“Barbarians. That’s what we have become. We kill each other instead of mourning the tragedy, we want the state to satisfy our bloodlust by killing the offender . . .we must learn to deal with these people in our midst – punish them, but do not become them.” Posting in the Detroit News, 2nd March 1999.
“As I read the New Testament, I don’t see anywhere in there that killing bed people is a very high call for Christians. I see an awful lot about redemption and forgiveness.” Former execution officer, San Quentin, California.
Though The Bible has a funny way of contradicting itself: “Whosoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed” Genesis 9:6
The Bible teaches us forgiveness: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Lords prayer.
Does this not tell us that we cannot live our lives, by going round executing all those who have done us a wrong? That, this applies even to none-Christians, life is much more rewarding if you transform a life, through rehabilitation, helping the defendant to life a normal prosperous life. But on the other hand rehabilitation doesn’t always work allowing those murderers to commit another sinister crime, inflicting misery and suffering on yet more innocent people.
“There are plenty of innocent people being killed by those on parole . . . The only cure for this kind of ‘sickness’ is death.” Posting Detroit News, 2nd March 1999
The case of ‘The Phoenix Park Murders,’ May 1881, high-lights this point: At the time the Irish Nationalists were divided between two groups one, the majority, which favoured talks to violence and the other the minority, who favoured violence over talks. A recent Land Act had been passed, it had not met the nationalist demands and so a small secret group called the “Irish National Invincibles” decided to assinate the Chief Secretary and the British Minister for Ireland. On the 6th May 1881, Cavendish the British Minister for Ireland and Burke the highest-ranking Irish civil servant were found assinated. Two Invincibles, Timothy Kelly and Joseph Brady had stabbed them from behind, they made their escape in a carriage driven by a man named Kavanagh. January 26th 1883, the two Invincibles along with three others were hanged, the prosecution was based mainly on evidence given by Kavanagh and other previous comrades. All five hanged had been found to have previous convictions of murder though had for some odd reason not been executed, they had all re-offended.
Capital Punishment has always been dogged by cases where innocent people have been tried and murdered or as some say “executed” or where an accessory to a murder has been hanged. The most noticeable case is that of Craig and Bentley: they had broken into a warehouse in London, Barlow and Parker’s, November 1952. The two, were on the roof when police had come to make their arrests. Bentley gave himself up almost straight away, and warned the police Craig had a gun. Craig then turned and pointed the gun at the officer, as Craig did this, Bentley shouted:
“Let him have it, Chris!”
Craig then shot the officer. Because Craig was under the legal age to be executed, he was to serve a prison sentence for 10 years. The case was seen as a very serious case, because it had been the murder of an en-forcer of the law, police officer. The prosecution targeted Bentley. Although facts that the prosecution were using were very uncertain, and the case pivoted on Bentley’s phase: “Let him have it, Chris!” but no one was really sure if that had meant let him have the gun, or if he had meant shot the officer. Bentley’s defence was very poor and he was found guilty. Derek Bentley’s family launched numerous appeals, but nothing came of them. Bentley was hanged the following January. A very short length of time between the crime and the execution. Lord Chief Justice Goddard came under a lot of stick because of his handling of this trail.
Now, though, forensic science has been introduced to the crime scenes and the convictions are now about 99.9% correct. Making it almost impossible to have a false conviction. Though if and when it will get it wrong the sentence will be irreversible and the innocent, executed patron of his country would be dead never to breathe again. Supporters of capital punishment argue that this is the reason for it, that it can’t be reversed and is the ultimate punishment: to take the criminal’s life. Though on the other hand, would not life imprisonment be just as effective because then they would have the time to think about what they’ve done and, even better, to correct what they’ve done. Even if life imprisonment cannot be considered as an appriate punishment equal to death there are many others that are more humane, such as isolation from society, almost life imprisonment.
I believe that although capital punishment may well act as a deterrent, I do not believe it has any place in modern a society. I am a Catholic and so believe that life is important and should be deeply cherished, after all life is God given and so should be savoured. I believe that if the death penalty were to be re-introduced to Britain, cases my well be unfair and there may well be sexism, racism and social status discriminations. That’s not to say it isn’t there now, just that it would be more serious if it lead to the execution of poverty stricken, black, old woman.
“The death penalty is a poor person’s issue. Always remember that: after all the rhetoric that goes on in the legislative assemblies, in the end, when the desk is cast our, it is the poor who are selected to die in this country.” Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J
This means that the rich can afford the best barristers, who can get them off the hook and finding the innocent verdict the guilty rich person craves. Where as the poor can’t afford the barrister and so get the cheaper ones, who don’t put up such a good defence, and the innocent, poor person is found guilty and dies by execution.
I believe that Britain is civilised, but I believe that if Britain was to re-introduce capital punishment we would lose a bit of our civilised conscience and fall upon our very primitive sense of retribution, retribution does not belong in a civilised country! And do we really have the right to judge whether one person is guilty or not, when we are guilty of thousands of sins ourselves:
“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” Jesus of Nazareth, condemning a public execution of a woman for adultery. (John 8:7)