Thursday, January 26, 2006

Death Penalty Debate

Everyone once in a while the topic of the death penalty grabs the headlines. Perhaps not the national but usually the regional or local. Recently here in Virginia former governor Mark Warner ordered a DNA test for a man executed in 1992.

Roger Keith Coleman was accused and found guilty of raping and murdering his 19-year-old sister in law Wanda McCoy. He protested that he didn't do it and there was much that was never aired that may have proven his innocence. In fact, he was on the cover of Time magazine. For years after his conviction, many sought to prove his innocence because they believed him. Before his execution he said,'An innocent man is going to be murdered tonight.' Retests were demanded. Even after his execution, they still kept it up. Despite what the prosecutors say, I am inclined to believe that they were nervous about any retests.

Recently, the Virginia governor decided to order the tests using new technology not available in 1992 to conduct the DNA tests. The test results confirmed that Roger Keith Coleman was guilty. Jim McCloskey, one of Coleman's champions from the Centurion Ministries upon hearing of the confirmation he said "I now know that I was wrong, and this is a very bitter pill to swallow. However, the truth is the truth."

Pal Thomson, Wanda McCoy's brother put it simply saying "Killers tell lies."

From the Richmond Times Dispatch (Jan 12, 2006):
Don Hill, one of the jurors in the case, said yesterday that the findings came as no surprise to him and that he hopes the second-guessing of the jury will now stop.

"Everybody had an opinion, but the evidence they used to pin him down was just like pinning a tail on a donkey," said Hill.

There will always be those that seek to eradicate the death penalty from this country. In this case they did not find their public reason. They will continue to seek that one single example that the system failed and that an innocent man was executed. When they do, they will trumpet it from the highest towers for all to hear and then demand that the death penalty be scrapped. For now, they claim that it is for justice. They conveniently forget that the murdered and the families of the murdered also seek justice through the death penalty.

Is it possible that innocent men have been executed? Definitely. After all, when some forms of DNA testing became available, innocent men have been released from jail after being tested. Logically, we can infer that some have been innocent that have been executed.

Should we have DNA testing whenever possible before convicting someone of a crime that carries the death penalty? Sure. We should have testing of all cases prior to the death sentence being carried out. We have the technology now. We owe it not just to the accused, but to the victims and their families and to society that the correct person is punished.

Should the death penalty be taken away as an option? Surely not as there are crimes that morally demand it. What do you do after all to a murderer on a life sentence that kills another in prison? Does the death penalty stop all from committing crimes? Not in all cases and as realists we have to accept that.

We hang horse thieves, not in order that men shall be hanged, but in order that horses shall not be stolen.


At 12:04 PM, Blogger Emptyman said...

I'm kind of curious about your concept of a moral imperative TO kill.

That's a pretty twisted morality system. I understand killing in self-defense, but I don't understand killing a chained unarmed man locked in a dungeon. That's not self-defense. It doesn't bring the killer's victim back to life. It just increases the body count.

I agree that the possiblity of killing an innocent person is NOT a good reason for abolishing the death penalty. Like any other human institution, of course, it is flawed and imperfect and hence once in awhile innocents will be condemned and executed.

But I don't think the government should have the power to kill its citizens.

I don't think killing is ever justified except in cases of imminent self-defense.

I think that the death penalty is a waste of government resources, as it's cheaper to give someone life without parole than to execute them.

I think that for a fraction of the money spent on capital prosecutions the goverment could improve prison security to isolate those inmates who might otherwise kill while in jail.

It is never moral to kill.

At 12:44 AM, Blogger w00t said...

Thanks for your comments emptyman.

I am not sure what you mean that I might have a moral imperative TO kill but I will try to explain where I am coming from.

The death penalty has been and will continue to be debated - especially in affluent and developed countries which can afford to incacerate the accused and/or guilt indefinitely.

Ask yourself what it would take before you can agree that a death penalty is acceptable to you. It obviously isn't enough for the case I cited. Let's increase the level of "offensiveness". Would it be acceptable to you if the guilty person was Ted Bundy? How about Jeffery Dahlmer? General Hideki Tojo or Adolph Eichmann? I could go on but the point is that if you say that none of them should EVER suffer the death sentence then there are way too many that would have a big problem with that position.

Society from time immemorial has had the death sentence for various reasons. I am not saying that I support those reasons. I am saying that perhaps you should look at them. I do find the Roman Catholic Church being very consistent in that the find life too important in all its forms to not want murder or a death sentence or an abortion.

As for your statement that the death penalty as a waste of resources I would have to say that there are many countries where it is cheaper to execute than incacerate - not that I am advocating execution due to cost. In fact, I would like to see this county spend what it needs to in DNA testing to confirm guilt if possible before execution.

To many families of victims, the very thought that the murderer is going to live a full length of life paid for by taxpayers is unbearable when their own loved one may have been brutally cut short - sometimes in sick and terrible ways.

No system designed by man for prison can ever guarantee that a convicted murderer will never succeed in murdering again in jail - unless of course you wish to put them in situations like that of a Hannibal Lecter when you wish to interact with them for reasons like medical treatment etc. Many in jail would rather choose to be executed rather than permanent solitary confinement because they view it as more cruel than death itself.

It is immoral or forever say that under no circumstances will criminals will ever have to suffer a death sentence no matter how many they have killed, in whatever manner they did it or what suffering the victims or their families may have suffered.


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