We Need to Stop Executing Peoplel


Last night, the state of Georgia executed a man who was very likely innocent. Like PZ, I don’t care whether he was guilty or innocent. I care that my country is one of the few countries in the world that executes people.

From Wikipedia

I used to be a strong death penalty supporter. Some crimes, I thought, could only be adequately punished by death. I didn’t ever believe it acted as a general deterrent, but as former FBI agent John Douglas said in Mindhunter, it surely acts as a specific deterrent: that particular person will never commit a crime again. When you’re talking about serial killers, that seems like an admirable thing.

But we kill too many innocent people. We come close to killing far more, before luck and persistence and the existence of DNA evidence, uncovered by tireless investigators, come to the rescue. Those are the lucky ones. Those are the ones who aren’t denied the chance to prove their innocence. How many other people have gone to their deaths because no DNA evidence existed, or if it did was never found, or if found, never allowed to be presented? We don’t know. And it’s unbearable that we don’t know.

So what about those cases in which evidence of guilt is undeniable? Where we definitely have the right person, and the crimes they committed are horrific?

I still don’t support the death penalty. Not even for them. Oh, I may want them to die, and die horribly; that visceral emotional reaction, that righteous outrage, is certainly there. But a civilized society should restrain itself. All we gain is another dead person, another traumatized family, proof that we aren’t able to rise above bronze age ideas of justice. We engage in violence to punish violence, and make our civilization just that much more violent.

Life in prison, no parole, is enough to keep society safe.

We spend an insane amount of money on killing people. That money would be far better spent on improving the conditions that lead people to violence in the first place. A society that takes care of its vulnerable members has less to fear from them, and so much to gain.

Troy Davis should be the last person to be put to death in this country. We’re the last country in North America to execute people. It’s time we joined Canada and Mexico in recognizing what justice truly is.

Comments

  1. El_ahrairah says

    As a resident of Georgia, I am ashamed. I am a supporter of the death penalty, but posturing and political careerism in this country force me, in the interests of my own integrity, to call once again for a complete moratorium. I saw enough "close calls" involving "lost" evidence which wound up exonerating the accused when I lived in Raleigh, and I'm sick of it. This act corrodes the social fabric just as surely as the murder of a cop. Where do I hand in my resignation from the human race?

  2. says

    I find it interesting that you mentioned how much money we spend to kill people, only because I'm very much interested to imagine how much *more* money we spend in keeping them alive for 25-to-life. Overcrowding in prisons is a huge financial burden on the system, and my "tax payer dollars" (as an employee of a police department, I hate that phrase), are going to making sure that some guy who committed some unforgivable crime and is never again going to see the light of day or do anything socially productive or useful for the rest of his long, miserable life, has food, water and clean sheets to sleep on.Don't get me wrong, I am (at least in theory) opposed to the death penalty, because the end result is more bloodshed when there is too much to begin with. Who are we to exercise dominance over the life of another human? However, I say In Theory, because if it was someone that had harmed my family (and when you consider sexual predators and child molesters, that becomes a very scary notion), my high horse bucks me off as bloodlust boils in my veins.Because for all our talk of a civilized world, in the end we're still animals.
    Just playing D's advocate :)