Sunday, December 6, 2015
On the Death Penalty
Originally Written on March 17th, 2003
Edited on December 6th, 2015
Edits Shown in [Brackets]
Since the time of Babylonian leader Hammurabi, fair and proper punishment has been a difficult and complicated issue. Hammurabi’s code says “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” This code, commonly misinterpreted as a call for revenge, is in fact a call for fairness. If a man steals a loaf of bread, he would not have his hands cut off. The punishment must fit the crime, so he would have something of equal value taken from him, or he would be made to pay a fine. The code also states that if a man takes another man’s life, then his life must be taken as punishment.
In [the fictional 2003 film] The Life of David Gale, Kevin Spacey plays a Texan ex-college professor who opposes the death penalty. He works with the abolitionist organization called “Death Watch,” which tries to prevent death row inmates from being eliminated. He is accused of killing the leader of the organization[, Constance Hallaway (played by Laura Linney)], who is also his colleague. Beginning four days before his death by lethal injection, News Magazine’s Bitsey Bloom ([played by] Kate Winslet) conducts three interviews with him.
This film seeks not to entertain (although it does), but to inform and to explore the issue and reveal the flaws in and wrongs of the process of what some call “legalized murder,” and also its possible benefits. Many valid arguments come up in the course of the film, and it is a must-see for anyone with any opinion at all [about] the death penalty.
A simple and obvious question frequently asked when discussing this issue is “Is death a reasonable punishment for murder?” After all, the death penalty attempts to teach murderers that it is wrong to kill by killing them. Life imprisonment would make them learn the consequences of their actions, whereas death [would not, but] would offer them release from what could [arguably] be a harsher, more effective, and more proper punishment.
On the other hand, [death may be a more merciful punishment than life in prison, because] a cancer patient or someone with serious organ failure may want to end their own life rather than having to live for months with endless pain. The death penalty complies with Hammurabi’s code, and it may be fitting to do to the guilty what they have done to the innocent and prevent them from killing again.
Former Illinois Governor George H. Ryan commuted the death sentences of all eligible death row inmates to life imprisonment only days before he was succeeded by Rod Blagojevich. This did not abolish the death penalty in Illinois, although [some in the State Legislature are trying to abolish it]. Flaws in [the death penalty] process can cause innocent people to be killed as punishment for crimes they did not commit. This sentence cannot be taken back if it is discovered that the accused was innocent after he is put to death. If a term of natural life in prison is [given as a sentence], he [may] be removed from jail with no harm done. Ryan stated that all murder cases are very important matters and must be examined closely, and that there should not be simply a blanket decision on whether murderers can and should be killed for their crimes.
Lawyers have the ability to remove and select jurors for cases, and if they are corrupt or prejudiced, they can purposely choose jurors who[m they believe are likely to] find the accused guilty or innocent based on their race[...]. Some say all murders committed must be treated as the same crime, be they committed by black or white [people], and [whether] the victims [be] male or female[, b]ut what if the murderer is mentally disabled or insane?
The debate about the death penalty is complicated and [there are] many exceptions to the rules. Every state has the right to choose whether or not convicted violent criminals will live or be executed, but [it would be difficult to] disagree that each case must be examined until there is no doubt whatsoever as to the guilt of the accused.