China is said to execute thousands of people every year, Saudi Arabia recently beheaded a man for ‘sorcery,’ America just executed Troy Davis for a crime he pleaded ‘not guilty’ for right up until his last seconds.
And the world continues to be in uproar about right, wrong and the (at times not so wide) berth between the two. America’s justice system is apparently meant to be based on the ideology that one is innocent until proven guilty. But in this case Troy Davis was guilty until proven innocent, and executed because he could not prove himself to be so without any reasonable doubt.
This fact in itself is argued most energetically by those who are opposed to the death penalty. And with due cause. It is possible to un-sentence someone from a lifetime of imprisonment. It is not possible to bring someone back from the dead.
This argument is well supported by the fact that between 1973 and 2005 123 people across 25 states were released from death row when new evidence of their innocence emerged.
And even if the individuals were, in fact, guilty, is an instant death really a suitable punishment? Would a lifetime of regret and solitude (bar Austrian prisons with their plush interiors) not in fact be much more damning?
“An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind”
Regardless of whether an individual is guilty or innocent, is death really the best alternative? Is it really an effective preventative technique to teach people that killing people is wrong, by killing people?
Powerful governments tend to go back on their mission statements with almost every other move. Wars to prevent wars. Death to prevent death.
As Gandhi famously said, “an eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind.” Its
funny sad how centuries later we haven’t managed to learn such a pivotal lesson.
In a time where the belief in God is diminishing day by day, governments have been quick to step into the vacuum. Playing God they decide who can live, who can die, when, and how.
Moral contention aside, however, the primary argument in favour of the death penalty is that it would deter an individual from committing the crime. But are not most supremely violent acts done so in the heat of the moment?
During those times you cannot think rationally. Punishment doesn’t even cross your mind. This is in addition to the fact that it has in fact been proven that a publicized case of capital punishment does not deter others from committing crimes either. In fact, research suggests that publicity may encourage a crime instead of preventing it (McCellan, G., 1961.)
In a day and age where we are advancing at an astounding rate, it is supremely shocking that we still possess such barbaric traits.
“Human beings are greater than the sum of their parts.”
Aside from the fact that executing someone is simply sloppily placing a band aid over a gaping wound, it also does not take into consideration choice, or change, or the fact that individuals are greater than the sum of their parts.
Of course there are some crimes that are too horrible to recount, ones you wish to erase hearing or reading about from your memory entirely, but who are we to judge who deserves to live?
Although perhaps (and hopefully) we have never committed such crimes, we all make mistakes. Who are we to decide who gets to try again? Try harder? Try better? Do we not believe that everyone can change?