Monday, August 08, 2005

The Logic of the Death Penalty

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens condemned the death penalty in a speech before the American Bar Association yesterday. He laid out a substantial case showing that our system for imposing capital punishment is flawed. Most serious was Stevens assertion that DNA evidence has shown "that a substantial number of death sentences have been imposed erroneously."

AP reports that according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a group opposed to capital punishment, "more than three dozen death row inmates have been exonerated since 2000."

Such a record seems adequate to Kent Scheidegger, legal director for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a pro-death penalty group. He is reported to have said, "I wouldn't say that 20 or 30 cases out of 8,000 constitutes a broken system."

In Scheidegger's eyes it's obviously acceptable to risk 20 or 30 innocent people being unjustly executed than for our entire nation to perish under the burden of giving 8,000 criminals life in prison without possibility of parole.

It seems to me that I've seen Scheidegger's utilitarian logic of expedience at work before:
"You know nothing at all, nor do you take it into account that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish." (John 11:49b-50 NASV)

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