Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The death penalty

The death penalty

I have mentioned before how The Kindle means I'm able to read books faster than with the paper versions. I have read three since Christmas and two of these have centred around the death penalty:  The Confession by John Grisham and The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha.

They have got me to thinking.
I have never agreed with the death penalty, how can killing someone by a decision for anyone other than God to make?

However both books have raised two issues:

1-convicted person's preference for death
Both books had innocent men convicted and sentenced to the death penalty; both waited almost 20 years for their sentence to be enacted.  

One kept appealing, wanting his name to be cleared and died knowing his innocence but not being cleared.  How can this be right?  And how can we ever know with 100% certainty that someone is guilty?  How can a society forgive themselves for a mistake like that?  How can God forgive us that?

One stopped appealing and was happy to die.  He knew he wouldn't ever be free and preferred to be on death row where he could be solitary, than the idea of having to share with other inmates.  He was happy to die, to face God knowing his innocence.  But again, how could God be ok with that?

2- victim/victim's family preferences
The second issue is the view and desire of the victim and their family.  I can see how a family of someone murdered would want revenge, but how Christian is this? Is this not vengeance? I don't believe in an eye for an eye, surely it is not our place to judge, that is for the end day.  

And what if a victim or their family don't want the death sentence?  What if they feel guilt over a death sentence?  How does that help anyone?

Basically reading these books has reinforced in my mind how wrong the death penalty is.  I am thankful we don't love in a society where it's an option.


Anonymous said...

I have very mixed feelings about this. As you know, I work in the legal profession and have the misfortune of defending murderers and paedophiles as well as the more run-of-the-mill cases. Just a few months ago I dealt with a very high profile child murder case, so I come to this discussion with relevant baggage.

I obviously do not have the Christian dilemma to weigh in the balance although as a general principle, I don't believe in an eye for an eye. However, I also see cases where evidence is simply overwhelming, nailed by DNA (and I do mean nailed, not dubious suspicion like in the Jill Dando case), even admissions of guilt and/or complete lack of remorse and the taxpayer has to foot the bill to house lifers in relative luxury, isolated from the hostility that would inevitably follow from other inmates, with protection for their own safety. This to me is not punishment to fit the gravity of their crime - it's just taking them out of public circulation and providing them with free board and lodging, food, computers and access to gym equipment!

I would never support a blanket death sentence for all convicted murders, but I do think that some murder cases cross a threshold that separates them from others, e.g: child victims, very serious violence/decapitation, etc. I wouldn't like to defend someone whose life was literally in my professional hands as it would be too much responsibility, and I would struggle with the morality of the state taking a life but... I'm 51% in favour of it.

And don't even get me started on euthanasia!

Emma Major said...

Mandi - thanks for sharing. It's really interesting to see your point of view. I suppose for me the main issue is what right any society can have to take soneones life.