Sunday, January 22, 2006

Capital Punishment, fun for everyone!

Recently I read Dennis York's post on the death penalty. Reading this made me realize that people state that it is capital punishment is wrong, but never have I seen an arguement laid out for why this is. Allow me to do so.

Captial punishment is based on the principle of lex talionis (the law of the claw) meaning eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, life for a life, etc. Now, this priciple would say, whatever I do wrong, I should have it done to me. Prima facie, this appears logical. However, if you consider petty cases like stealing $1, I believe the thief needs more than $1 in penalties for the crime. Also take kidnapping for example. If i kidnap you for 3 days, do I only deserve to be detained 3 days? And what about if i take 3 peoples eyes, how can you take 3 of mine? This principle does not work.

Also, I would like to dispel another common argument I hear regarding the death penalty. "Innocent people die, therefore we should abolish the death penalty." This is falacious reasoning. Innocent people go to jail, but we do need jails. In fact, innocent people die building office buildings and houses, but still we continue with these activities. This is just a bad argument on the topic.

The death penalty is wrong. The principle of lex talionis does not translate to the real world. No one has the right to deny another human being the right to life. Furthermore for you economists out there, the death penalty ends up costing more money than life in prison; it just doesn't make sense.

As always I readily welcome comments.

Pardon the spelling and grammatical errors. I'm tired but the nightclub next door won't let me sleep. And the band sucks too.


At 1:36 AM, Blogger Jenna said...

Although I disagree with you, both you and Dennis York have laid out your arguments against the death penalty in ways anti-death penalty people have never been able to do for me before. Interesting.

At 11:05 AM, Anonymous elliot said...

I've recently started to swing against the death penalty (but only if life in prison really meant life in prison and if the inmate worked to provide restitution and pay for his time in prison).

However, you're not really making an argument here. You're just making assertions.

After disputing two common points made on either side of the issue you simply state:

"The death penalty is wrong."

My response: Just saying it doesn't make it so. I can say the law of gravity doesn't exist, but that won't make things fall up.

"No one has a right to deny another human being the right to life. "

My response: I assume then that you hold that there is no right to self defense?

"Furthermore for you economists out there, the death penalty ends up costing more money than life in prison; it just doesn't make sense."

My response: The death penalty costs more because we've made it cost more by allowing endless appeals. If after the first trial and conviction, you injected the person as soon as they left the courtroom would it still cost more than keeping that person in priston for 40+ years?

At 1:28 PM, Blogger Scott Mehring said...


Nicely put. It seems in my grogginess I may have made a few fatal mistakes in my reasoning regarding capital punishment. (get it? fatal? haha...nevermind).

To your second point, nice catch. I believe self-defense is justified on a utilitarian view as in this instance someone will lose thier life, it might as well be the agressor. (There are other justifications, but I'd prefer not getting into that when a simple explaination works.)

To your first point, I have shown that capital punishment cannot be justified by the principle of lex talionis, it is now on you to show that killing not in self-defense can be justified. I am, of course, assuming you feel non-selfdefensive killing is wrong (ie murder.)

To your third point, we must allow due process. We have courts of appeals for a reason. That reason is lower courts make mistakes. I believe even murderers are entitled to a fair trial. If we hauled off murderers to get injected immediately, we would have an unnecessary amount of mistakes made. Now, 15+ years is far more than sufficient, but nevertheless, we must allow due process.

At 6:39 PM, Anonymous elliot said...

I'm not really interested in defending capital punishment.

I just wanted to help you tighten your arguments.

As I stated, I've begun to rethink my long-held pro-death penalty stance, myself.

However, I think there are a number of valid arguments in favor of the death penalty.

1.) The death penalty is GUARANTEED to result in a murderer NEVER murdering anyone else in or out of prison.

2.) It supplies closure to the families and loved ones of the victim.

3.) It provides an ultimate penalty as an answer to truly heinous crimes.

Addressing your last point about due process: don't you consider the first trial due process?

Heck, I'll even give you one appeal.

Due process isn't the reason why putting someone to death costs more than keeping them in prison for life. It's undue process (20 years or so of appeals) that drive the cost up.

Welcome to the Cheddarsphere, btw!

It's always nice to hear a new voice.

At 6:59 PM, Blogger Jenna said...

There are certain people that just do not deserve to live on this earth. If Avery is guilty of torturing and murdering Teresa, than he would be one of them. Mass murderers, terrorists, etc. That is why we have the death penalty.

Are there perhaps errors? Yes. Is that a reason to halt alllll death sentences?

No. We would not halt all jail sentences because we falsely convict someone.

At 11:40 PM, Blogger Scott Mehring said...


I'll grant your reasons 1-3. Still the death penalty is immoral. 1-3 are all practical reasons why the death penalty is useful, not why it is moral. My original arguement attacked the morality of capital punishment, namely by attacking the principle underlying the punishment. Without this justification, one would need to provide a moral basis for the acceptability for taking another's life who is not currently a threat.

I believe due process is served when all reasonable appeals have been made.
A year or so should do it.


I read your column today in the Beacon. Nicely done.

As to your point about people who don't deserve to live on this earth, I agree entirely. However just because someone doesn't deserve a basic right, does not mean that we can be morally justified in denying them it.

At 10:23 AM, Blogger Jenna said...

Thanks Scott!


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