What is your stance on Capital Punishment?

I am whole heartily against capital punishment on several levels.

  • Crime statistic reports over the last 100 years have NOT shown that capital punishment deters violent crimes in this country.
  • Capital punishment does not save the taxpayer money. The cost to execute a convicted murderer is 4 to 20 times more then if the state kept the murderer in prison for life and have the mental health professionals study how the murderer came into being. When capital punishment is performed, the legal cost that occurs during the appeal process is to assure that the state is not executing an innocent human being. The reason for the wide range in cost is due to the circumstance involved with each case and which state held the legal proceedings.

    To prove this point concerning capital punishment, I have taken a few examples from the hundreds that can be found on the Internet or in your local library. In 1993, a California study argued that each death penalty case costs at least $1.25 million more than a regular murderer case involving life without possibility of parole. The state of Florida declared that it pays $3.2 million in legal cost and containment for each death row inmate, compared to about $535,000 for an average of 40 years for each prisoner sentenced to life.

    According to Spangenberg and Walsh, in an article for Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, "The death penalty is not now, nor has it ever been, a more economical alternative to life imprisonment." A study by the NY State Defenders Association showed that the cost of a capital trial ALONE is more than double the cost of life imprisonment. According to a comparative study between capital trial costs with and without the death penalty by US Government Accounting Office for the years 1979-1984, concluded that a death penalty case costs approximately 42 percent more than a case resulting in a non-death sentence. In 1988 and 1989 the Kansas legislature voted against reinstating the death penalty after it was informed that reintroduction would involve a first-year cost of more than $11 million. In addition, the Miami Herald reported that Florida, with one of the nation's largest death rows, has estimated that the true cost of each execution is approximately $3.2 million, or approximately six times the cost of a life-imprisonment sentence.

    These are only the low end of the cost spectrum. Some examples of capital punishment costs reach in between 15 and 20 million dollars apiece. However, there are those who believe that if justice was carried out more quickly the cost concerning capital punishment would dramatically decrease. My comment for that statement is that justice served swiftly is reckless and often served incorrectly. This leads me to my next point.

  • The mythology that capital punishment creates safety. The public believes in the myth that capital punishment is an investment in safety since these murders will never kill again. However, as I have shown with the first point, killing one murder does not stop the creation of more murders. The popularity of capital punishment has arisen from deep frustration with our present ineffective crime-fighting strategies. The only way I perceive that the national mood will shift away from the revenge outcry towards more realistic solutions is that the myth that "capital punishment creates safety" is destroyed. This will allow a prevention-oriented approach to all facets of crime instead of after-the-fact approach concerning crime.

What truly surprises me, concerning capital punishment, are the number of Christians who use the Bible to justify capital punishment. What I refer to as "Killing Christians." These "Killing Christians" quote the Old and New Testament to prove that capital punishment is supported by God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. They cite certain passages from the Bible to lead their brethren down a path of perverse interpretation of scripture. The most perverse interpretation of the Bible comes from using Matthew 7:1-5 as a means to prove that Jesus supports capital punishment.

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgement you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." - Matthew 7:1-5

Therefore, by looking at the whole picture, we see that Jesus was speaking to everyone and with a special emphasis directed at the hypocrite. For example, if I steal, and I see someone else stealing, I cannot judge them for stealing. This action would make me a hypocrite! First, I myself must stop stealing before I could judge the other person. That is called judging fairly. What this does not mean, as "Killing Christians" try to spin into this, that Jesus is calling us to kill the sinner. (For example when the Apple corporation claimed that Microsoft appropriated Apple's concept of the GUI when in reality, Apple appropriated it from Xerox. For starter information on this topic, click this line. Apple corporation, Microsoft, and Xerox are registered trade marks of their respective corporations)

As a student of Comparative Religion, working on my Master's at Western Michigan University, and having studied the history, doctrines, and ethics that stem from Jesus of Nazareth, I find capital punishment to be completely inconsistent with the teachings of the man called Jesus. After being familiar with the fundamental philosophy of Jesus, it is a forgone conclusion that Jesus would be completely against capital punishment. However, I am still surprised at the number of "so called" followers of Jesus who are in favor of the death penalty.

These "Killing Christians" point to a passage in Leviticus that states that an eye for an eye is God's decree. However, this decree (along with many other Old Testament laws) are determinately negated by Jesus of Nazareth. To quote Jesus,

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell to you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two." - Matthew 5:38-41

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,..." - Matthew 5:43-44

And let us not forget one of Jesus' most famous philosophies,

"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

It appears that the conflict occurs when these "Killing Christians" use certain passages in Romans and the Acts of the Apostles to overturn the basic ideas of the gospels, where in lies the teachings of Jesus. Jesus taught a doctrine of peace, love, and forgiveness, not revenge, retribution, and capital punishment.

Revised 06-22-2000

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