Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Death Penalty

A Guest Post by E. Fink

Some of you may know that I am a Law Student. I was called upon to present an argument against the Death Penalty. The other two students in my group took the issues of financial feasibility and the issue of "killing the right person". I had to argue that the Death Penalty is immoral.

(The primary arguments for the death penalty are deterrence and retribution. There is no evidence whether capital punishment deters or that it does not deter. Punishing for retribution seems to be driven by vengeance rather than morality or fairness.)

DovBear thought it would be entertaining to present my argument and give you commenters a chance to weigh in. So here goes...

In the USA, murder is against the law. One citizen may not take the life of another. This is a good law and is a basic law in any civilized country. The law is based upon our sense of morality. That means that the starting point when thinking about the morality of taking another's life is, that it is immoral.

Of course there are exceptions. One who fears for his life may defend his life and is justified in killing his would-be murderer. This is called self-defense.

The application of this defense is very specific. There are other defenses or justifications to First Degree Murder but none will serve as a complete defense, they will only mitigate the charge or perhaps affect the sentencing (Defense of another is just like self defense and fleeing felon is under constitutional scrutiny). In other words, taking the life of another is never completely justified unless it to save one's own life.

There should be no exception for the government. The State and Federal Governments have a duty to observe the same laws of morality the citizens must observe. The only moral excuse for killing is in self defense. Self defense can only be argued when the danger is imminent. Once a murderer is apprehended and incarcerated there is no self defense excuse. An incarcerated prisoner poses no imminent danger, thus the taking of his or her life is by definition immoral.

We are not bound to punish criminals by the same heinous acts they committed. The law of our country does not hold lex talionis. We don't punish a criminal with the same act he criminally committed. We shudder at the thought of torturing a torturer or raping a rapist or battering a batterer, how could we be so callous about taking the life of a killer...?

Search for more information about capital punishment at 4torah.com.

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