There are almost no issues where I donít understand both sides. The size of government, taxation, abortion, same-sex marriage, various wars. As strongly as I feel about one of the sides, I understand the opposition.
But when it to comes to the death penalty for murder, the gulf is unbridgeable between those of us who believe that some murderers Ė and I emphasize some murderers -- should be executed and those who believe that no murderer Ė and I emphasize no murderer -- should ever be put to death.
Take this example.
On the afternoon of July 23, 2007, in the town of Cheshire, Connecticut, two human monsters named Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky entered the home of a physician, Dr. William Petit. They bludgeoned Dr. Petit with a baseball bat, nearly killing him. Then Hayes raped the doctorís wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and Komisarjevsky sexually assaulted their 11 year-old daughter, Michaela Ė an assault he photographed with his cell phone. Dr. Petit managed to escape, but the two men strangled Mrs. Petit to death, tied down the girls on beds, doused them with gasoline, and while the girls were still alive, the murderers set fire to the house.
Those opposed to capital punishment believe that those two men have a right to keep their lives until their natural deaths.
Is there nothing a person can do to deserve to be put to death? To those opposed to capital punishment the answer is no. In fact, many opponents of capital punishment equate executing murderers such as Hayes and Komisarjevsky with the murders they committed.
Opponents of capital punishment argue that keeping all murderers alive sanctifies the value of human life. But the opposite is the case. Keeping every murderer alive only cheapens human life because it belittles murder. Thatís easily proven. Imagine that the punishment for murder were the same as the punishment for speeding. Would that belittle murder and thereby cheapen human life? Of course, it would.
Society teaches how bad an action is by the punishment it metes out.
And what about the pain inflicted on the loved ones of those murdered? For the overwhelming majority of people, their suffering is immeasurably increased knowing that the person who murdered their son, daughter, husband, wife, parent, close friend -- and who often inflicted unspeakable suffering and unimaginable terror on that person Ė is alive and being cared for. The death of their loved oneís murderer doesnít bring their loved one, but it sure does provide some sense of justice. Thatís why Dr. Petit, a physician whose life is devoted to saving lives, wants the murderers of his wife and daughters put to death. In his words, death "is really the only true just punishment for certain heinous and depraved murders." Is the doctor wrong?
In addition to arguing that all murderers must be allowed to keep their lives, opponents of capital punishment maintain that the death penalty doesnít deter murders. This is truly absurd. Everyone acknowledges that punishment deter every other crime. Why is murder the one exception?
Well, it isnít. Punishment deters every crime, and the death penalty is the ultimate deterrent. If applied fairly and often, would it deter all murders? Of course not. But every murder it did deter is an infinitely precious human life saved.
And, finally, what about opponentsí argument that an innocent person may be executed?
One problem with this argument is that opponents of capital punishment oppose the death penalty for all murderers, including when there is absolute proof and certitude of the murdererís guilt.
So, come on, letís be honest, the argument that an innocent may be killed is primarily used as an emotional appeal to convince people to oppose capital punishment.
Moreover, by keeping every murderer alive, MORE people Ė undoubtedly many more people -- are murdered than the infinitesimally small number of people wrongly executed.
Anyway, now, with DNA testing, it is virtually impossible to execute an innocent person. And that remote possibility hardly negates all the good that executing some murderers achieves.
So, if youíre on the proverbial fence on this issue, ask yourself this question: Do you really believe that the torturer-rapist-murderers of Dr. William Petitís wife and daughters, and diabolical men like them, should be allowed to keep the very thing they deliberately took from others Ė their lives.
Well, if youíre like most people, your answer is no.Your heart, your mind, your whole being cries out for some justice and fairness in this world. But, if you really do believe these people should be allowed to keep their lives, well, as I said at the outset, I donít understand you.