A Response to Comments on the California Death Penalty Initiative

A few responses to Ricochet members’ comments on my recent post about the California ballot initiative seeking to abolish the death penalty:

Pig Man: “It’s not just about money. Many people and groups (including the Catholic Church) think capital punishment is immoral. Obviously you don’t, but some do.”

The California proposition to ban capital punishment is based on its cost, not its alleged immorality. I deal with the morality question in my Prager University talk on capital punishment. And for the record, a number of Catholic theologians such as the late Fr. Richard Neuhaus do support capital punishment for murder. See further the note by Joseph Stanko on the RCC and capital punishment.

 Valiuth: “It seems ludicrous to me to claim it so greatly enhances forensics as to eliminate doubts about the guilt of the convicted.”

Ludicrous is a strong word for a rational position. Moreover, nothing eliminates doubts. Some things eliminate reasonable doubt. And DNA is one of them.

Valiuth: “Is there a reason to think the death penalty would have more deterrence than life imprisonment?”

The question, forgive me, is mind-blowing. Unless one believes that all murderers are out of their minds, of course capital punishment has more deterrence than life imprisonment. Just as life imprisonment has more deterrence than 40 years in prison.

See the fine observations by Stuart Creque and Hank Dagny on this subject.

Vice-Potentate: “For the religious among us the controversy over the death penalty actually comes down to whether we believe there is a requirement in scripture for forgiveness or just a suggestion.”

There is no requirement in Scripture to forgive everyone every sin they committed against everyone else. The New Testament asks that we forgive those who sin against us, not against everyone else. Forgiving those who hurt other people is actually immoral: has Vice-Potentate forgiven Stalin, Mao and Hitler? If so, we possess different moral and religious codes. Moreover, even God does not forgive everyone – one has to atone first.

 Valiuth: “I just don’t really see why people would be so gung ho about the liberal use of the death penalty. “

Among other reasons:

Because every murderer who is allowed to live out his natural life has literally gotten away with murder. And that is as cosmic an injustice as exists in our world.

Because it lessens the horror of murder to allow all murderers to live.

Because every day a murderer is allowed to live mocks the memory of the murdered.

The Norwegian mass murderer of young people will serve a few months in prison for every one of those he killed. That cheapens their lives.

Midget Faded Rattlesnake: “If I were to commit a heinous crime, I would rather die for it than spend life in prison.”

How do you know? And even if it would be so, you would be among the very few murderers in America to prefer death to imprisonment.They all do everything in their power to stay alive. Life in prison is a lot worse than life outside of prison, but a lot better than death. And with life there is always hope.