Friday, February 22, 2008

An eye for an eye?

Is there any place for the death penalty in the modern world?

Steve Wright has today been convicted of the murder of 5 women in the sleepy town of Ipswich in Suffolk. Once again a debate has been sparked on the re-introduction or not of the death penalty.

The Christian view is clear. It is a sin to take a person’s life under any circumstances. But the UK is a fiercely secular society where the opinion of the church is at best derided and more often than not totally ignored. Ironically America, where faith is more widely practiced and demonstrated, still supports capital punishment in some states.

I don’t have an opinion. I wish I did. Dithering is not a quality I normally possess! But I have been following today’s debate hoping that a logical answer will leap out at me, but so far it’s not.
Putting the ethical argument aside we are still faced with something of a dichotomy.

The supporters have today been making much of the fact that we train our armed forces to kill whether it be in Iraq, Afghanistan, or on our own soil should anyone attempt to harm our people. We are already prepared to take life under certain circumstances, so why should a serial murderer be spared?

Since the abolition of the death penalty in the UK in 1964, unlawful killings have doubled. There are still however, 5 times as many murders per head of population in the US than here. Supporters genuinely feel that the threat of death is a great deterrent. After all, a life sentence does not mean a life spent incarcerated. Most murderers know they will be released after about 15 years.

They also point to the cost of keeping a prisoner locked up compared with that of ending his or her life. But should that even be a debating point?

‘The death penalty is the bluntest of blunt instruments. It removes the individual's humanity and with it any chance of rehabilitation and their giving something back to society.’ So say the vocal majority who are still opposed to its return.

They also point out that the family and friends of the convicted person become unwilling victims themselves. And what about miscarriages of justice? It’s not uncommon for judgements on the most serious crimes to be overturned as modern detection methods advance allowing old cases to be reopened. Death is final.

I’m open to all views, and I’d love to hear yours.


  1. I have thought a great deal about the death penalty. I have looked at both sides and considered numerous published articles on the subject. My final opinion is some crimes definitely call for the punishment to be death. To take a life of another warrants losing your life. Child rapists should die a slow painful death.

  2. Eventhough I find it difficult I think a psychopath without any feelings who has kiled so many people I think he should be under no citcumstances be released in the community anyway. lock him up for a lifetime. he might be a bad influence to other prisoners. Best solution Yep turn of his light

  3. There was a time and a purpose for the eye for an eye action, it was the way justice was meted out, now with a judicial government of sorts around the world people approach this issue with split feelings.

    I definitely believe a person should pay for their crimes, but I know for a fact I would never make the call as to whether or not they should be put to death.

  4. One of the best arguments against the death penalty I ever heard was based strictly on cost. In the United States it costs approximately 5 million dollars to execute one person.
    I say life with no hope of parole.

  5. I think that sometimes, it is best to be a ditherer!! I feel that extremist terrorists should die, but confess that I would not be the one to execute people.

  6. Hey there Keith,

    This is one of those topics that simply enrage people because there are so many views on it. I don't know where I stand on this issue but I do know that no matter what justice has to be served.

  7. I would never say that capital punishment should be banned. It has a right to remain in every judicial system across the world. To me, true justice SHOULD be meted out to any human who commits a crime, in some cases true justice can only be handed out through capital punishment, nothing else would do. In the Steve Wright case, killing eight innocent women means, he should be killed eight times. Simple! But then black and white pieces are always easy to judge. It’s the ‘in-betweens’ that are hard to figure out. What bugs me are the thousands of other Steve Wrights lurking in society, pretending to be the upholders of justice… the child molesters and rapist who easily slip through society’s fingers. And what of the politicians who play inhuman games for their own benefits? And the corporate climbers who are willing to take up any means to reach the top of their ladders…thus killing, destroying innocent lives? Where’s justice there? So death penalty should be the least of the worries in any judicial system.

    Anyone who debates against death penalty has nothing else to do…my message to them,” go find ways to catch those zillion other criminals who are free instead of wasting everyone’s time!”

    I better stop as I feel strongly on such subjects...sorry.

  8. Keith, just so you know this subject got to me so much that...I made a posting of this in my typing away and am using that as the response to the WI prompt..thanks for triggering this question.

  9. Hi there Keith!
    I am a Christian, but I also believe in capital punishment under very strict curcumstances and crimes...such as child killers, serial killers and possibly even killing a cop. But the criteria would have to be strict indeed, such as dna evidence so no possible mistakes are ever made. That would be tragic, and it's happened many times before.
    I'm thinking specifically of a sensational case we had here in Canada where a man and woman killed 3 young girls for their sexual gratification. The man had also been terrorizing Toronto for years raping one woman after another. One young girl that was killed was the woman's little sister. On top of it, they tortured these kids for days and even videotaped every incident. They should have been put to death in my opinion. I had two daughters around the same age at the time, and it just made me sick to hear what these kids went through. Believe it or not, the woman now walks free, even though the man is still in jail.
    Yes, in some cases, the death sentence would be very appropriate, I believe.
    Take care

  10. Oh, yes and thank you for the e-mail!!

  11. a very potent topic.. and like you I am dithering too.. I want to say no death penalty.. I sometimes think that way about life imprisonment to.. where is the chance to redeem oneself? But then considering that he killed 8 women.. is the man maybe demented even if not in an obvious way.. and would it be a good idea to let him lose? I remember the sex convict who was released and commited another crime killing his 9 yr old victim Jessica Lunsford. See this website -
    The family has been fighting to get a law passed across many states in the US that such ex-convicts should not be allowed near places where children congregate. The law is now in effect in many states.

    In light of events like this I think again and death penalty doesn't seem so wrong!

  12. This topic makes me dither too....after reading your piece and then the comments, i'm still dithering. I found myself agreeing with some who stated C.P. should be instigated, like Tory's comment and the example she used. I'm from Canada as well and know the Bernardo case as thoroughly as I want to know...horrendous. Though the male has been deemed a dangerous offender and most likely will never see freedom again, his ex-wife is free, has since had a baby and is moving to another country to start over. HELLO?

    But, then I read the last comment by Richard.......and I wonder.....
    and I think........we are not God. What right do we have, why do we think we have the right to take another life?

    So, I continue to dither.....

  13. first off i have to proclaim that the christians themselves are the ones that put this line in the shitter,, as they send out their holy men to bless the troops as they head out into battle to kill....

    i much like many feel that the death penalty tho a more cost effective management plan i am sure is just something i personally could not carry out,, and thus i have to believe it to be wrong...

    it is kind of like saying..."sure i'll eat meat,, if you kill it..." who among us could actually do the slaughtering?????

  14. A very thought-provoking post.

    To me, the issue isn't whether a particular criminal or a particular crime *deserve* the death penalty. Yes, I believe some crimes do. Does that mean that the state has the right to murder them? No, it does not. Call me a bleeding heart liberal, but I do not believe that you can kill to show that killing is wrong.

    Lock 'em up and throw away the key if that is warranted, but killing? No.

  15. I would not like to be in the position of making such a decision. Unless it was convicted pedophiles, I have no problem making eunichs out of them and then the death penalty. Not sure I should think that way since I'm Christian but that's where I stand at the moment on that issue. For the rest, I don't certainly saves on if they turn out to be innocent? That's a scary thought. I don't have a stand on this issue...

  16. I remain conflicted. Some crimes seem so worthy of the death penalty. It sounds like the one you describe does, as do ones other commenters mentioned. But I'm not "supposed to" support the death penalty. I'm a liberal. I'm a Christian. And, yet, deep within, I advocate someone killing the worst of the worst.

  17. keith...I've just left a comment on Ul..I read both your posts long back and it triggered so many thoughts that i had to wait and gather them..

    here is my dollar’s worth…

    The heart says yes to death penalty..God knows many derve it...but te head differs...

    How can I reconcile myself to the fact that a group of x people can behave like the almighty and knowingly decide to take away somebody’s life. What difference would there be between him and them then? A harsh strenuous punishment (equivalent to dying a thousand deathe everyday) with no possibility of release, could be the better thing.

    For that matter, this was one murderer who was caught how about the countless who walk away scot free…what if the ones deciding his fate also have something to hide?

    Who gives the right to take someone’s life…no body…

    taking someone's life in self defence...that's a different story altogether...

  18. wow Keith! I admire you taking a chance of getting a lot of people quite heated up! I just came from Uls blog and needed to read your post. I, like you am often on the fence BUT tend to lean to the 'Against' side. The old 'eye for an eye' adage seems barbarian. I tend to like better- 2 wrongs don't make a right.
    Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  19. I will make it short and sweet. This is one of those topics that will get kicked around like a football, like abortion and religion. Everyone has an opinion, and that is the beauty of such a polarizing topic. You are very brave to attack this in an open forum. I am in favor of the death penalty but only for the most horrific crimes and only after all appeals have been exhausted. I realize that most of the people who would write in this forum tend to be liberal types who will lean the other way. I am ok with that.

  20. If it were absolutely proven beyond any doubt whatsoever, that a person was guilty, I would be for it.

    However, that is not always the case. Our system is flawed and so it brings up many questions.

    This is something that divides even the closest of people. Definitely thought provoking.

  21. There's a lot to consider here. I know many that are totally against the death penalty and yet certain offenders commit such monstrous crimes that it makes even the staunchest opponents of the death penalty reconsider.

    Definitely an emotionally charged issue.



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