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In Defense Of Capital Punishment

I must respond to Michael J. Ring’s column of Feb. 23, “Barbarism Made Legal.” Therein Ring suggests the death penalty is a “vestige of barbarism” long abandoned by “civilized nations.” Indeed, in its origin, the Hammurabi mentality described by Ring once implemented methods now viewed as fairly draconian. I submit, however, that the Code of Hammurabi was not an attempt to incite barbarism but rather to civilize a more barbaric people.

Today we have parted with the large measure of such law. We do not burglarize the house of a thief. We do not rape a rapist. Instead we’ve seen fit to apply what the justice system considers to be the fit degree of punishment warranted by the crime, while not exacting the same act on the criminal. Many of us will maintain, though, that for certain transgressions, specifically murder, there exists no such range of punishments from which to choose.

Ring will enter here and argue that death-for-death violates an inalienable right of the accused and convicted. Instead, he suggests, lobby for life-without-parole legislation. I must assume Ring thought briefly of the Declaration of Independence in stating his inalienable-rights argument. In that same spirit, I suggest that said document was also correct in citing liberty as such a right. Yet Mr. Ring would support the infringement of this most fundamental right and incarcerate a criminal for life. Here I must side with Patrick Henry: “Is life so dear... as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! ...but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

I subscribe to this call even today and suggest I would do so as a criminal. What is life without liberty? Unacceptable at best. So, carrying through with Ring’s logic might leave one with a substantial dilemma. The faction of us mentioned before offer an answer: The criminal who so grievously encroaches upon another’s basic right to life summarily and completely forfeits his right to the same.

The argument will persist that capital punishment is too costly to maintain. So, spend our lobbying funds to push for appropriate amendments, allowing the courts to order the death penalty in cases of confessed guilt or uncontestable evidence. Fight these lawsuits brought by such offenders claiming their right to cable television has been violated.

It is not the job of society to rehabilitate offenders or endear itself to them. Society’s job is to protect the law-abiding by ridding itself of the grossly criminally inclined. Let us punish according to the crime. Let us justly rid ourselves of those who so blatantly infringe on the truly inalienable right of others.

Garrett M. Cradduck ’00.