Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Motivated to Kill

Capital Defense Weekly announced "The Death Belt Claims Three." I figured it was my turn to pop off on the death penalty. The following post was inspired by Texas defense lawyer Emmett Harris' editorial comments in the "Voice for the Defense."

In Texas receiving a death sentence for committing capital murder is a good bet. Texas is often at the top of states zealously executing their own citizens. But prosecutors could not obtain the death penalty unless jurors were willing to give it. So why are jurors so willing to sign-off on the death penalty when the State seeks to kill one citizen in exchange for the life of another?

Jurors may believe the death penalty brings a sense of closure to the victim's family? Well, our common human experience demonstrates closure will never occur - no matter what is done in response to the senseless and tragic death of a loved one. That wound is carried forever. Forever those left behind will wonder why. Forever they will struggle with the memory of the meaningless death of someone close and dear to them. Closure is unattainable and some introspection by the juror ought to reveal that truth.

What about deterrence? Isn't that a good reason to sign-off on the death penalty? Well, the death penalty is there but capital murders keep occurring. The death penalty is assessed but capital murders keep occurring. The death penalty is publicized and glamorized but capital murders keep occurring. Jurors know this. They read about the lack of rational basis to believe the death penalty deters crime in anyway. Cassy Stubbs wrote a good article about the deterrence myth here. Nothing holding water yet.

Scripture support for the death penalty is a good argument, isn't it? Not one defense lawyer who's ever tried a death penalty case hasn't heard a prospective juror say "You know the Bible says an eye for an eye." Exodus 21:24; Deut 19:21. But didn't Jesus Christ come to fulfill the law of the Old Testament? Are not these same jurors ignoring what Christ said in Matthew 5:38-39? "Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." Are not these same jurors ignoring the Biblical message of God's grace and mercy? Is the Scriptural excuse nothing more than an attempt by jurors to clothe an otherwise motivated desire to kill with credibility?

What is happening? Well, obviously the State is playing upon our natural desire to kill for revenge. In our advanced and "enlightened" society we cannot come up any better solution for one death than causing another one. You see, I agree with Emmett and believe that is who we really are. We are about revenge. When one person dies - another must also die.

We truly do not understand God's grace and mercy. If we did we would not be so quick to sign-off on the death penalty. In Biblical times God often withheld judgment upon the nation of Israel giving them opportunity to repent and turn back to Him in faith. Why can't we do the same as a society? Why are we so quick to judge, so quick to kill? We ought to know better. Our society ought to know better.

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