Articles

Is the Death Penalty Ever Moral?

September 22, 2019


There are almost no issues where I don’t
understand both sides: taxation, the size of government, abortion, socialism, capitalism. As strongly as I feel about any issue, I understand
the opposition. But there is an exception: the death penalty
for murder. Here, the gulf is unbridgeable between those
of us who believe that some murderers – and I emphasize some murderers – should be put
to death and those who believe that no murderer should ever be put to death. Take this example: On the afternoon of July 23, 2007, in the
town of Cheshire, Connecticut, two men broke into the home of Dr. William Petit, his wife
Jennifer and his two daughters. The men beat Dr. Petit nearly to death with
a baseball bat; one of the men raped the doctor’s wife; and the other man sexually assaulted
their 11 year-old daughter, Michaela. The two men then strangled Mrs. Petit to death,
tied down the two daughters on beds, doused them with gasoline, and, while the girls were
still alive, set the house on fire. Dr. Petit survived, but his wife and daughters
did not. Those opposed to capital punishment believe
that these two men have a right to keep their lives. So, is there anything a person can do to deserve
the death penalty? To those opposed to capital punishment, the
answer is no. In fact, many opponents of capital punishment
believe that killing murderers is the same as murder. You heard me right – most opponents equate
the murder of an innocent family with putting the murderers of that family to death. Opponents of capital punishment also argue
that keeping all murderers alive sanctifies the value of human life. But the opposite is true. Keeping every murderer alive cheapens human
life because it belittles murder. That’s easily proven. Imagine that the punishment for murder were
the same as the punishment for driving over the speed limit. Wouldn’t that belittle murder and thereby
cheapen human life? Of course, it would. Society teaches how bad an action is by the
punishment it metes out. And what about the pain inflicted on the loved
ones of those murdered? For most people, their suffering is immeasurably
increased knowing that the person who murdered their family member or friend – and who,
in many cases, inflicted unimaginable terror – is alive and being cared for. Of course, putting the murderer to death doesn’t
bring back their loved one, but it sure does provide some sense of justice. That’s why Dr. Petit, a physician whose
life is devoted to saving lives, wants the murderers of his wife and daughters put to
death. In his words, death “is really the only true
just punishment for certain heinous and depraved murders.” Is the doctor wrong? Is he immoral? Well, if you think capital punishment is immoral,
then Dr. Petit is immoral. And what about opponents’ argument that
an innocent person may be executed? This argument may be sincerely held, but it’s
not honest. Why? Because opponents of capital punishment oppose
the death penalty even when there is absolute proof of the murderer’s guilt. If there were a video of a man burning a family
alive, opponents of capital punishment would still oppose taking that man’s life. Moreover, by keeping every murderer alive,
many MORE people are murdered -– other prisoners, guards and people outside of prison in case
of escape or early release — than the infinitesimally small number of people who might be wrongly
executed. And now, with DNA testing and other advanced
forensic tools, it is virtually impossible to execute an innocent person. Then there is the argument offered by some
people in the name of religion that only God has the right to take human life. I always wonder what religion these people
are referring to, since the holiest book of no religion of which I am aware ever made
that claim. People just made that argument up. So, if you’re on the proverbial fence on
this issue, please ask yourself this question: Do you really believe that the torturers,
rapists, murderers of Dr. William Petit’s wife and daughters, and evil men like them,
deserve to keep their lives? If you’re like most people, your answer
is no. Your heart, your mind, your whole being cries
out for some justice and fairness in this world. But, if you really do believe these people
deserve to keep their lives, well… as I said at the outset, I don’t understand you. I’m Dennis Prager.

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