Cheapening Murder?

(Well, for title the instructions often say "give us something catchy".) This is about the Colorado legislature bill to repeal the death penalty. ( Denver Post article and discussion.) In a TV panel discussion a couple of years ago about dropping the death penalty I heard Dennis Prager say "It cheapens murder". The rest of the panel looked at him aghast, and I didn’t get it at first either. But what he was saying was, if the price for taking another person’s life is not expensive, such as the death penalty, it cheapens the crime, making it no big deal.

With no death penalty a person may be more inclined to take another’s life if they know they can only get jail time, even if it’s life in prison, for doing so. On the other hand I’ve often heard it said that if you take one life you might as well take as many as you want as you can only pay with one death penalty. (And you still may have a chance at jail time.) Lovely logic either way.

Certainly taking a human life, whether as a crime or a legal punishment, is a horrible thing. Death could be said to be a cruel and unusual punishment, as might be said about a life without parole spent in incarceration (except that the incarcerated IS alive, but his murder victim is not).

I have often felt that someone taking another’s life has given up their own right to life. (Just talking crime here, not war and "legitmate" (?) life-taking.) If we want to hold life as extremely precious then the penalty for taking another’s life has to be extremely expensive. My vote would be for the death penalty. Could I throw the switch on a convicted killer myself? I don’t know, but if it was because I’d lost a family member or loved one I’d have to give it some very, very serious thought. Who is going to fire the last shot, the killers or the victims?

What do you think?

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About JohnRH

Retired, avid winter skier, avid reader, traveler (avidly). :)
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3 Responses to Cheapening Murder?

  1. John says:

    A fellow blogger replied elsewhere: "have erased millions of words here… it\’s hard to know…I believe in a life for a life, but have some to think maybe that means the person who kills owes the rest of his life to the family/community of his victim. Owes his life, labor, income, assets, everything for the life he took. Forever, without mercy and without forgiveness …he loses his life by virture of devoting it to the life of his victim, without satisfaction… might work whatever they do, they forfeit their rights"And I replied: It\’s an unpleasant subject to discuss, to put it mildly. I\’m not sure a convicted killer could be "productive" to his victims family, though they say the sheriff of Maricopa County Arizona is putting his inmates to work, but that\’s another story. I found some of the reported reasoning for repealing the death penalty "interesting". That is that it would SAVE MONEY. It\’s supposedly cheaper to incarcerate a person for life than spend taxpayer money on the requisite appeals process. Is this a nice way of avoiding the humanity argument or just a result of the current economic situation? Go figure.

  2. John says:

    This particular effort to repeal the death penalty in Colorado is nearly dead. The bill has been heavily amended and the current legislative session is nearly over. The New York Times described it:"As proposed, the bill would have redirected about $1 million now devoted to death penalty costs to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for investigating unsolved crimes known as cold cases. But the amendment that passed on a voice vote Monday pledged new money for cold cases — popular with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle — but made no mention of the death penalty." http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/05/us/05colorado.htmlIt was the front page headline in the 05/05/2009 Denver Post:http://www.denverpost.com/ci_12294769I think it is unfortunate the issue was approached from a cost standpoint (an attempt at an end run?) rather than addressed headon as to the humanity, or not, of it.

  3. John says:

    At least it\’s an issue for which we can avert our gaze and avoid again, for awhile. When I used to read a lot of science fiction one thing that appealed to me about that genre was the "alternate societies" often posited. For example, ones where killing was just not done. But who can really imagine such a thing. Human kind will not be entering the realm of science fiction anytime soon. Maybe… …someday.

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