Social and Political Commentary

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Is execution a human trait?

... a rebuttal of Ed Boyd's rebuttal

by Stringer Don Norris

Two months ago Len Dalton bemoaned the fact that the Supreme Court just may (they didn't) do away with death by injection -- which, if passed most lawyers know, would lead to a reconsideration of the death penalty by any means.

One month ago Dr. Edward Boyd, also a SilverStringer, objected in print to Dalton's premise -- that we should not go out of our way to make the death penalty any less pleasant. Ed said, basically, that no government has a right to take the life of a human being.

Frankly, I have been one of the ambivalent ones. I agree with Ed, but then I weigh the cost of keeping all those killers alive for the span of their natural lives. It costs lots and lots of money to house, feed and entertain those bad guys.

What comes to mind is the vast amount of killing going on all over the world. Which reminds me, our race -- humans -- is a violent one, and the taking of another's life is not such a big deal. Wars are going on all the time; people are killing people for such silly goals as religion, in the name of a god. We kill each other over what type of government is best, over property, over the shades we come in.

We've seen conscientious objectors become war heroes, while others of a stronger will go to jail rather than take part in the killing. We are certainly an ambivalent set of beings.

Politicians apparently see nothing wrong with employing our young soldiers in a war, ostensibly for ethical reasons -- when behind it all, is something as thin as an economic edge. There is no question about it, war is a prosperous thing -- in some cases, for the losers as well as the winners.

Look at the prosperity of the Germans, the Japanese, the Italians, even the Ruskies. Count the people that died in the second world war -- either in battle, or incidental casualties, or by executions. And then look at the perpetrators. They are rich today.

We're not innocent, we Americans. We're as guilty as most of them. We go to war over oil, and our enemy is seriously killing their own (as well as us) over a slight difference of religious beliefs.

To get back to needles and the way we Americans execute our criminals, I suspect that there must be thousands of killers on the death rows of the United States. It's very expensive to support those people. If we kept them alive and put them to productive work -- say, working to feed our honest indigents -- that seems to me a logical way to go.

But it doesn't work. Prisoners don't produce a profit. They are a drain on the honest public. And the rate of recidivism is such that letting most criminals loose is really taking a huge chance. Worse yet, the lives of innocents may be sacrificed.

Unless we are willing to support these killers, turn them into profit-bearing entities so that they pay their own way, and can be absolutely positive that, if released, they will never commit a crime again, then we honest civilians have to pay for either their subsistance or their execution.

It is not religion that turns me away from execution -- it is that modicum of chance that a prisoner didn't do it, that a witnesses lied, that they mis-saw the action, or that an innocent was railroaded. The advent of DNA has proven that mistakes have been made, either by design or by happenstance. But by the same token, science is getting much closer to any truth.

I want to agree with Dr. Boyd, but I feel his reasoning is impractical. Understanding the daily number of violent deaths today, what's a pitiful handful more -- except these are deaths of proven bad people. Science is getting more exacting, so the chance of a mistake grows smaller.

In the end, I support the Supreme Court's decision -- not to interfere with the judicial systems of the individual states.

Click here to see Len Dalton's original letter.

Click here for Dr. Ed Boyd's rebuttal to Len's piece.

June 6, 2008

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