States Debate Use and Expense of Capital Punishment

States Debate Use and Expense of Capital Punishment – National Constitution Center

The Nebraska Legislature last month came within one vote of repealing its death penalty law. The new governor of Maryland called for the outright repeal of capital punishment. Most of Georgia’s 72 capital cases have been stopped because the state’s public defender system has run out of money. New Jersey lawmakers are drafting a bill to repeal that state’s death penalty. And last month the governor of Virginia, a state whose 96 executions since 1976 are exceeded only by those in Texas, vetoed five bills that would have expanded the use of capital punishment.

The legal system’s delivery of death sentences has dramatically slowed. During the 1990s the nation’s courts would customarily issue about 300 death sentences annually.

Those numbers have plummeted in the last seven years, to 128 in 2005 and 102 last year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that lobbies against capital punishment.

Capital punishment is one of the issues where I stray from views that are typically associated with conservatives, although I believe that opposition to the death penalty is the true conservative position. First, and foremost, if conservatives are to oppose intrusive government, how can we support the ultimate intrusion, the ability to end someone’s life? Second, conservatives, being primarily concerned with culture over politics, must admit that the death penalty brings with it a certain hardening of the hearts of our culture. It encourages people to view others as expendable and not worthy of life. That can only have a negative impact on our view of the importance of life over all.

In addition, as a Christian, and a Catholic, I agree with the statement of in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2267):

Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

It would seem axiomatic that all decisions must be made on the side of saving lives, allowing for the taking of a life when there is no other way to save other lives. So, it would be permissible for a woman to seek an abortion in the case of a tubal pregnancy, where the embryo lodges in the Fallopian tube rather then the uterus. Since the object in this case is to save the woman’s life with the destruction of the child as an unavoidable consequence, an abortion would be permitted in such a case. Similarly, capital punishment would be permissible when there is no other way to protect society from the dangers posed by the criminal in question. (I think this is a good summary of the ethical principle of “double effect.”)So, for this reason, if Bin Laden were still alive (which is in doubt given his three year absence) and we were to catch him, I think it would be permissible to execute him since there would be no other way to protect innocent lives given his obvious determination to kill as many Westerners as possible. So, given this caveat, I would be against an effort to permanently ban capital punishment in America. While it’s not currently needed, given the peace prevalent in our society, should that order no longer exist, situations may arise where the good of society demands it.

But, in any situation, the burden of proof should weigh strongly against execution given the importance of every human life. In addition, if someone has committed crimes worthy of execution, don’t we, as Christians, want to try to save their souls? Don’t we want to gain them a conversion of heart and the forgiveness of God before we send them to meet their eternal end? Wouldn’t God want us to take every opportunity to save the person’s soul rather than rid ourselves of them at the first opportunity? Which is the more Christian approach: working to bring them to God, no matter how long it takes, or to execute them as son as we can?

That said, I am obviously pleased with the decline in executions and death sentences being handed out, but am less sanguine about the long term outlook. I can’t shake the feeling that given the decline in crime over the past decade or so, that people are feeling less threatened by crime and so are less likely to strike out at criminals. If (when?) crime increases to higher levels, we will likely see an increase in support for the death penalty again.

So, despite the decline in public support for the death penalty, there’s still much work to be done if we’re to prevent the tide from turning back in the future.

It’s too friggin’ early…

I’m with The Anchoress on this one.

Circumstances are forcing me, it seems, to choose a horse in the race, but I don’t want to. There are still two baseball seasons left before Election Day 2008. We haven’t even had the NFL draft for the season that will be complete before a single primary vote is cast. (Not counting postseason games.) It’s too early to be choosing a candidate.

That said, I’ve almost made up my mind, but that’s for another post where I’ll trace the whole thought process that led me to my decision, once I’m sure I’ve got the right guy.

Divine Mercy Novena – Day 4

The Divine Mercy Novena

“Today bring to Me those who do not believe in God and those who do not know Me, I was thinking also of them during My bitter Passion, and their future zeal comforted My Heart. Immerse them in the ocean of My mercy.”

Most compassionate Jesus, You are the Light of the whole world. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who do not believe in God and of those who as yet do not know You. Let the rays of Your grace enlighten them that they, too, together with us, may extol Your wonderful mercy; and do not let them escape from the abode which is Your Most Compassionate Heart.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who do not believe in You, and of those who as yet do not know You, but who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Draw them to the light of the Gospel. These souls do not know what great happiness it is to love You. Grant that they, too, may extol the generosity of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.

Quote-a-palooza

“It is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expence, either by sumptuary laws, or by prohibiting the importation of foreign luxuries. They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expence, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will.” —Adam Smith

“Some Americans devoted to free enterprise and lower taxes actually push policies and lead lives that push this country toward big government. Leftists who want a centralization of power bear sizeable responsibility for governmental growth. But conservatives who don’t understand the importance of religious and community institutions are also part of the problem. That’s because a majority of Americans want to do something through common action to help those who are needy. That something can be either governmental, in which case tax bills and government bulk up, or it can be through religious and community institutions, in which case government can shrink. We should not complain about the taxes that fuel governmental action if we neglect volunteer work outside of government. The politics of this are simple: If Americans have a choice between big government and small government, and if Americans think big government helps the poor and small government doesn’t, a crucial mass will often vote for big government. If Americans think the only way to work together on social problems is through government, most will prefer government to giving up.” —Marvin Olasky

“There is a new term being used in Washington these days, tax expenditures. If you and I used that term we would be talking about things upon which the government spent our tax dollars. That, however, is not what government means. Tax expenditures is the new name government has for the share of our earnings it allows us to keep. You and I call them deductions.” —Ronald Reagan

“Just last week, I was arguing the [illegal immigration] issue with a friend. I pointed out that every other country in the world guards its borders, and that definitely includes Mexico, which protects its own southern border while violating our own on a daily basis. He said he didn’t care what other countries did. He believed that America, being America, should have a welcome mat out for anyone who wants to enter. He didn’t want to slam the door in the face of poor people. I told him he was a hypocrite. After all, I knew for a fact that he had locks on the windows and doors of his home. Why shouldn’t poor people be allowed to enter his dwelling and set up housekeeping in his living room?” —Bert Prelutsky

“Thought experiment: Bring in a completely neutral observer—a Martian—and point out to him that the United States is involved in two hot wars against radical Islamic insurgents. One is in Afghanistan, a geographically marginal backwater with no resources and no industrial or technological infrastructure. The other is in Iraq, one of the three principal Arab states, with untold oil wealth, an educated population, an advanced military and technological infrastructure that, though suffering decay in the later years of Saddam Hussein’s rule, could easily be revived if it falls into the right (i.e., wrong) hands. Add to that the fact that its strategic location would give its rulers inordinate influence over the entire Persian Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf states. Then ask your Martian: Which is the more important battle? He would not even understand why you are asking the question.” —Charles Krauthammer

“Ask most Americans if they were aware that Iraqis, by almost a 2-to-1 margin, believe that life today is better than it was under Saddam Hussein, and you’d most likely elicit incredulousness, blank stares or outright laughter. Not because it isn’t true, though. It is. The mainstream media just forgot to mention it. In the past month, two surveys that involved face-to-face interviews with thousands of ordinary Iraqis have been released. While each contained significantly different results, both provided substantial evidence that Iraqis are not nearly as gloomy as Americans have been told to believe… Considering the daily drumbeat of dim news from the cradle of civilization, any reasonable person would expect that ordinary Iraqis rued the day we liberated them. Mainstream media execs defend the tenor of the coverage, reminding us that the news business must report what is new… Reporting news events without context, however, can easily create dangerously false perceptions. The context we do have, though, has been fashioned by the mainstream media to fit journalists’ views of the reality in Iraq. This massaging of the news has had consequences. Following year after year of almost exclusively grim news out of Iraq—even when positive stories such as the 2005 poll were readily available to cover—Americans have now soured on a war they once strongly supported.” —Joel Mowbray

Quote-a-palooza

“It is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expence, either by sumptuary laws, or by prohibiting the importation of foreign luxuries. They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expence, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will.” —Adam Smith

“Some Americans devoted to free enterprise and lower taxes actually push policies and lead lives that push this country toward big government. Leftists who want a centralization of power bear sizeable responsibility for governmental growth. But conservatives who don’t understand the importance of religious and community institutions are also part of the problem. That’s because a majority of Americans want to do something through common action to help those who are needy. That something can be either governmental, in which case tax bills and government bulk up, or it can be through religious and community institutions, in which case government can shrink. We should not complain about the taxes that fuel governmental action if we neglect volunteer work outside of government. The politics of this are simple: If Americans have a choice between big government and small government, and if Americans think big government helps the poor and small government doesn’t, a crucial mass will often vote for big government. If Americans think the only way to work together on social problems is through government, most will prefer government to giving up.” —Marvin Olasky

“There is a new term being used in Washington these days, tax expenditures. If you and I used that term we would be talking about things upon which the government spent our tax dollars. That, however, is not what government means. Tax expenditures is the new name government has for the share of our earnings it allows us to keep. You and I call them deductions.” —Ronald Reagan

“Just last week, I was arguing the [illegal immigration] issue with a friend. I pointed out that every other country in the world guards its borders, and that definitely includes Mexico, which protects its own southern border while violating our own on a daily basis. He said he didn’t care what other countries did. He believed that America, being America, should have a welcome mat out for anyone who wants to enter. He didn’t want to slam the door in the face of poor people. I told him he was a hypocrite. After all, I knew for a fact that he had locks on the windows and doors of his home. Why shouldn’t poor people be allowed to enter his dwelling and set up housekeeping in his living room?” —Bert Prelutsky

“Thought experiment: Bring in a completely neutral observer—a Martian—and point out to him that the United States is involved in two hot wars against radical Islamic insurgents. One is in Afghanistan, a geographically marginal backwater with no resources and no industrial or technological infrastructure. The other is in Iraq, one of the three principal Arab states, with untold oil wealth, an educated population, an advanced military and technological infrastructure that, though suffering decay in the later years of Saddam Hussein’s rule, could easily be revived if it falls into the right (i.e., wrong) hands. Add to that the fact that its strategic location would give its rulers inordinate influence over the entire Persian Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf states. Then ask your Martian: Which is the more important battle? He would not even understand why you are asking the question.” —Charles Krauthammer

“Ask most Americans if they were aware that Iraqis, by almost a 2-to-1 margin, believe that life today is better than it was under Saddam Hussein, and you’d most likely elicit incredulousness, blank stares or outright laughter. Not because it isn’t true, though. It is. The mainstream media just forgot to mention it. In the past month, two surveys that involved face-to-face interviews with thousands of ordinary Iraqis have been released. While each contained significantly different results, both provided substantial evidence that Iraqis are not nearly as gloomy as Americans have been told to believe… Considering the daily drumbeat of dim news from the cradle of civilization, any reasonable person would expect that ordinary Iraqis rued the day we liberated them. Mainstream media execs defend the tenor of the coverage, reminding us that the news business must report what is new… Reporting news events without context, however, can easily create dangerously false perceptions. The context we do have, though, has been fashioned by the mainstream media to fit journalists’ views of the reality in Iraq. This massaging of the news has had consequences. Following year after year of almost exclusively grim news out of Iraq—even when positive stories such as the 2005 poll were readily available to cover—Americans have now soured on a war they once strongly supported.” —Joel Mowbray