Saturday, 13 September 2014

Why Capital Punishment is Moral

Why Capital Punishment is Moral

For as long as I can remember I have heard that Capital Punishment is wrong, that it is immoral but I have never accepted those arguments. My life, and yours, is precious, it deserves protecting and it deserves justice. A human life is not immortal, it is instead mortal and finite, it will end all to soon without it being taken from us. It is the most precious thing that we possess, but those who oppose Capital Punishment believe that our life is not worth justice, that a court hearing and a sentence is enough. I reject that view, it is not enough, it is an injustice, as if murder was not injustice enough. Here I will look at some of the most common reasons given to oppose Capital Punishment and then I will look at the reasons that I believe make the lack of Capital Punishment immoral.

Capital Punishment makes us just as bad as the murder
Here is a very common argument, that death is death no matter who deals it out. But it ignores a basic legal and moral question, is all killing wrong? Some people say yes it is, but in reality very few people really believe that. When you probe them for further details nearly everybody agrees that there are times in which killing is not wrong or illegal.

If you had a gun and you saw a child about to be attacked by a rabid dog would you try and stop it? Would you try and shoot the dog? To kill it? I think most people would say yes, I would shoot and kill the dog. What about if it wasn't a dog but a person with a knife about to attack a child, would you shoot them? Now it's a bit more difficult, a person isn't a dog, maybe you can reason with a person. Lets say the person cannot be reasoned with and that they begin slashing the knife in an attempt to kill or harm the child. Would you shoot them? What if they attacked you would you shoot them? Lets say you do shoot them, would you be a murderer?

I would argue, no, you were acting to protect yourself or someone who needed your protection. To kill in such a situation is not murder, it might be manslaughter, although in the above situation I believe that you would be justified. Now lets turn it around, you did not shoot, instead this person killed you. You were an innocent person, going about your lawful and peaceable existence, you have a right to do that. In fact the law exists specially to allow you to do that. But that has been taken from you, you have been killed. You have been murdered. Let us say that the person is arrested and is charged with your murder. They are interviewed by the police and get to tell their side of the story. They get a lawyer to plead their case in court and they will be judged by a jury of their peers. The case is not in any real doubt and they are found guilty and sentenced to death. There are those who will say that Capital Punishment is just as much an evil as your murder was. But here is to confuse innocence with guilt. You were innocent, you did not receive any legal defence, no lawyer, no jury, no judge, all of those things were denied to you. But the guilty person they received all of that. They were convicted by the law and sentenced to death by the law. Something that is always denied to the innocent.

Capital Punishment is revenge
My dictionary defines Justice as: 1) the quality of being fair, 2) the principle of fair treatment or conduct. It defines revenge as: any repayment for a wrong or injury. But in everyday language revenge has a nastier ring to it as it is assumed to be either malicious or unlawful. But in fact revenge can be either fair or malicious, it can be either lawful or unlawful. I have two questions, first is revenge wrong? Secondly why is life imprisonment justice but Capital Punishment revenge? Is revenge wrong? I'm not convinced it is, if someone you know has been murdered than I think it is unreasonable for an average normal person not to want punishment for that. And for that punishment to be unpleasant. Anger is as much a part of life as any other emotion and it is appropriate to feel anger in such a circumstances. But it is made out as if to feel anger is wrong, it is not wrong, anger is the correct emotion to feel. Why is life imprisonment justice but Capital Punishment revenge? Because there is no way to rehabilitate someone who is dead, you cannot show any mercy by commuting their sentence. It is a way for those who are soft of heart and brain to show how compassionate they are. Not at their expense but at ours.

What about killing an innocent man?
Here is a very powerful argument, what happens if you execute an innocent man? You cannot bring him back to life, a grave injustice has been done, it's better that 1000 guilty men go free than that one innocent man be wrongly condemned. The only reason anyone believes that 1000 guilty men should go free is because it's only rhetoric. Only lunatics believe such things. The reality is that we expect the legal system to do everything within it's power to tell the difference between the innocent and the guilty. That the legal system fails sometimes is not in doubt. But it is here that the problem resides. If an innocent man is found guilty, prison is not at fault, suspended sentences are not at fault, fines are not at fault and Capital Punishment is not at fault. The legal system and the rules that Parliament has given it have failed. Does that mean an innocent man cannot be executed. No one can say that, but that 1000 guilty men should go free on the off chance that one of them is innocent, not the knowledge that one is innocent, just the random chance, is absurd. Surely a second body could be established, a permanent Royal Commission or some such high body that could review cases. No one wishes for an innocent man to be executed but to use this extreme case as an argument against lawful punishment is wrong.

We are more civilized then that, mercy not brutality
Surely society is more advanced than to kill people, surely we can show mercy instead of showing brutality. Here an argument is made that we can be better people, that we should not be like the murderer, that we should show mercy. These all seem reasonable, but are they? Is it right to show mercy for the guilty and to ignore the pain of the innocent? Is it civilized to allow the guilty a second chance when they have shown no mercy themselves? In most cases this compassion is at someone else's expense, they can feel good about themselves, superior than thou, but in reality those who make these arguments are not interested in justice, they are interested in creating a better world and it doesn't matter whether that world can really exist or not. It is their desire for such a world that is important, not your pain, not the need for people to be safe nor justice. All of those things can be done away with as long as they feel good about themselves.

What about rehabilitation?
Prison exists to rehabilitate people, people in prison have done the wrong thing, including murderers. But we can all benefit by allowing these people to be rehabilitated. Rehabilitation of prisoners has been around for a long time and we know that some people are rehabilitated and that others are not. It is an art not a science. We know that many people get out of prison who will continue to commit crime. As a society we accept that, up to a point. But why should I have to sit next to a murderer on the train? I have no idea if I have or I haven't. But as murderers are released into the community, our community I may have done that. But at no point does it remove the stain that they have, you cannot rehabilitate a murderer because murder is not a normal crime. It is a crime against nature, against the natural order of things.

Now I will look at the other side at why the lack of Capital Punishment is immoral.

The lack of Capital Punishment punishes the innocent instead of the guilty
As I have written above murder punishes the innocent, if the guilty are not executed but instead get to continue to live their life then there has been no punishment. No matter how long the sentence or how horrible the condition the guilty should not be allowed to life and taunt the living. I am thinking of a particular murderer in Victoria where I live who was convicted of multiple murders, but who still lifes and breathes and who continues to taunt the families of his victims. The innocent suffered and continue to suffer, yes he is in prison but for how long? Until a Government or a judge decides to be both soft hearted and soft headed. The innocent have suffered enough.

It trivializes murder
In New South Wales a rapist was given 56 years in jail. I would be fine with that except he would have gotten less if he had killed them. How is that right or moral? You can get more for importing drugs into the country than for murder. How is that right or moral? I do not object to tough sentences, I do however object to sentences that make murder into just another crime. Murder is the second most serious crime, the only more serious crime is treason. To give such lenient sentences makes a mockery of both the victim and of the crime. Murder is not a trivial offence, but our Parliaments and our courts seem to disagree.

It allows the guilty to resume their life, something that is impossible for their victim
In Victoria the average sentence for murder is 16 years, that means that you can meet murderers on the street as you go about your lawful and peaceable activity. Decent people should not have to do that. Murders should not get the chance to marry and have families, they should not get the chance to grow old, they should not get the chance to enjoy life. They have committed a grievous crime against all of us and they do not deserve our sympathy nor our compassion. That should be reserved for the innocent, not the guilty.

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  1. Another reason for supporting capital punishment is that it reduces the violence in other crimes. Carrying a gun when you commit a robbery might seem like a sensible precaution but when you know that if the gun is used you might be facing the gallows it becomes an insane risk rather than a sensible precaution.

  2. Dear Mr. Doom

    A very good point, I remember reading how when Capital Punishment was used many criminals didn't carry weapons as the cost of something going wrong was too high.

    Mark Moncrieff

  3. Mark, there are some rather illogical jumps in this.

    About the dog; Obviously a dog or other animal is considered totally different to a person in society. Most people eat animals, but does anyone outside of a very small perverted minority eat people?
    Also, Even the most left-wing people I know believe in self defence, defence of a minor, or quite possibly a "civic duty" defence of someone else. Whether you have to resort to killing the aggressor is another matter, but most people would certainly give you the benefit of the doubt.
    Note that self defence is different from pre-emptive attacks (which I don't think you mentioned) and post incident. How can you argue that seeking revenge on someone after the fact is any form of defence? If someone broke into my house when I was a baby, stole some things, trashed the rest, and gave me a bit of a beating, would I now be entitled to track them down and shoot them?

  4. Some other points:
    I think revenge has the connotation that it is beyond a reasonable level of retaliation. I don't think the legal system is intended to be a system of legitimate violence, that is just a necessary tool for trying to create a stable and peaceful society.

    To avoid killing an innocent man, we don't need to let 1000 guilty 'go free'. It just means we don't exterminate them. There's a false binary here that without killing someone, they've avoided punishment.

    "Is it civilized to allow the guilty a second chance when they have shown no mercy themselves?" YES!
    If our civilization is/was supposed to be deeply influenced by Christianity, how could you argue against this? An important point is that redemption doesn't come for free, it comes with repentance. How could someone possibly repent if they're dead?

    I don't believe that a murderer is beyond redemption (again, Christianity), but if they aren't, why couldn't we simply imprison them for life? You don't have to kill someone to keep them from sitting next to you on the train.

    How does taunting have anything to do with the situation?
    Taunts sound like the sort of thing they'd enshrine in 18c.
    A multiple murderer is obviously a serious danger to the community, so they should be jailed for life. not so that they are rehabilitated, but because they can't be trusted to act like a normal human being. Sentences should be more severe. that doesn't have to include death.

    Both murder and rape are horrendous. Murder more so.
    Your complaint seems to be that the sentence was lenient. I agree! It doesn't logically follow that execution is necessary, though.

    My last three sentences more or less sum up my opinion on the topic generally.

  5. Dear Robert

    If a murderer lives then he has escaped justice...that is my position and everything else is nonsense. It constantlys amazes me that you think your murderer should be allowed to live, something you would be denied.

    Christianity for 1900 years supported Capital Punishment, so for Christians to now decide that they do not support it reeks of hypocrisy.

    "Even the most left-wing people I know believe in self defence". Great because now we don't have to have to argument that all violence is wrong as they so often try too.

    In closing, my argument does not have illogical jumps, you simply do not agree with it.