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The Death Penalty And My Conflict Over Legal Killing

Updated on March 16, 2013


The death penalty. It is a subject that I struggle with. Today, CNN and other mainstream news outlets are reporting that Gambia, a small country in South Africa, will execute all inmates on death row there by September. Hearing this news sent a shock wave through me. Is that justice? Have all of those prisoners exhausted their appeals? Wait a minute. I don't know anything about Gambia so I don't know the details of their judicial system. Why does it matter to me?

Well, it matters because I wonder what country will follow in Gambia's footsteps. Will it be the United States? Just the thought brings back all of my internal conflict on the subject of the death penalty. I don't know how I feel about one person legally taking the life of another. I am conflicted about the physicians who attend executions; the ones who have taken an oath to "do no harm". My faith in our judicial system has diminished over the years as more and more of the condemned were proven innocent by DNA tests.

For years I have argued that our system of justice in the United States only works for those who can afford it. It is ironic that the symbol of justice in our country is a set of scales because I am convinced it is not a balanced system. My stand on the death penalty is also unbalanced. Whenever I think that I am coming to terms with execution, the news reports another incident of wrongful conviction and I go back to square one.

My Arguments For and Against The Death Penalty

I agree that:

  • A person who kills more than one person in a witnessed massacre should die.
  • When DNA proves a child has been sexually violated, the perpetrator should die.
  • Anyone who commits murder that is witnessed or proven by DNA should die.

I don't agree that:

  • Evidence without DNA or witness is justification for the death penalty.
  • Crimes other than child rape or murder are justification for the death penalty.

There Are Things Worse Than Death

It's true. Death seems like the easy way out sometimes. Personally, I can think of nothing worse than to be imprisoned. I am a bit of a rebel who doesn't like to be told what to do. The structured, controlled life of prison would be much harder than death for someone like me.

For those who have committed a violent crime and there was no witness or scientific evidence to prove it, life in prison is an appropriate punishment, in my opinion. Just imagine if your life was reduced to:

  • being told what to wear
  • being told what and when to eat
  • being told when you could take a shower
  • being told how to wear your hair
  • missing your Mom or Dad's funeral
  • not being able to graze through your kitchen for munchies at will
  • never sleeping in the dark again
  • living in a 10 x 6 cage
  • being watched 24 hours a day
  • not being able to hold or exhibit love your spouse

This list could go on forever but any one of them is enough for me to never want to be imprisoned. And, I didn't even touch on the topics that we all know about prisoners such as prisoner rape, gang killings, and yes, even being beaten by prison guards.

50 Shades Of Gray

The issue of the death penalty is not black and white for me. It is at best, 50 shades of gray. I do not think anyone has the right to take the life of another human being and yet I acknowledge that there are some who do not deserve to live. Until I am convinced that our judicial system doesn't make mistakes, I cannot agree with executing someone based on what our courts consider "evidence". I suppose this makes me appear partially anti-death penalty. So be it.

There is another voice inside me however and it is outraged over spending taxpayer dollars to maintain a life that has taken a life, if it can be proven scientifically. I have no sympathy for those that kill in the name of hate, anger, or retribution. I have no sympathy for those that inflict harm on an innocent child. When these crimes can be proven, I am a strong advocate for the death penalty.

My struggle will not be resolved today. I may never stand on solid ground regarding the death penalty. But I suppose, that makes me human. Accepting death as a part of life, whether by natural causes, at the hand of a criminal, or by the hands of justice should make us all check our moral compass.

© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.

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