IF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IS WRONG
by David Sisler
On February 23, William George Bonin, the infamous "Freeway Killer" was put to death in California's first execution by lethal injection. Tried by a jury of his peers, he was found guilty of brutally murdering 14 boys and young men. He was justly executed according to the laws of California. And the laws of God.
Thirty-eight states and the federal government allow capital punishment. According to recent estimates slightly more than 3,000 inmates await execution.
In 1995, 56 convicted criminals paid the ultimate penalty for their crimes, the most since the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976. More than that number could die this year.
Guinevere Garcia will not be among those executed this year, although for five years she was a resident of Illinois' "death row." Illinois Governor Jim Edgar, who favors the death penalty, granted her clemency. It was a clemency she did not request, telling the governor, "Stay out of my case."
Twenty years ago Garcia smothered her 11-month-old daughter and served ten years of a twenty year sentence. In 1991 she attempted to rob her husband and shot him to death instead. She will spend the rest of her life in prison.
Geoffrey Ward will not be executed either. Convicted of raping and murdering a 14-year-old girl and a 38-year-old woman in 1984, killing a man and raping another woman in 1983, Ward was sentenced to serve eight life sentences. Ward did not deserve to die because he came forward and confessed, decreed Circuit Judge John W. Winston. Two days before William Bonin was executed, Ward escaped from a Virginia maximum-security prison. The rural community near the prison lived in terror until Ward was recaptured the next day.
In a death penalty debate circulated from Brigham Young University, Rachel Sauer wrote, "The reason behind sentencing convicted criminals to death is morally unfounded."
There is a moral foundation, according to the Bible. So precious is human life that God decreed the maximum penalty for murder (and the Sixth Commandment literally says, "Thou shalt not murder"). To allow a murder to live is to demean the value of all life. The death penalty, therefore, is the ultimate act of justice.
Capital punishment should never be considered retribution. There is no way to "get even" with a murderer -- the life taken cannot be restored. But a terrible crime demands a terrible punishment. God, in his Word, reserves the administration of vengeance totally to himself.
An unsigned article, published by the American Life League, agrees: "In reality ... murderers ... are not executed as payment for their crimes, because their deaths could not begin to repay the horror and suffering they have caused. [They] are executed because of the violence they have done to the virtue of justice. Society must eliminate its worst elements, or by tolerating them it will itself fall into disrepair."
The murder rate in the United States dropped 12 percent last year as the legal system followed a "get tough" attitude. But in some Middle Eastern countries, where a murderer can expect to be executed for his crime, the homicide rate is less than ten percent that of the United States. This difference is partially due to societal and religious influences, but the presence of a swiftly and certainly administered death penalty cannot help but serve as a profound deterrent.
Death penalty opponents claim that execution displays society's indifference to the sanctity of life.
The Hemlock Society, a group which supports euthanasia has stated that doctors have surreptitiously put people to "sleep" in a manner which almost duplicates the lethal injection method of execution. Bringing an unnatural end the life of a terminally ill patient preserves the sanctity of life??
Former San Quentin Warden Dan Vasquez, speaking about his state's use of lethal injection, said, "You can't sugarcoat execution. Just like you can't sugarcoat premeditated murder."
But we do. We call it abortion.
In a May 24, 1989 syndicated column, Coretta Scott King wrote, "Capital punishment ... should be banned because it makes irrevocable any possible miscarriage of justice ... the lives of innocent people are threatened by capital punishment ... it can never produce genuine healing ... allowing the state to kill its own citizens diminishes our humanity."
If you substitute the word "abortion" for the words "capital punishment," you will have a very good summary of the pro-life philosophy. Strangely, many vocal capital punishment opponents are very pro-abortion.
More than a million babies (Sorry. I should have said "fetus" so there would be no need worry about whether there was someone alive inside the womb) are aborted every year in the United States. 56 convicted criminals were executed last year. I have a deal for you. Stop all capital punishment, commute all death sentences to life without parole. In exchange, immediately stop all abortions and give babies a chance to live. If capital punishment is wrong, how can abortion be right?
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 3/23/96
Copyright 1996 by David Sisler
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