Although I can agree that Sunil Dutta's heart is in the right place, I have to say that his arguments leave much to be desired. Dutta tells us, "I have heard all the arguments supporting capital punishment and found them wanting." That is quite a statement. Has he really heard "all the arguments"? He certainly doesn't seem to, based on the brief article. For his main argument seems to be that we aren't executing enough murderers, so we should stop executing any murderers. It seems to me that the same argument could be used to demand more executions. "This punishment is totally arbitrary and therefore should be held unconstitutional." Then perhaps the argument should be that we need to make it less arbitrary. Too many minorities being executed? Execute more white people to balance the scales.
Dutta writes, "How many innocent people have we executed?" He doesn't answer the question but the answer depends on the time frame, doesn't it? Since the dawn of time? Since last Thursday? He probably means since the recent restoration of the death penalty so I will answer the question for him: probably none. For although a few innocent people have come close, we have no evidence that an innocent person was executed. In fact, being on death row is probably better for an innocent person because your case is likely to be examined more deeply and exculpatory evidence more likely to be discovered. An innocent person sentenced to 25 years is going to have a much tougher time getting someone to help him prove his innocence.
Dutta tells us, "Life in prison without parole is moral, practical and far less expensive." Perhaps, but one could argue that morality is a relative thing and what Dutta considers moral may not be the same as the next person on the street. As far as practical goes, I'm not sure exactly what Dutta means by practical. I would think that executing murderers would be very practical, but I also think a justice system based on the practical may not be one would hope for when one is on trial. And his argument for less expensive simply argues that we need to speed up executions and reduce appeals in order to reduce the cost which I don't think is what Dutta had in mind.
Finally, Dutta writes, "The time has come to join the rest of civilized nations and abolish capital punishment." I will not join Dutta in claiming that all countries that have the death penalty are uncivilized (whatever that means) but I will say what my mother told me: "If all your friends jump off a bridge will you jump, too?" Just because other "civilized" countries have abolished the death penalty does not mean it is the right thing to do for the US.
If we truly want to do more than just pat ourselves on the back for being so "civilized" that we oppose the death penalty, then we need to come up with much better arguments than Dutta's arguments.
Feb 13 2007 - 4:46pm