Ethics, morals, the law: should capital punishment be enforced in certain cases?

TEMP ORARY November 28, 2012 0

If you’re one of those folks who haven’t been eyeball-bleedingly busy (not me!) over the past few weeks, you may have the time to occasionally sit down, relax and turn on the American horror story that is the news. Because I’m not one of those people — I spend most of my downtime dabbing my eyes to make the bleeding stop — I need to rely on other sources of media for my information regarding the outside world; I turn to the Internet and what an awful experience that is. Unlike the 6 o’clock news on TV, where you know there is nothing good coming your way, the evil and grime of the world is able to sneak up on you on the Internet. They use pictures of kittens and live-stream puppy cameras to distract you, then, before you know it, war, famine, death, and AIDS are unmercifully stomping you into a coma in front of your monitor.
Now, while prancing through the minefield that is the Internet, I stumbled upon this gem that you may or may not be privy to: Hubert L. Michael Jr., murderer, has had his execution pardoned for at least two weeks after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling because of issues pertaining to his deteriorating mental health. Understandable, right? He has his life sentence extended so the prosecution can thoroughly investigate every odd end of the case. We don’t want to kill an innocent man. The good news is that he’s had since 1993 — the year of the kidnapping, alleged rape and murder of 16-year-old Trista Eng at the hands of Michael — to decide whether he is in proper psychological order to be executed. In 1994, Michael pleaded guilty to the murder and accepted the death penalty. In 2004, he changed his mind. Now, 18 years after the fact, it is yet to be determined whether Michael will be the first person executed in the state of Pennsylvania since 1999.
This leads us, as human beings, to the discussion surrounding capital punishment: yes or no, right or wrong? I don’t know; you don’t know; and we, as human beings, don’t know the answer to those questions. It’s that teeth-grindingly simple. No one is perfect, so no one can be a completely objective judge. There can be no suspension of our own individual moral codes and feelings as they pertain to a subject of this magnitude.
In my eyes, the most morally reassuring argument against the death penalty is the belief in everyone’s deserved second chance. Because we are not perfect; in some cases, we’re able to see that killing someone else won’t bring back a loved one or that we can’t fill the void in our lives with the death of another individual deemed guilty. That’s powerful because it shows you that good can triumph over evil, in a way: we can forgive in the most extreme circumstances.
A less morally high route also suggests that there are worse punishments than death. Let the convicted suffer in prison for the rest of their lives. On top of that, it costs upwards of six figures per year to maintain the equipment used for lethal injections –– Pennsylvania’s preferred method of killing people.
The flip side of the argument calls for the guilty party’s head on a platter: we want them dead, and we want it now. You, the accused, screwed up; you had your chance and blew it. Morbid but just in some people’s eyes. I’ve tried to look at both sides of the argument and from a legal and moral standpoint, I can’t be objective enough to say that one side is a clear-cut right or wrong.
The one heavy-handed decision I can get behind, however, is capital punishment used against those who hurt children. If you, as an individual, are able to bring yourself to a point in life where abusing, attacking or harming children to any serious degree — but at the same time, within reason, as a smack on the head for being an idiot kid isn’t the same as having your teeth knocked out — your right to live on the same planet as me, in my eyes, has been forfeited.

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