The Death Penalty

I have been thinking about death penalty lately. It started with the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia, followed by the death of Clifford Olsen and the assassination of Anwar al-Alwaki.

I was upset at the execution of Davis. I am not a death penalty advocate for several reasons. I don’t think vengeance through death will bring any more closure for the victim’s family. I don’t think it is any more of a deterrent than life in prison. I don’t know if it is that much cheaper given the costly appeal process. In most death penalty cases, the person executed is usually some member of a marginalized group. And in many cases we may not be 100% certain that the right guy is being killed.

I have not included the sanctity of human life as an argument.

Many people insist that Davis is guilty and he may very well be. The doubts however were significant enough, not necessarily to set him free, but at least to keep him alive.

But what about Olsen who was clearly guilty, had no hope of rehabilitation and whose crimes were so heinous that it is hard to imagine humans capable of doing such things. I doubt that there was anybody – even whatever family members he may have – who felt anything remotely sympathetic when they heard of his illness and death. Even if we had given him no medical care at the end of his life, his death would still be mild compared to what he inflicted on his eleven victims and their families.

If we had the death penalty, he is the kind of guy we would want to see executed. But imagine if we did have the death penalty at the time of his murder spree. Would he have pled guilty and saved us a prolonged trial? Would the bodies have been recovered? And what of David Milgaard and Donald Marshall who were in jail for murder at the same time? Is it better to have all three alive or all three dead?

Note again that the sanctity of human life is not part of the equation. In fact, is it more torturous to lock someone up for the rest of their life so they can die of cancer or to put them out of that misery as early as possible? There are organizations advocating for the right to allow people suffering terminal illnesses to die with dignity. I am guessing that the people who oppose the death penalty support this option and those that support the death penalty are on the opposite side arguing the sanctity of human life.

And then we get to al-Alwaki and this article. … -al-awlaki

Now I am even more conflicted. I really don’t have a problem with a government ordering the killing of a terrorist who has planned and is likely planning more terrorist attacks. Is he innocent until proven guilty in a court of law even if we can’t catch him and only have circumstantial evidence which might convict him? How far can we extend the right to self-defence? If we are almost certain that someone is driving to our house to do it and us fatal damage do we have the right to blow up the car before it reaches our street?

Clearly a blanket policy is impossible and a case by case policy makes more sense. I understand the need to take out al-Awaki. I understand the feelings that demand Olsen’s death, but I don’t see the need. And the death of Davis makes no sense to me at all.

I am going to put forth an argument (although I feel very ambivalent about it). The problem with executing a demon like Olsen is the sanity defense. I think that it can be reasonably argued that Olsen was not in his right mind when he killed, tortured the children. I think he knew what he was doing, but, he was a sociopath, a person without morals or a conscience (a deviant). Should society put down sick individuals? I am not so sure about that. That is the argument his defense attorney would put forth.
As the parent of two children I would want to see him dead.

I think any society that calls itself civilized and has the death penalty is being hypocritical.

The way our society is going, we’ll see public executions on TV someday. We’re bloodthirsty. We worship death. And until we’ve had our fill of it, we’ll stay that way.


Well, we don’t have the death penalty in Canada, but, I’m not sure how civilized our country is. We don’t make much of an effort to support children, the sick, or the elderly.

[quote]The way our society is going, we’ll see public executions on TV someday. We’re bloodthirsty. We worship death. And until we’ve had our fill of it, we’ll stay that way.

Nice, but, we are a long way away from “Running Man” with Arnold Schwarzenegger. :smile:

when theres a case of admitted guilt …such as clifford robert olsen…and especially when he gained financial reward for his family …thats a classic case of the need to execute a criminal…

your milgaards of the canadian judicial system are very rare anomalies…

and thats why im glad we dont have the death penalty…

but execution should fall on a vote by our elected officials…with input from the constituents…

It did. It was. It was decided decades ago. Get over it.

I think the inference is we should do this for EVERY execution, provided, of course, we actually returned the death penalty.