allowed it is easy to realize that the verdict will be that the death penalty is the most just penalty for the violent criminal and the murderer. Justice demands his life. 

It is also important to point out that justice has no demands whatsoever on it. Justice has a value within itself. We can not in other words begin to search for "profitable effects" from justice, for instance that justice has to lead to a smaller amount of crimes committed (general prevention) or that the criminal becomes a better human being (rehabilitation) and so on. Justice demands no such thing. Justice is above all these things. Justice sits alone on the throne and seeks our respect based on what it is in itself and is therefore the first and foremost reason for the death penalty. 

The time the abolitionists use the word justice and injustice it is usually impropriety within a legal system with the capital punishment what they have in mind. As soon as one sees such signs one states that the death penalty can not be fair to the criminals. A rather strange way to use the word justice. 

We supporters of the death penalty mean that justice must be placed in parity to what the criminal has done. It is about the verdict itself, that must be just and fair and be in proportion to the horrible crime. 

If we find improprieties in a legal proceeding it is very serious. But such things do not undermine the death penalty in itself. 

Even if an unjust or discriminating legal proceeding would mean that four out of ten guilty murderers escaped a death sentence, justice has been made with the six convicted ones. Justice is not made until everyone who deserves it is convicted; justice is served each and every time an individual who deserves it is convicted. 

Capital punishment always stands untouched and remains innocent during every capital case, because eventual unjust improprieties never touch the death penalty in itself. The death penalty will always be the most just punishment for certain types of crimes. 

The capital punishment can be defended from many aspects but it would be enough to say that the death penalty is simply the most just punishment for some of the most heinous crimes and then everything has to be silent. More should not have to be said on the subject. No one should need to know more. The argument of justice is so strong and decisive that this one argument should be enough to introduce the death penalty.

Through the Death Penalty the respect for man's inviolable value is kept 

Already nearly four thousand years ago these words were written: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man." The Bible, Genesis 9:6. 

Whether we believe that the words come from a god or not, these words testify of an ancient sense of justice, which in turn testifies of the view of the high value of man that has existed far back in the history of humanity. 

There is something within us that instinctively says that man has such a value, dignity and greatness that one who murders does not deserve to live. This natural intuition of the heart is something we need to confirm and cherish. 

If a state governed by law values man - the victim of a crime - with the highest respect, then it becomes natural with the death penalty for murderers and violent criminals. In a deeper sense therefore the capital punishment is actually about the human value. 

What is a human being worth? 

Faced with this question it is important to come to the understanding that the judgment that a state governed by law imposes on the violent criminal and the murderer at the same time reveals what value that the State places on its ordinary citizens and especially on the victims of crimes. 

A state governed by law can speak warmly about the value of man. But it is in action that the words show their value. And one way for me to find out what value the government places on me as a citizen is to read in the code of law and see what penalty there will be for one who could kill me and my loved ones. There I will have it in writing on what I as a human being is worth in the eyes of the government. 

But will we accept the value that the State places on us after we have read the code of law? Sweden, for instance, does not have a civilized legislation in that matter. Around 10-15 years in prison can hardly be viewed as a real punishment in comparison to the crime, but should more be vied as mercy and regard and goodness towards the murderer. But if a state governed by law is built on mercy and not on justice, then such a state in reality is failing its obligation to be a true state governed by law. 

The sanction of a few years in prison for a murderer brutally kills every beautiful statement that the human life would be considered as inviolable. The condemning by the lips of violent crimes and murder should have the utmost justice as a consequence in order to make it credible. 

When the violent criminal only has a prison term for a time it means also in practice, that the state governed by law trivializes the suffering and the permanent mark that the victim has been afflicted with. And when the murderer has approximately the same sanction it does not only mean trivializing but an open scorn against all victims. 

In order to make clear the value of an innocent human’s life (the victim) the murderer needs to be punished with death. Every other punishment undermines the value of the innocent victim. The death penalty, especially for murderer, is necessary if the state governed by law in a concrete and true meaning is to be able to show that it respect human life. 

The US Supreme Court wrote with deep insight in verdict Gregg v. Georgia: "Indeed, the decision that capital punishment may be the appropriate sanction in extreme cases is an expression of the community's belief that certain crimes are themselves so grievous an affront to humanity that the only adequate response may be the penalty of death." 

A careful sanction for the murderer does not in a real sense mean any respect at all for the life of the victim. It means that man - the victim - has a very small value. 

If the murderer is allowed to live we have to regard him as more worth than the dead victim. This is immoral and uncivilized since it normally means that a criminal get a higher value than a law-abiding, a guilty more than an innocent, a dishonest more than an honest. 

Every citizen should have the right to think: if anyone kills me, he would loose his life too. 

The state governed by law owes it to its citizens to give them this insurance. It gives man value and dignity. But today citizens of many countries are forced to think: if anyone takes my life - even by using the worst methods of torture - the sanction for the murderer will be a careful sanction or prison for some years. 

Do we citizens want it this way? What does this say about the governments’ attitude towards us citizens? Is it fair and just by the State towards me? And what happens to man’s inviolable value? 

Now that the State instead of the death penalty give the murder a careful sanction, we have reason to be frighten, because we are almost worthless. There are no greater consequences if someone kills us. Fear of death easily creeps into our souls when we become aware of the fact that anyone by any reason who doesn’t like us can take our lives, and the price on our heads is only some years in prison. 

With a simple figure of speech we can see the human value in this way: If I take an ax and chop down a tree on private property I may get away with being put on probation. If I take the ax and kill the neighbor’s dog I may get fined. If I take the ax and kill a human being I may get 10 years in prison. Why this difference in punishment? – Because a human being simply can be viewed as something more valuable than trees and animals. 

And man’s value is revealed in the following ways: If I am guilty of defamation the punishment may stay at probation. If I am guilty of abuse the punishment may be a few months in prison. If I am guilty of murder the punishment will be a few years in prison up to lifetime in prison. One important reason for this increasing punishment when it comes to more cruel crimes is the human value. 

A punishment is in other words also related to the human value. Therefore the death penalty, more than any other punishment, would show how incredibly high the human life is valued. 

The argument of the headline is about the inviolable value of man and about respect for human life. Both the opponent and the supporter of the death penalty use these expressions to defend his stand. It is therefore important to see the determining difference in the different points of view: 

A. When the abolitionist speaks of human value he only has the heinous criminal in mind. Also he is a human being with an inviolable value. There are no exceptions; all humans always have the same human value. The abolitionists therefore choose to take side with the heinous criminal in the first place. 

B. The supporter of the death penalty on the other hand chooses to show solidarity with the weakest and most exposed - the victims of crime. When the supporter speaks of man’s inviolable value he first and foremost think of the victim, then his relatives and after that all ordinary citizens. The violent criminal and the murderer on the other hand have lost his absolute inviolable value before the state governed by law. When the murderer killed a fellowman he did not only show complete contempt for the inviolable value of the victim but also for his own. 

In one sense the violent criminal and the murderer maintains the same value as the most honest man on the earth. But before the state governed by law it can no longer be absolutely inviolable, because then it would prevent the final justice from working and it would also mean that the state governed by law practically despised the inviolable value of the victim, the state governed by law would, so to speak, take the criminal by the hand and chose to support him. 

We mean that it is the weak one, the afflicted and exposed that in every way has to be protected and prioritized. It is the victim that needs our solidarity. It is the inviolable value of the victim that has to be maintained. 

A violent criminal and a murderer should never be allowed to get away from the ultimate justice by pointing to his "inviolable value." He has brutally and without respect tried to crush the value of other people. Then compensation has to be made and justice administered. 

There is no greater crime on earth than when a man takes a fellowman’s life. A man cannot be violated in a more brutal way. Human value cannot be more despised in a more drastic way. 

A murderer gives his victim a horrible punishment: never to see the light of the sun again, never hear the birds sing, never again feel the sent of the rose, never again hear the voice of a loved one, never again stroke the baby’s cheek, never again spend time with friends, never again smile at the nice and beautiful in life. 

But this meant nothing for the violent criminal and the murderer. To him man is worth nothing. He has started a war against humanity. Because every time a man is battered the whole body of society is beaten and every time a man is murdered part of the body of society is killed. Every attack on a fellowman is an attack on humanity, and an aggressive enemy of humanity should not be able to demand an inviolable value before the State. 

A violent criminal or a murderer has therefore passed a holy border. He has crushed the conscience- and moral barrier and has passed outside the invisible border that makes us normal people. In that sense he does no longer belong to the humane humanity. He has through his actions left the human sphere. 

Murder is cruel, inhuman, degrading and destroys people’s lives and violates human rights. For this reason there can be no alternative to the death penalty. 


The Death Penalty defends human dignity in the strongest way 

This argument follows the previous argument as a necessity. Human value is as closely intertwined with human dignity as two entwined threads. Every human being is dressed in the costume of dignity since he has an inviolable value. 

Dignity gives us the ability to walk with our backs straight and without the need to feel ashamed for being humans. The dignity we possess causes us to treat our fellowmen with respect. It is our intrinsic dignity that has created and creates the civilized society. 

Man can be robed of all of his possessions, he can be ridiculed and persecuted and abused, but normally man fights to his last breath in order to keep his dignity. 

But when the crime has been committed and the violent criminal and the murderer has crushed the dignity of a fellow man is it then somehow possible to reinstate the victim’s dignity? 

Without hesitation we answer yes. But it is impossible for this to happen by the perpetrator spending a few years in prison. This can only mean that the contempt against the dignity of the victim increases. If a victim isn’t worth very much and if he does not possess any special dignity, then there is no need to punish the violent criminal harshly. 

But the capital punishment on the other hand restores the dignity of the victim in the strongest and clearest way. The capital punishment gives back human value and respect and the genuinely human spirit to the victim - in other words: dignity are restored as far as it is possible. 

The capital punishment therefore becomes a posthumous celebration of the victim as a person and human being. No other penalty than the capital punishment can make this more clear.(1) 

The violent criminal or the murderer took away the victim’s dignity, but the death penalty once again clothes the victim in the garment of dignity. 

The death penalty also means that the dignity for all citizens is accepted, recognized and revered. That is important since it is among us now living that tomorrow’s unfortunate victims are. Every citizen should have the right to live in the society with a sense of dignity. 

All the alternatives to the death penalty for the most heinous crimes means that our straight backs are bent and that no one out there values us as humans who deserve the highest respect. 

An enemy of the death penalty can sometimes say that the death penalty denies the cruel criminals inviolable value and dignity. In order to maintain such a philosophy one is forced to minimize human value and dignity to the lowest possible level so that even the worst violent criminal can take part of it. But do we want it that way? Do really brutal sex murderer and serial murderer have the same inviolable value and dignity as a Mother Theresa or a ordinary citizen? 

From a philosophical reasoning it can indeed be maintained that man, in itself, has a value and a dignity. But few would in reality be ready to claim it in an absolute meaning. 

And for most of us it is obvious that the cruel act of violence by the criminal has an essential meaning when we think about terms such as dignity and value. 

A criminal has explained to the world through repeatedly committing violent crimes or murder that he despises everything that is called dignity, and therefore he has just as brutally pulled away the soul of dignity away from himself and given the state governed by law an implied consent to do to him what he himself has done. 

"If you kill another, you kill yourself." Immanuel Kant 

A violent criminal or murderer can in other words not be allowed to first stamp his foot on the dignity of a fellowman and then in the court room demand respect for his own dignity, because he rejected it by his heinous crime. All the attention has to be aimed at the victims and their lost dignity.(2) 

The capital punishment therefore means an acknowledgment that man has an inviolable value, and as a consequence acknowledgment of man’s (and foremost of the victim’s) dignity. 

Therefore, the death penalty for violent criminals and murderer is a necessity. Because the dignity of man is at stake. 

Footnote 1. Prof. Ernest van den Haag (supporter of the death penalty) means that the death penalty can be seen as a confirmation both of the humanity of the victim and of the murderer: "Human beings are human because they can be held responsible, as animals cannot be. In the Kantian sense the death penalty is a symbolic affirmation of the humanity of both victim and murderer." The Death Penalty in America, Hugo Adam Bedau, page 454.  

Footnote 2. And Prof. Walter Berns adds: "The criminal law must possess a dignity far beyond that possessed by mere statuary enactment or utilitarian and self-interested calculations; the most powerful means we have to give it that dignity is to authorize it to impose the ultimate penalty." For Capital Punishment, page 173. 


Only the Death Penalty can fully confirms man’s natural sense of justice 

The first argument of this chapter can be said to defend justice seen from an objective point of view. This argument defends justice from a subjective point of view and it is about the sense of justice. 

This sense of justice can be shown to be an incredible strong power within us. When we see the ruthless ravaging of the violent criminal and the murderer, strong feelings can be woken in us. This can be a mixture of wrath and grief and despair. 

Often the death penalty enters as the natural answer to the sense of justice that then rises in us. This reaction is not completely explainable or understandable using rational arguments. It is a feeling that overpowers many of us. We can not read about it or listen to it by using academic reasoning. 

Maybe we can feel a vibration of this core of justice within us when we see news programs that realistically and closely show these beastly crimes of violence and murder in picture and words. The sense of justice that is then woken to life must be confirmed and have it’s acknowledgment and outlet in the judicial system of society. 

It may be easy for some to be abolitionists when all is well, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and the children are playing. Those days the sense of justice sleeps. But when evil suddenly shows itself, in the midst of all the beautiful and nice, when the murderer stands there with his bloody knife and we see what he has done - then the holy sense of justice is woken to life and begin to rush through our blood and instinctively we easily feel that the perpetrator does not deserve to live. 

The abolitionist now only reacts impulsively and says what he has been taught that this is primitive and middle-aged feelings of revenge that are unacceptable. 

Such a reaction from the abolitionist can have many reasons. It may be because one has suffocated and denied the sense of justice on the inside. In countries where media is strongly against the capital punishment this is often the case. It can also be because one has it not easy to feel empathy with the afflicted one. It may be difficult to see oneself in a horrible situation that has affected other people. And maybe mentally one is far away from the violent center of events. Whatever the cause, the cold arrogant winds blow across society when the enemies of the death penalty speak degrading and spiteful about the sense of justice that most of us feel. 

None of us have the ability to totally feel with afflicted fellow humans as we should. It is only when we ourselves experience the pain that it means when close relatives or friends are afflicted that compassion wakes up in the soul. But the more understanding and empathy that is among us, the more we understand how important it is to also show consideration to peoples experience and emotions. 

Man is not by nature carriers of uncivilized feelings. On the contrary we have a natural sense of justice, a sense that is placed in the heart and that says that one who takes a human life deserves to loose his own life. To whatever country we go, through the course of every decade, we will find the same sense of justice. And furthermore, it is not unusual that the murderers themselves are of the opinion that they have forfeited their own lives. 

Sometimes we need to draw out the slumbering spirits of justice within ourselves. We need to feel the breeze when the murderer sweeps by us and see the trail of blood that follows him and feel the chill go down the spine when we see the victim’s death struggle and hear his scream in fear of death. Actually it is in the middle of a situation like that which every discussion about the death penalty should be held. Then the natural reaction in most of us would be that life has to be made up by another life. It is our inner sense of justice that pulsates in our veins that then would react in a healthy way. If we deny these real feelings we at the same time deny part of ourselves, something of our humanity. 

This sense of justice that burns within us like a fire is not an isolated feeling, but would also be supported by rational thinking. Reason and sensibility walks hand in hand in its standpoint to the death penalty. 

The words "sense of justice" are important. They include the word sense and justice. It means having feelings for what is right. The ultimate justice can best be reached if the violent criminal and the murderer are sentenced to death. And a healthy and sound sense will confirm that justice. 

Some abolitionists, with a more academic disposition, can distinctly but incorrect assert that it shall be taken no consideration to the feelings in a trial or in a sentence. But that is as unwise as if somebody should assert that in a courtroom there can be taken no consideration to cold reason. Man consist of both feelings and reason, and if the existens of any part is denied within something so important as a courtroom and a criminal case then at the same time man is denied. 

Therefore it must, already with the making of laws, especially concerning crime of violence, gives evident and respectful imprints also for the feelings of man. Man is feelings and man is reason. And that is, for instance, why we never can be satisfied with a sentence as long it is not meet with approval both by feelings and reason. Unfortunately, the Swedish penal code takes no regard to man’s feelings and it can therefore hardly be called human. 


The Death Penalty expresses society’s compassion towards the affected victims of crime 

Both a sense of justice and compassion is about our inner being and our emotions. The difference between the two is that while the sense of justice is aimed against the criminal and the just punishment that he deserves, our compassion is aimed towards the victims. 

The question about the death penalty can not only be held on an intellectual level. We also need understanding and compassion for the victim and relatives. Every victim is a person of flesh and blood, a part of society. Every crime against a fellowman is therefore at the same time an attack on every member of society - a crime against society. In that sense we are all related to victims. 

The violent criminal and murderer on the other hand do not deserve the compassion of the state governed by law. One who in the most heinous way lacks to show compassion towards fellowmen does not in the first place have an obvious right to expect the compassion of the state governed by law. As soon as the word compassion is mentioned we need to turn our attention to the victim and his relatives. 

When the capital punishment is noticed in media it is often the case that the criminal in a country receives most of the attention. The criminal is interviewed and the reportage usually has a character of sympathy, compassion and understanding for the criminal. But rarely is the crime committed described, the life of the murdered one, his thoughts and dreams and goals that have been crushed, and just as rarely are the victim’s relatives allowed to speak. This is not a healthy sign. 

But it is understandable. The media and culture elite that condemn the death penalty can not to much bring attention to the fate of the victim and his relatives. It could have devastating affects. People may feel that the criminal deserved death! 

Most people will during their lives neither be related to or friends with someone who is the victim of brutal violence or murdered. Therefore it is natural that we are unable to get strong emotionally engaged when to us unknown people are affected. It is therefore even more important that we make an effort of trying to get to know some of the dark and heavy reality that afflicted people experience. 

Beside fact and argument and moral stands we also have to sometimes be able to meditate and place ourselves in the situation of the victim if we are to be able to rightly make up our minds on the death penalty in relation to the sense of justice and compassion. This is impossible to do only by attending intellectual debates or by conversation in a nice café. 

The more empathy our heart can hold, the easier it is to confirm that the death penalty in comparison to a prison term more clearly and strongly means practical solidarity with the victim and his relatives. And in the midst of a context of cruel death, sorrow and despair, relatives of a victim of crime can feel that the death penalty also was for their and the victim’s sake, so that they now can feel peace and have the ability to go on in life and also feel that they have been respected and valued as people. The death penalty can in the strongest way bring forth these feelings in every citizen. 

A prison term for the perpetrator can not even come close to this. It, on the contrary, expresses (an unhealthy) compassion for the criminal. 

The dead victims deserve our compassion. All cultures and people show respect and honor for their dead in different ways. We see how far a people has gotten on the ladder of civilization by the reverence they show for their dead. 

Compassion for the dead can be to identify with the pain and anxiety the victim felt during his last few hours on earth, compassion can be sorrow and regret, compassion can be partaking in the grief of the relatives and friends, compassion can be feelings of powerlessness and wrath because of meaningless violence that has afflicted fellowmen. 

Through the capital punishment society shows, in concrete action, it’s total rejection of the crime and it shows that we are completely on the side of the victim and that we suffer with the fate of the afflicted. No other punishment than the death penalty can make this compassion more clear. 

But the one who is unable or unwilling to revive the sense of justice and compassion for all the afflicted and relatives can easily come to view the death penalty with hostility in the heart.


The Death Penalty gives peace of mind to the victims and their relatives and puts an end to the crime 

There are of course victims and relatives of victims who react negatively to the death penalty. They are to be respected. But we are convinced that most victims and relatives to victims would feel more or less peace of mind if the death penalty were allowed. There are countless testimonies of this fact. They too should be respected. 

No other penalty than the death penalty has prerequisite to give the inner harmony back in a concrete way. The heart may then say: "Finally justice has been served and respect has been shown for the victim! The plague has finally had a relief!" The capital punishment has therefore some atoning influence on us citizens; it rehabilitates us and especially the relatives of the dead victims. 

On the other hand, if the violent criminal or the murderer is still out there - behind the walls or outside - much frustration, anxiety, lack of peace, despair, powerlessness and wrath will remain. 

Of course, the capital punishment isn’t a cure that is able to remove all of this, the pain will remain. But when a death penalty is carry out it still means a clear and decisive turning point for many, towards greater inner peace and health for the soul. Our heart will always feel uneasy if we know that a violent criminal and murderer never receive the punishment they deserve. But the fruit of justice is peace. 

When the death penalty is carry out there is a decisive end to the deed of the criminal. This means that a decisive step has been taken. This step will mean, especially for most of the victims, that it will be easier to breathe. That which has constantly caused so much worry and pain is gone. This becomes a concrete step on the road to greater inner peace. By for instance lifetime in prison there is no end, on the contrary, there is a constant reminder for the victim, the relatives and the rest of us that after a time the perpetrator will perhaps be free again, and the crime will therefore remain as an open and bloody wound that never cease to cause pain. 

If a state governed by law is to be able to show peace of mind to hurt and afflicted victims, and to relatives and friends of the victims, yes even to most of society, then the capital punishment is the most effective way to bring this about. 


The Death Penalty means the greatest mark from the State that it defends the ordinary citizen’s "right to life" 

Some may chose to side with the violent criminal and murderer and let him become part of the human right called "right to life." They sometime ask if the state governed by law by an execution becomes guilty of a crime against this right. This may be the case if innocent persons are executed based on a primitive and corrupt judicial system. But not in any other case.(1) 

The natural thing is that our hearts in solidarity are turned to the victim and all the innocent ones afflicted. We have to view this human right first and foremost from the perspective of the victim.

The violent criminal and the murderer who deny others the "right to life" and thereby shows the world that he does not accept this right, places himself outside that protecting sphere. The murderer can not rob other people of their "right to life" and at the same time keep or demand the "right to life" for oneself. 

The murderer and the violent criminal has by his inhuman crime, in principle, forfeit his "right to life" and is therefore outside the protection of this right before the state governed by law. 

In a moral sense, by his act of violence, the murderer and the violent criminal gives the right to others (the state governed by law) to do to him as he has done to others. A man can therefore under certain circumstances put himself in a position where he no longer is protected by the "right to life" but has ended up outside its sphere and can only wait for the judgment of the state governed by law.(2) 

It can almost be viewed as a natural law that one who denies his fellowmen the right to live does not have an absolute right to maintain his own "right to life". 

This human right - the right to life - can be taken most seriously when there is a powerful counteraction, a consequence, if a person violates this right. And there is no stronger counteraction than the death penalty. Thereby this human right is elevated in an unequalled way. If the "right to life" is to have a concrete value, then a crime against this right must be punished in the strongest way, and anything mightier than the loss of life does not exist. The capital punishment for murderer thereby gives the highest value imagined to the "right to life". 

On the other hand, the "right to life" isn’t much more than a cheap and meaningless cliché if one who murders and violates this human right gets away with prison. 

One who wants to maintain man’s right to life has reason to defend the capital punishment for murderer since this punishment is the strongest possible reaction against him who violates these humane values. A mild prison term can not bring about anything similar. 

If it is possible to violate and take a human life without being met by the sword of the state governed by law, then one of many consequences will be that the murderer, he who comes with torture and death, is worth more than the victim - the human life, and death will stand there as the victor. But by the death penalty the state governed by law defends the innocent human life in the strongest way. 

To one who has, ever since childhood, been indoctrinated to see everything from the perspective of the brutal criminal, it may take a while to get used to this point of view. But it is necessary in this to have a conversion of mind, because this is about respect for irreplaceable values and rights; that the right to life even in a hard and cruel world should be fully respected. The capital punishment for murderer can recreate this respect in the most powerful way. 

Footnote 1. A more detailed answer to this question is given in Chapter 3. Se also Appendix I about the "right to life" and the death penalty.

Footnote 2. Gustav Ermecke (headmaster of a Philosophical-Theological Academy in the year 1958): "The criminal has, in a way, committed social suicide, renouncing by his crime the community and his right to be part of it. The state is only carrying out what the criminal has already committed, which is his exclusion, his civil and juridical death. The criminal condemns himself, the state only draws the consequences." The Death penalty - An Historical and theological Survey, James J. Megivern (death penalty abolitionist), 1997, page 281. 


The Death Penalty prevent with 100% efficiency the perpetrator from committing more crimes 

Not even the most fanatical enemy of the death penalty can deny this obvious statement that a carried out death penalty means a definite stop of new crimes committed by the convict. A dead violent criminal can do no more harm to any other human being. No more murders or violent crimes, rapes or robberies or any other devilish act in this world. 

And if every murderer would be arrested after the first murder and be sentenced to death, there would no longer be any serial killers. No country will of course get there. But if a country introduces the capital punishment and applies it fairly and consequently, serial killers and violent criminals will be fewer. This is unavoidable fact. 

Someone may object and say that this is also the case with lifetime in prison. But this is wrong by the following reasons: 

- In most countries lifetime never really is lifetime, but a certain number of years in prison. 

- Relapse into crime after being released is common. 

- If there is an escape it often leads to new crimes. 

- Sometimes crimes take place during leaves. 

- Acts of violence and murder sometimes take place in prison. 

Besides the fact that lifetime in prison isn’t a just punishment for a violent criminal or a murderer, one could ask if there should be the slightest possibility for such a person to have the ability to commit new crimes? We think not. 

And there is no more efficient solution for such a problem than the death penalty if we wish to keep him from committing further crimes. 

Surveys show that violent criminals and murderers who have been sentenced to prison and later are released often do relapse into crimes. 

A death penalty system used consistently would mean that a large part of crimes would be avoided and we would thereby have a safer society. 

Every dedicated enemy of the death penalty who is part of and actively sustains a judicial system that excludes the capital punishment can be said to have bloodstained hands. Since the capital punishment was abolished in Western Europe, injury or death has victimized many thousands of innocent people, and even more relatives to these victims have suffered. This is because of a legal system that makes it possible for murderers and violent criminals to commit new heinous crimes. 

There is an efficient way of ending this meaningless spiral of crime where the most ruthless criminals can commit new crimes, and it is when there is a consistent use of the death penalty. 

We would then have a slightly kinder world to live in with a little fewer crimes.