Death penalty opponents say that the death penalty has a foundation in hatred and revenge. Such is a false claim.

A death sentence requires pre existing statutes, trial and appeals, considerations of guilt and due process, to name but a few.  Revenge requires none of these and, in fact, does not even require guilt or a crime.

The criminal justice system goes out of its way to take hatred and revenge out of the process.  That is why we have a system of pre existing laws that limit punishments and prosecutions to specific actions in response to specific rules of evidence and procedure.  And it is also why those directly affected by the murder are not allowed to be fact finders in the case.

If reality is our guide, the evidence is that murder victims are often disrespected by the criminal justice system.  And that murderers, far from receiving the wrath of hatred and revenge, are most often served with a ‘mercy’ that is more indifference than compassion.

For example, the expected punishment for murder was only 1.2 years in 1980, 2.7 years in 1995, and 3.4 years in 1999! (1)

Why have we chosen to be so generous to murderers and so contemptuous of the human rights and suffering of the victims and future victims?

Calling executions a product of hatred and revenge is simply a way in which some death penalty opponents attempt to establish a sense of moral superiority. It is also a transparent insult which results in additional hurt to those victim survivors who have already suffered so much and who believe that execution is the appropriate punishment for those who murdered their loved one(s).

Far from moral superiority, those who call capital punishment an expression of hatred and revenge are exhibiting their contempt for those who believe differently than they do, and, in the process, they create more harm against many victim survivors. It is, quite clearly, death penalty opponents, who are showing their own hatred and contempt.

Those opposed to execution cannot prove a foundation of hatred and revenge for the death penalty any more than they can for any other punishment sought within a system such as that observed within the US.  It is enough, for them, just to say the words and to, thereby, satisfy their need for self gratification.

The punishment of death can in no way be a balancing between harm and punishment, because the victim did not deserve or earn their punishment, whereas the murderer has earned their own, deserved punishment by the free will action of violating societies laws and an individuals life and, thereby, voluntarily subjecting themselves to that jurisdictions judgment.

Far from hatred and revenge, the death penalty represents our greatest condemnation for a crime of unequaled horror and consequence. Lesser punishments may suffice under some circumstances. A death sentence for certain heinous crimes is given in those special circumstances when a jury finds such is more just than a lesser sentence.

Removing the death penalty will only be taking away a punishment deemed just by juries under specific circumstances.  

Less justice is not what we need.

(1) “The best overall measure of the potential cost to a criminal of committing crimes is ‘expected punishment.’ Roughly speaking, expected punishment is the number of days in prison a typical criminal can expect to serve per crime, as determined by the probabilities of being apprehended, prosecuted, convicted and going to prison, and the median months served for each crime. “, THE REYNOLDS REPORT, “Crime and Punishment in the US,” National Center for Policy Analysis,1997 {NCPA Policy Report No. 209, September 1997} and 1999 {NCPA Policy Report No. 229, October 1999}

copyright 2001-2005   Dudley Sharp

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas

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My focus has been on violent crime issues and what can be done, within the criminal justice and legislative systems, to lessen injury to the innocent and to prosecute the guilty.  To accomplish that goal, involvement in community education, elections, legislation, victim’s rights issues, including assistance in individual cases are all important.

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