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|Columns - Yevet Tenney|
|Monday, 18 May 2009 03:49|
My son, Paul, did a research paper for his English class. As I discussed the principles with him and helped him understand the concepts of capital punishment, it gave me a chance to really look at my own feelings about the subject.
Normally, I am a compassionate, understanding person with empathy for all. I feel bad when I hear about someone being placed on death row. I think about the families who will be bereft of the loved one, and I don’t even want to be around the radio or television when they announce that the sentence has been carried out.
It seems a barbaric and insensitive practice, but then I wonder who suffers most – the victims of a violent crime or the one who is put to death as recompense for their deeds.
According to Ivan Potash and John Walker, “The term ‘capital punishment’ is derived from the Latin caput, meaning ‘head.’ It originally referred to death by decapitation, but now applies generally to state-sanctioned executions. Some Middle East countries still practice decapitation for certain offenses, but more common forms of the death penalty include electrocution, gas, firing squad, lethal injection and hanging.”
Treason, murder, kidnapping and other high crimes were worthy of death. In the military, deserting and sleeping on guard duty in wartime was also punishable by death. Where did the practice come from?
“God in the Old Testament in the Bible first instigated the idea of capital punishment.”
In Genesis 9:5-6, we find the Law of Moses. We have often heard it referred to as an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
If a man kills another man, he must forfeit his life. Even a beast that kills man is to be put to death. This law did not only affect the Israelites, it extended to strangers who came into the land.
Why would God institute such a dire consequence for violent crimes? Isn’t He a merciful God? God is just to the very letter of the law. He must weigh in the balance the heart of the innocent victim over the criminal, and must make a choice. If God allows the criminal to go unpunished, He has declared by default that the heart of the innocent is of no value.
Who would be afraid to commit a crime, if there were no consequences? If the innocent were allowed to be punished by the criminal, who would remain innocent? There are approximately 43 states that allow capital punishment.
Since the inception of the U.S., thousands of people have been executed. As the years have passed, capital punishment has decreased.
For example, according to the Bureau of Justice, in 1930 there were 4,916 people executed, and in 1977 there were only 1,057 people executed. Let me ask: What has happened to the crime rate in those years? Do we have fewer crimes because we have chosen to be more “compassionate?” I don’t think so.
The crime rate across the U.S. has skyrocketed. The prisons are full, and criminals are set free to repeat the crime against another individual. Some argue that capital punishment is inhumane, and that some are wrongfully sentenced and executed. Not only that, by allowing capital punishment, we are decimating against a few people in society.
According to arguments presented at a meeting of the Men’s International Theosophical League of Humanity:
“Capital punishment is irrevocable, and the errors of justice cannot be rectified. All possibility of reconsideration is taken away. Innocent persons have been hanged, and judge, jury and the whole legal machinery involved has thereby been made privy to the very crime they sought to punish. In view of the very uncertain and unequal character of our merely human endeavors to mete out justice, no proceedings of ours should be of this irrevocable character. So complex and uncertain is the process of sifting whereby finally a few individuals are sorted out from the mass and consigned to punishment, that the selection seems largely arbitrary, and we find that the actual convicts are no worse, and some perhaps even better, than many whom the hand of the law never reaches. What principle of equity or reason can justify us in singling out for our harshest treatment, by so haphazard a method, a few individuals who for the most part manifest no particular reasons why they, and they alone, should be so treated?”
“The death penalty is an archaic, inhumane and ineffective practice that most nations abandoned long ago,” says ACLU-NJ Executive Director Deborah Jacobs. “It has proven fundamentally unfair and discriminatory, too often resulting in the execution of innocent people.”
Perhaps a few people are mistakenly executed, but it doesn’t happen very often. Our judicial system was founded on Christian principles.
According to the Christian Law Association:
“For 150 years after the Declaration of Independence proclaimed America’s freedom from England, our leaders universally recognized the Biblical foundations that undergirded our nation’s legal system. President Abraham Lincoln, who emancipated the slaves after the Civil War, still rightly understood in the mid-19th century that God alone was the grantor of America’s rights. He understood that the Almighty had given these rights to every person in all times and in all places, including those African slaves who had been brought to America against their will. By the close of the 19th century, however, America’s leading jurists had set themselves on another course – one that was intended to deny the hand of God in this nation’s legal system.”
In other words, our legal system is made up of Christian principles. It was expected that Christian people would sit in the jury and pass judgment. Twelve people were to pray and make a decision based on irrefutable evidence that the accused was guilty. If the evidence was irrefutable, that means the circumstantial evidence had to be pretty convincing for a person to be executed wrongfully.
As for capital punishment, targeting people who commit crimes as discriminatory, we need to look at the innocent people who are targeted for just going about their daily activities as being discriminated against. Just because the law doesn’t catch all the criminals, it is foolish to think that we should not punish the ones we do catch and the criminal will somehow reform by our being compassionate.
Others argue that capital punishment is inhumane. None of the capital punishment procedures I read about are torturous. They do not break your bones, cut off limbs or starve you to death. The wait before the execution is the most painful. The execution takes seconds; then the criminal is released to the eternal world where he/she will meet the justice of a merciful God. If a person happens to be wrongfully executed, God will take him/her into his arms and right the wrong that has been committed.
In God’s perfect wisdom, all will be made right. Some argue that capital punishment doesn’t keep people from committing crimes. How can they say that? If the person is dead, he/she will never commit another crime. And how can a study and statistics measure what happens in all human hearts when they hear or see an execution? We can’t tell how many young people decide never to kill based on fear that they will meet the same fate. Crime will never go away completely until the wickedness is completely destroyed and man has no more desire to do evil, but if capital punishment were correctly used, the person would only commit one violent crime.
“Capital punishment permanently removes the worst criminals from society and should prove much safer for the rest of us than long-term or permanent incarceration. It is self- evident that dead criminals cannot commit any further crimes, either within prison or after escaping or being released from it.”
Our society has forgotten our God, and we are reaping the consequences of our choices. Good and evil are turned upside down. We live in a time when men call evil good and good evil. We herald ourselves as compassionate, but we direct our compassion towards those who have indiscriminately and without compassion destroyed the lives of innocent people.
Thousands of Americans were killed in the Twin Towers and we set their killers free into our communities to plan a more successful attack. Where is our sense of right and wrong? PD
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