Is the Death Penalty Wrong? A Conservative opinion.

I never cry in movies, but no matter how many times I watch “Dead Man Walking” I feel like a pregnant women I’m so emotional inside. It evokes emotion and forces you to question your very beliefs about religion, good and evil, the death penalty, and the nature of man itself. If you have never watched this movie I strongly suggest you get a box of tissues and give it a go.

I’m reminded that men, despite their most evil actions, are effected by factors one cannot understand unless they have gone through it themselves. Though their actions are not justifiable this movie does associate unique and human qualities with a person we may otherwise view as a monster.

At what cost should we put a man to death?  At the cost of losing our own humanity?  At the cost of emotionally damaging everyone involved the in the procedure?  I’m not sure and though I have never experienced the loss of a loved one at the hands of a criminal I can’t help but feel it is wrong.  Not the desire for revenge, not the desire for closure, but the fact that our Government – the supposed shining example of justice for planet earth – has the power and desire to put any human being to death.  Cooler heads should always prevail when given the option to preserve humanity.

Though I am not religious this scene always evokes emotion.

I’ll admit it.  Years ago I was in support of the death penalty.  I thought that keeping an inmate on death row was a terrible drain on tax dollars and dangerous to other inmates and the guards.  That part is still true.  After watching this movie my ideas changed though.  I do not think killing a man helps anyone.  It certainly can’t do the families of the innocent any good emotionally, it destroys the guilty party’s family, and is cruel overall.  What should we do with people like this?  I do not know.  Maybe we should work harder to stop it happening in the first place.

Sure many of these men never become reconciled and never feel sorry for what they did like in this movie, but that changes nothing.  Why do we turn ourselves into murderers to punish one?  What is the right course of action – I have no idea.  I just feel like for our own humanity’s sake – the death penalty does us as individuals no good at all.  I know all the reasons to support it, but a lesson in humanity, forgiveness, and love is enough for me to feel like the death penalty isn’t worth it.

If you still disagree or just want to hear someone say it much better check out what Ron Paul has to say about the death penalty in his book liberty defined. Another great advocate of liberty who’s views about the death penalty changed over time.

13 thoughts on “Is the Death Penalty Wrong? A Conservative opinion.

    1. Atticus Finch Post author

      I’ll have to check that video out tonight, but if it’s going where I think it’s going it reminds me of a quote I can’t quite remember about the tragic risk of the death penalty – something like:

      “The death of 100 guilty rapist and murderers is not worth the wrongful murder by the state of 1 innocent man.”

      I think there is certainly some truth to that – especially with the recent cases where DNA evidence has lead to individuals on death row proving their innocents.

  1. amelie

    I was on the grand jury of a manslaughter case (8 year old boy accidentally shot himself in the head at a machine gun show); we exonerated the defendant and I was SO glad to hear the victim’s family agree that they were glad he was not prosecuted. It’s amazing how forgiving people can be.

    That said, IF there were zero chance that innocent people could be prosecuted, I would be for the death penalty. Most people consider it about payback. Not true in my mind; to me it’s about making sure that a seriously dangerous person is no longer alive to murder more people.

    I say that with caveats, of course; but in my mind, some human beings are a real menace and what’s more these are often the people who slip through the system and end up simply going on more murder rampages.

  2. Rattlesnake

    I’m not a religious person, and I don’t consider myself a very good person, either. I don’t necessarily consider “humanity” or the “moral high ground” to be necessarily valuable* (I also consider neither inherently good nor bad). I guess I have a mathematical way of viewing things like this; someone takes the life of an innocent person, and therefore it is justified to take that person’s life. In other words, they gave up their right to life when they infringed upon another person’s right to life. However, I do believe the death penalty should only be an option when there is absolute certainty about someone’s guilt, and I also believe that there is utility in providing clemency in some cases.

    I must admit that, when you said “our Government … has the power and desire to put any human being to death,” it did make me question myself, because I am uncomfortable with a government having such power. However, when I think about it, it does fall within what I would consider legitimate functions of the government.

    1. Atticus Finch Post author

      Since I became less religious the ideas of “moral high ground” and “humanity” became more important to me. If there is no higher power to preserve justice, integrity, and right vs. wrong, then it is surely up to us. Who puts a value on life, property, and humanity if not the people?

      Since I believe it is the people we have to do right for rights sake – even if it means keeping murderers alive simply because we value life and do it as a symbol of its importance to us.

      Similar to how I could do wrong and get away with it, get ahead, but I do not because of the simple fact it is wrong. It is up to us to preserve morality so we must act accordingly.

      There are good arguments for the death penalty, but since we can never be absolutely sure if someone is guilty, no person should be given the burden to “push the button”, no innocent family made to suffer the consequences of the guilty, and no Government given the responsibility to take life – even a guilty one – I don’t think I can support the death penalty.

      1. Rattlesnake

        You raise some good points, but we’ll have to agree to disagree on this issue. While I don’t necessarily view morality as subjective, I view what one views as moral to be subjective (in other words, I don’t believe that true morality is evident). The moral system I live by is quite idiosyncratic, as I base it upon the values I consider important, which are different from the values I assume most other people consider important (I mention in the “About” section of my blog that I have an abnormal neurological structure; I really do, and, as a result, I tend to view things differently than most people. That is something that has been evident to me for a while. And just to be perfectly clear, I am not a psychopath or anything).

        I guess you are correct when you say that “we can never be absolutely sure if someone is guilty,” and I shouldn’t have worded it that way. But there are degrees of certainty, and there is a degree that puts one’s guilt far beyond any reasonable doubt. I suppose each individual case must be judged by a judge, or be based on precedent or something because I am not sure what objective criteria could be used to determine what puts someone beyond that degree.

        1. Atticus Finch Post author

          It is a tricky issue. I’ll have to think on it and maybe dive into it in more detail.

          By neurological issue in your about page I thought you were being a little sarcastic in saying that you are just “cut from a different cloth” or “think differently”.

          Are you being literal? As there is a literal physical difference in you that you believe makes you think differently? If so – that is interesting.

          By the way – crazy people don’t know they’re crazy… 🙂

            1. Atticus Finch Post author

              Interesting. Regarding the death penalty that could be why you view it more as matter of fact issue rather than one to be dealt with from a moral or empathetic perspective. That makes your opinion all the more interesting to me.


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