I was just surfing Twitter and saw a post from the USA Today account about the fact that the jury recommended the death penalty for a case in Ohio where a man used Craigslist to lure men into phony job interviews and then killed them. The article can be found here.
To me, the death penalty is useless. Thankfully, I have never been in a situation where a jury would have to suggest that someone who committed a crime against me should be put to death but I honestly believe that if I was to ever be in that situation that I would not want that to happen. In the same vein, I would never suggest the death penalty as a juror because I believe that it violates our 8th Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.
We have executed people in the United States since the very beginning. Countries all around the world have, and still do, execute people for certain offenses that have been dubbed “capital” or are considered to be especially horrific. We are, however, one of the only modernized Western nations left in the world that still use the death penalty with any regularity. The most horrendous crimes are the ones that usually get the nod for the death penalty, but the fact is, we do get it wrong sometimes.
It’s not as frequent as some people say that it is, but we do make mistakes and convict the wrong person. I like to believe in the criminal justice system and believe that it is a truly virtuous and right-minded institution, but there are mistakes that are made. When you are dealing with prison time, I don’t think that it’s as big of an issue as when you are dealing with someone’s life. The people who are sentenced to death are being sentenced because we believe that they have done something so wrong and so evil that they should be punished in the ultimate way. I honestly don’t believe that we as mere humans have the right to make that call.
Whether you believe in an afterlife or a deity beyond this world or not, I think that we can all agree that those who commit crimes that would be thought of as worth of the death penalty will end up coming back and making the individual suffer at some point during this life or the next. The internal suffering can sometimes be enough punishment, and those men who sit on death row for years and years while their case gets appealed over and over again literally have to re-live their mistakes over and over again with every re-trial and appeal. That mental torture probably ends up being enough of a punishment for the individual to learn their lesson.
That man from the USA Today article knows that what he did was wrong. He may have some sort of mental instability because of the things that happened to him over the years, but he knows deep down that he never should have killed those men. If he doesn’t get the death penalty, or even if he does and has to sit on death row for the next 15 years, he is going to have to think about those mistakes for the rest of his life and re-live them all the time. I think that being in a cell and having those images going through his head is going to be enough punishment without us taking his life in the end as well.
I’m not saying that the people that we’ve executed are good people. I’m not saying that Richard Beasley is a good person. I’m saying that we are imperfect beings and we don’t have the right to judge someone and say that they deserve to die because of the things that they have done, just like the fundamentalist Christian doesn’t have the right to sit there and judge a gay person because they see the same sex in an amorous light.
Just my two cents.