69 Pro Death Penalty Quotes by Writers

"In England we have lately had a controversy about capital punishment...I urge a return to the traditional or Retributive theory [over the Humanitarian Theory]...The Humanitarian theory removes from Punishment the concept of Desert. But the concept of Desert is the only connecting link between punishment and justice. It is only as deserved or undeserved that a sentence can be just or unjust. I do not here contend that the question 'Is it deserved?' is the only one we can reasonably ask about a punishment. We may very properly ask whether it is likely to deter others and to reform the criminal. But neither of these two last questions is a question about justice. There is no sense in talking about a 'just deterrent' or a 'just cure.' We demand of a deterrent not whether it is just but whether it will deter. We demand of a cure not whether it is just but whether it succeeds. Thus when we cease to consider what the criminal deserves and consider only what will cure him or deter others, we have tacitly removed him from the sphere of justice altogether; instead of a person, a subject of rights, we now have a mere object, a patient, a 'case.'...the Humanitarian theory wants simply to abolish Justice and substitute Mercy for it. This means that you start being "kind" to people before you have considered their rights, and then force upon them supposed kindnesses which they in fact had a right to refuse, and finally kindnesses which no one but you will recognize as kindnesses and which the recipient will feel as abominable cruelties. You have overshot the mark. Mercy, detached from Justice, grows unmerciful."




“What can be more immoral than to inflict suffering on me for the sake of deterring others if I do not deserve it?”

Clive Staples Lewis (29 November 1898 – 22 November 1963), commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as Jack, was an Irish-born British novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist.

Too much mercy often results in further crimes which are fatal to victims who need not have been victims if justice had been put first and mercy second.

Dame Agatha Christie , DBE, (15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976), was a British crime writer of novels, short stories and plays. She also wrote romances under the name Mary Westmacott, but she is best remembered for her 80 detective novels—especially those featuring Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple—and her successful West End theatre plays.
Robert A. Heinlein (July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) was an American science fiction writer.

“For death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it.” [All Quiet on the Western Front]

Erich Maria Remarque (born Erich Paul Remark; 22 June 1898 – 25 September 1970) was a German author, most known for his novel: All Quiet on the Western Front.

"For the executioner only holds himself in readiness to kill those who have been adjudged to be harmful and criminal, while a soldier promises to kill all who he is told to kill, even though they may be the dearest to him or the best of men." [War and Peace 1869]

Leo Tolstoy or Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (Russian: Лeв Никола́евич Толсто́й), Russian pronunciation: [lʲov nʲɪkɐˈlaɪvʲɪtɕ tɐlˈstoj]; September 9 [O.S. August 28] 1828 – November 2 1910), was a Russian writer widely regarded as among the greatest of novelists.

“Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice.”

"There are times when the state needs capital punishment in order to save society. That is the way the question stands in Russia today."


“Those Chechen terrorists who have been caught, they scoff at Russian justice because they know they will not be sentenced to death. The terrorists are counting on the fact that by having proclaimed a moratorium on capital punishment, Russia cannot in any way be found guilty before Strasbourg, the PACE.”

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (December 11, 1918 – August 3, 2008) was a Soviet and Russian, novelist, dramatist, and historian.

Mercy but murders, pardoning those that kill: mercy only murders when it pardons those that kill. The Prince's point is that having mercy on a murderer only invites others to murder, because they think they will be given mercy, too. (Romeo and Juliet, act III, scene 1, line 197)


William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564; died 23 April 1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

Justice without strength, or strength without justice—fearful misfortunes!

Joseph Joubert (7 May 1754 in Montignac, Périgord – 4 May 1824 in Villeneuve-sur-Yonne) was a French moralist and essayist, remembered today largely for his Pensées published posthumously. From the age of 14 Joubert attended a religious college in Toulouse, where he later taught until 1776. In 1778 he went to Paris where he met D'Alembert and Diderot, amongst others, and later became friends with young writer and diplomat Chateaubriand. He alternated between living in Paris with his friends and life in the privacy of the countryside in Villeneuve-sur-Yonne. He was appointed inspector-general of the University under Napoleon. Joubert published nothing during his lifetime, but he wrote a copious amount of letters and filled sheets of paper and small notebooks with thoughts about the nature of human existence, literature and other topics, in a poignant, often aphoristic style. After his death his widow entrusted Chateaubriand with these notes, and in 1838, he published a selection titled Recueil des pensées de M. Joubert (Collected Thoughts of Mr. Joubert). More complete editions were to follow, also of Joubert's correspondence. Somewhat of the Epicurean school of philosophy, Joubert enjoyed even his own suffering as he believed sickness gave subtlety to the soul. Joubert's works have been translated into numerous languages, into English by Paul Auster, amongst others.

Justice is the bread of the nation; it is always hungry for it.

François-René, vicomte de Chateaubriand (French pronunciation: [fʁɑ̃swa ʁəne də ʃatobʁjɑ̃]) (4 September 1768 – 4 July 1848) was a French writer, politician, diplomat and historian. He is considered the founder of Romanticism in French literature.

The death penalty is a warning, just like a lighthouse throwing beams out to sea. We hear about shipwrecks, but we do not hear about the ships the lighthouse guides safely on their way. We do not have proof of the number of ships it saves, but we do not tear the lighthouse down.

Hyam Barshay is a poet.

The death penalty is the only appropriate punishment that expresses society's moral outrage at those who commit murder. Those who oppose the death penalty are guilty of a misplaced sense of mercy that erroneously equates retribution with vengeance.

BEN KASIRER Brooklyn, July 9, 1991

Guilt does require some form of punishment and justice must be seen to be done – whereas abortion is always the death of the innocent. [The case of Adolf Eichmann shows that the death penalty can be just His crimes were of the gravest nature; his life was an affront to the families of those who died in the Holocaust Thursday 7 April 2011]

Eichmann’s continued life was a challenge to Israel’s collective memory of suffering; it was an affront to the families of those for whose death he had responsibility, families who wanted justice; his crimes were of the gravest nature. The death penalty was, in this case, appropriate. [The case of Adolf Eichmann shows that the death penalty can be just His crimes were of the gravest nature; his life was an affront to the families of those who died in the Holocaust Thursday 7 April 2011]

Francis Philips reviews books for the Catholic Herald.

It's nothing to feel great about. But the death penalty is a needed tool to deal with monsters that don't deserve our mercy – and who showed none while killing innocent people in the most unspeakable ways. [Marcos Breton: Death penalty a necessary tool to rid us of monsters Saturday 3 November 2012]

Marcos Breton is the author of books on baseball, winner of Guillermo Martinez-Marquez award. He writes for the Sacramento Bee. 

Saturday 27 February 2011 - Bangladeshi writer activist Shahriar Kabir on Saturday pleaded for capital punishment of war criminals found guilty in the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971. Kabir came to Kolkata to attend a seminar on death penalty.

"I believe that the decision to award death penalty should be taken very carefully," the writer said at the seminar. But while saying so, he drew a distinction between ordinary criminals and war criminals. "Those responsible for the death of thousands of innocent people deserve death penalty," said Kabir while explaining the traditional feature of Bangladesh politics.

"Even a Canadian jury of the tribunal set up to try the war criminals of Bangladesh war has opined in favour of capital punishment," the writer said, arguing that there is always a possibility that future governments might release them.

Shahriar Kabir (Bengali: শাহরিয়ার কবীর) is a Bangladeshi journalist, filmmaker, human rights activist, and author of more than 70 books focusing on human rights, communalism, fundamentalism, history, and the Bangladesh war of independence. Shahriar Kabir has been imprisoned twice for protesting against government-sponsored minority persecution and was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International while several international journalist forums and human rights defenders campaigned for his release. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his contribution to Bengali literature, he has addressed at least sixty international conferences, seminars, and workshops on issues of peace, communal harmony, and human rights.

Abolitionists often insist that if we argue for lex talion justice we must be prepared to rape rapists, beat sadists, and burn down the houses of arsonists...Why then, if it is not morally okay to rape rapists, is it acceptable to execute murderers? The answer is simple. There is no redeeming value to carrying out the former punishment. Raping the rapist will only cause someone else to degrade themselves by doing it. It will not prevent the rapist from raping again. Executing murderers, however, prevents them from committing their crime again, and thus protects innocent victims. The good, therefore, outweighs the bad, and the executioner is morally justified in taking the murderer's life.

The good, therefore, outweighs the bad, and the executioner is morally justified in taking the murderer's life. On the other hand, if the abolitionist argues that killing is always wrong, then he must also concede that killing in self-defense is unacceptable and should be punished. Few, if any, however, are willing to do so. The abolitionist may choose to argue that the state should never kill. But consider also the scenario of protecting someone else's life. Are police officers (the state) justified in killing attempted murderers to save a victim's life? If the answer to this question is yes, then the question is no longer if the state is justified in taking the life of criminals but when.

Morally, it is wrong to simply incarcerate someone for murder. A sentence of life in an air-conditioned, cable-equipped prison where a person gets free meals three times a day, personal recreation time, and regular visits with friends and family is a slap in the face of morality. People will say here that not all prisons are like the one cited. This betrays an ignorance, however, of current trends. Eventually, criminal rights activists will see to it that all prisons are nice places to go. But regardless of the conditions of a particular prison, someone who murders another human being can only be made to pay for his actions by forfeiting his own life. This is so, simply because a loss of freedom does not and cannot compare to a loss of life. If the punishment for theft is imprisonment, then the punishment for murder must be exponentially more severe, because human life is infinitely more valuable than any material item.

Loved ones should not have to support a killer in prison. "The Death Penalty: Morally Defensible?". Casey's Critical Thinking - Take, for example, a murderer who took the life of a teenager. The parents of the victim will be among the taxpayers that pay for his meals and his cable television. Should he choose to take advantage of college courses the prison may offer, the parents of the victim will be indirectly financing those expenses as well. Nothing could be further from justice. It is of this type of situation that the abolitionist approves. Somewhere along the line, their priorities have been turned upside down.

The death penalty is not a deterrent against violent crime. The death penalty as a deterrent to crime is not the issue. Capital punishment is, pardon the redundancy, a punishment for crime. As a punishment, the death penalty is 100% effective--every time it is used, the prisoner dies.  

Casey Carmical is the writer of "The Death Penalty: Morally Defensible?"

Streamline the costly appeals process so that a condemned person gets one thorough review of the sentence. Make sure that review includes any DNA evidence that might indicate the jury erred. If the sentence stands up, carry out the execution immediately, no further appeals allowed. (Editor's Note: New life for death penalty Written by Richard Wiens, The Triplicate July 19, 2011 09:25 pm)

People get sentenced to death because they have already done the same to their victims. They haven’t just stolen property or assaulted people — crimes in which victim recovery is possible. They have ended the lives of innocent people — an irrevocable offense. If jurors find the crime merits capital punishment, grant the defendant the aforementioned review, then carry out the sentence as mercifully as the state can manage. (Editor's Note: New life for death penalty Written by Richard Wiens, The Triplicate July 19, 2011 09:25 pm)

That may still be a more expensive process than letting murderers rot in prison for the rest of their lives. But it would be a lot cheaper than the current absurdity of endless appeals, and it would be worth it for two reasons:

• There is no recidivism among the executed. Death does deter future crimes by inmates who may otherwise kill someone else while in prison or even escape.

• As Debra Saunders pointed out in Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle, even the current possibility of the death penalty has a role in plea bargains. To avoid it, murderers will sometimes agree to plead guilty to life in prison without the chance of parole — perhaps avoiding a costly trial. If that becomes the new harshest sentence possible, prosecutors may have to agree to lesser sentences for heinous criminals or else take them to trials that could have been avoided. (Editor's Note: New life for death penalty Written by Richard Wiens, The Triplicate July 19, 2011 09:25 pm

Richard Wiens began his duties in January 2008 as the new editor of The Daily Triplicate. He grew up in Salem, Ore. Wiens graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Oregon in 1979. His first job as a reporter at the Hillsboro Argus in Hillsboro, Ore., a suburb of Portland, had him covering everything from city government to the police. He became managing editor there in 1983. After seven years with the Argus, he wanted experience at a daily newspaper and took a job with the Los Angeles Daily News. Wiens started as a copy editor and left as assistant news editor. His longest newspaper stint was at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash., where he worked for 14 years. There he moved from the copy desk to assistant city editor and coordinated coverage of local and state government and politics.

"Capital Punishment Foes Dead Wrong". Jewish World Review. 10 Jan. 2001 - When murderers aren't executed, innocents suffer. Odds are a killer will be released at some point. And there's a fair chance that he or she will kill again. In fact, there's a far greater likelihood of this then of an innocent man taking that long walk. 

Executing a murderer is the only way to adequately express our horror at the taking of an innocent life. Nothing else suffices. To equate the lives of killers with those of victims is the worst kind of moral equivalency. If capital punishment is state murder, then imprisonment is state kidnapping and restitution is state theft. [McVeigh puts capital punishment in focus 25 April 2001]

A murderer sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole can still laugh, learn and love, listen to music and read, form friendships, and do the thousand and one things (mundane and sublime) forever foreclosed to his victims. [McVeigh puts capital punishment in focus 25 April 2001

A life sentence tells victims, and their loved ones: We don't care enough about you. Because we're too squeamish to take the life of a monster, we are implicitly stating that your life (or that of your loved ones) means less than your murderer's. [McVeigh puts capital punishment in focus 25 April 2001]

Don Feder is a media consultant and free-lance writer. He is also World Congress of Families Communications Director. Feder operates Don Feder Associates, a communications firm for non-profits with a message (those promoting faith, family, freedom and national security).He is a former syndicated columnist for the Boston Herald and author of Who's Afraid of the Religious Right? (Regnery) and A Jewish Conservative Looks at Pagan America. He works as a freelance writer and media consultant and serves as the president of Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation. 

But "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" leaves the possibility of executing someone wrongly convicted, some argue. Should not life imprisonment be preferred?

Two examples suggest the answer is no.

· In 2005, Germany freed Mohammed Ali Hamadi after the terrorist had served 18 years for murdering Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem. Press reports said that "a life sentence in Germany ranges between 20 and 25 years, with the possibility of parole after 15 years."

· When California executed Clarence Ray Allen, 76, last year, it wasn't for the 1974 murder he'd arranged, but the 1980 triple killing he instigated from behind bars.

Justice demands equity, as much as possible. In some murder cases, that means the death penalty. [Do We Need the Death Penalty? Yes, It's Ethical and Effective Sunday, April 29, 2007]

Eric L. Rozenman is the former executive editor of B’nai B’rith’s International Jewish Monthly. He has worked as a congressional staffer, newspaper reporter, and editor of two influential newsletters on U.S. foreign and military policy. Rozenman has lived and worked on an Israeli kibbutz and written on politics, foreign policy and social issues for publications including The Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Middle East Quarterly, Policy Review, and Middle East Insight.

"Ten anti-death penalty fallacies". The New American. June 3, 2002 - "FALLACY #5: "Cruel and Unusual"

"The death penalty: Always cruel, always inhuman, always degrading ... there can be no masking the inherent cruelty of the death penalty." (Amnesty International)

"Capital punishment, the ultimate denial of civil liberties, is a costly, irreversible and barbaric practice, the epitome of cruel and unusual punishment." (ACLU Briefing Paper on the Death Penalty)

Correction: The death penalty is not unusual. All of the nations of the world have had the death penalty on the lawbooks throughout most of their recorded history, and the death penalty remains on the statute books of about half of the nations of the world. The death penalty was on the statute books of all the states of the U.S. when the Constitution was adopted. It is far more unusual to have no death penalty than to have a death penalty.

More importantly, the Founding Fathers who adopted the Bill of Rights banning "cruel and unusual punishment" had no problem with implementing the death penalty."

"FALLACY #6: Pro-Life Consistency

"We see the death penalty as perpetuating a cycle of violence and promoting a sense of vengeance in our culture. As we said in Confronting a Culture of Violence: 'We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing.'" (U.S. Catholic Conference)

Correction: If capital punishment teaches that it's permissible to kill, do prison sentences teach that it's permissible to hold someone against his will, and do fines teach that it's permissible to steal? In actuality, this fallacy confuses killing the innocent with punishing the guilty. To punish the guilty via the death penalty is not to condone the shedding of innocent blood. Just the opposite, in fact, since capital punishment sends a strong message that murder and other capital crimes will not be tolerated."

A related fallacy is that the pro-lifer who defends the right to life of an unborn baby in the mother's womb, but who does not defend the right to life of a convicted murderer on death row, is being morally inconsistent. But there is no inconsistency here: The unborn baby is innocent; the convicted murderer is not. It is the pro-abortion/anti-death penalty liberal who is morally inconsistent, since he supports putting to death only the innocent. 

Pro-lifers deceive themselves if they imagine abolishing the death penalty will lead to abolishing abortion or a greater respect for life. To the contrary, nations with the death penalty generally restrict abortion more than nations who have abolished the death penalty. Islamic nations and African nations have the death penalty and also have the most prohibitive abortion laws. By contrast, European nations have abolished the death penalty and have liberal abortion laws. Do pro-lifers really want to follow the example of Europe?

Fallacy #7: The Company We Keep

"The USA is keeping company with notorious human rights abusers. The vast majority of countries in Western Europe, North America and South America -- more than 105 nations worldwide -- have abandoned capital punishment. The United States remains in the same company as Iraq, Iran, and China as one of the major advocates and users of capital punishment." (deathpenalty.org)

Correction: The arbitrary use of capital punishment in totalitarian societies argues for ensuring that government never abuses this power; it does not argue against the principle of capital punishment, which, in a free society, is applied justly under the rule of law.

The reference to Europe is misleading. Capital punishment advocates are the ones keeping company with common Europeans, while abolitionists are merely keeping company with their elitist governments. Public opinion remains in favor of the death penalty for the most severe murderers throughout much of Europe, but elitist European governments have eliminated using capital punishment.

FALLACY #8: No Deterrence

"Capital Punishment does not deter crime. Scientific studies have consistently failed to demonstrate that executions deter people from committing crime." (Death Penalty Focus)

Correction: Death penalty opponents love to assume that the principal purpose for capital punishment is deterrence, possibly realizing it is a perfect straw argument. Tangible proof of deterrence alone is not a valid reason for capital punishment (or any other form of punishment, for that matter), nor is it the main rationale employed by astute death penalty advocates. As Christian writer C.S. Lewis observes, "[deterrence] in itself, would be a very wicked thing to do. On the classical theory of punishment it was of course justified on the ground that the man deserved it. Why, in Heaven's name, am I to be sacrificed to the good of society in this way?-unless, of course, I deserve it." Inflicting a penalty merely to deter -- rather than to punish for deeds done -- is the very definition of cruelty. A purely deterrent penalty is one where a man is punished -- not for something that he did -- but for something someone else might do. Lewis explained the logical end of this argument: "If deterrence is all that mat ters, the execution of an innocent man, provided the public think him guilty, would be fully justified."

Men should be punished for their own crimes and not merely to deter others. That said, the death penalty undoubtedly does deter in some cases. For starters, those executed will no longer be around to commit any more crimes.

"FALLACY #9: Christian Forgiveness and Vengeance

The death penalty appears to oppose the spirit of the Gospel. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus urges us to replace the old law of 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth' with an attitude of charity, even toward those who would commit evil against us (Mw 5:38-48). When asked for his opinion in the case of the woman convicted of adultery, a crime that carried the penalty of death, he immediately pardoned the offender, while deploring the action, the sin (Jn 8). It is difficult for us to accommodate Jesus' injunction to forgive and love, to reconcile and heal, with the practices of executing criminals." (Statement on Capital Punishment by the Christian Council of Delaware and Maryland's Eastern Shore)

In Leviticus, the Lord Commanded 'You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people.' Here the Old Testament anticipated Jesus 'teaching: 'You have heard it said, "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other one also.' Paul likewise proclaimed that vengeance is reserved for God and that Christians should feed their enemies, overcoming evil with good (Rom 12:19-2 1)." (Christianity Today 4-6-98)

Correction: Punishment -- sometimes called retribution -- is the main reason for imposing the death penalty. The so-called 'Christian' case against the death penalty can be summed up in one sentence: We cannot punish wrongdoers because punishment is always a form of vengeance.

A careful reading of the Bible does not back up the idea that punishment is synonymous with vengeance. The proportionate retribution required by the Old Testament generally replaced disproportionate vengeance. The same Old Testament that ordered "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" also prohibited vengeance. Evidently, the Hebrew scriptures view retribution and vengeance as two separate things. In the New Testament, Jesus denied trying to overturn the Old Testament law. "Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish them, but to complete them." (Matthew 5:17) The apostle Paul told the Romans that revenge and retribution are different things entirely. "Never try to get revenge: leave that, my dear friends, to the retribution. As Scripture says, vengeance is mine -- I will pay them back, the Lord promises." But then just a few verses later, Paul notes that "if you do wrong, then you may well be afraid; because it is not for nothing that the symbol of autho rity is the sword: it is there to serve God, too, as his avenger, to bring retribution to wrongdoers." (Romans 13:4) "Authority" refers to the state, which is empowered to put evildoers to the "sword." Paul asserts that the state's retribution of capital punishment is the retribution of God.

Clearly, the Christian Testament. regards retribution by the state as not only different from vengeance, but rather as opposites. Vengeance is always personal and it is only rarely proportional to the offense. The Hebrew standard of justice for "an eye for an eye" replaced the hateful and very personal "head for an eye" standard of vengeance. Retribution is impersonal punishment by the state. And impersonal punishment is far more likely to be proportionate to the crime, meaning that it comes closer to the standard of "eye for an eye."

By forgiving the adulterous woman, Jesus was not making a statement against the death penalty. Jesus' enemies thought they had put Christ into a no-win situation by presenting the adulterous woman to him. If Christ ordered the woman's release, they could discredit Him for opposing the Law of Moses. But if He ordered her put to death, then Christ could be handed over to the Roman authorities for the crime of orchestrating a murder. Either way, His opponents figured, they had Him. Christ, of course, knew the hypocritical aims of His enemies had nothing to do with justice. The absence of the man who had committed adultery with the woman "caught in the very act" must have been glaring. His rebuke to "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" was the perfect reply; it highlighted the hypocrisy. Christ's response was in no way a commentary about the death penalty."

Fallacy #10: No Mercy

"Capital punishment is society’s final assertion that it will not forgive." (Martin Luther King)

"It is a hell of a thing, killing a man. You take away all he’s got, and all he’s ever gonna have." (Clint Eastwood’s character in the movie Unforgiven)

Correction: The person opposing the death penalty on these principles opposes it from worldly reasoning rather than spiritual reasoning. The above statement by Clint Eastwood’s character in the movie Unforgiven typifies this surprisingly common "religious" objection to capital punishment. The underlying assumption is that this world and this life is all that exists. It suggests that only a hateful and vengeful person would seek to take everything from anyone.

But it is not true that most supporters of capital punishment seek to take everything from the murderers. Thomas Aquinas noted in his Summa Theologica that "if a man be dangerous and infectious to the community, on account of some sin, it is praiseworthy and advantageous that he be killed in order to safeguard the common good." The death penalty for murderers, the Catholic Church’s most famous theologian argued, was a form of retributive punishment. He explained that this "punishment may be considered as a medicine, not only healing the past sin, but also preserving from future sin." Though life may be taken from a murderer, he will be better off with the punishment because "spiritual goods are of the greatest consequence, while temporal goods are least important."

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to dawn on proponents employing this faulty reasoning that perhaps a just punishment in this world would best prepare a criminal for the next.

Thomas R. Eddlem is the editor of the Hanson Express in Hanson, MA, and is a regular contributor to The New American and Point South magazines.

Capital punishment kills immediately, whereas lifetime imprisonment does so slowly. Which executioner is more humane? The one who kills you in a few minutes, or the one who wrests your life from you in the course of many years? [Anton Chekhov, The banker in The Bet, Works, vol. 7, p. 229, “Nauka” <1254>]


Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (Russian: Антон Павлович Чехов, pronounced [ɐnˈton ˈpavləvʲɪtɕ ˈtɕexəf]; 29 January 1860 – 15 July 1904) was a Russian physician, dramatist and author who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short stories in history. His career as a dramatist produced four classics and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics. Chekhov practiced as a doctor throughout most of his literary career: "Medicine is my lawful wife", he once said, "and literature is my mistress." Chekhov renounced the theatre after the disastrous reception of The Seagull in 1896, but the play was revived to acclaim in 1898 by Constantin Stanislavski's Moscow Art Theatre, which subsequently also produced Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and premiered his last two plays, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard. These four works present a challenge to the acting ensemble as well as to audiences, because in place of conventional action Chekhov offers a "theatre of mood" and a "submerged life in the text." Chekhov had at first written stories only for financial gain, but as his artistic ambition grew, he made formal innovations which have influenced the evolution of the modern short story. His originality consists in an early use of the stream-of-consciousness technique, later adopted by James Joyce and other modernists, combined with a disavowal of the moral finality of traditional story structure. He made no apologies for the difficulties this posed to readers, insisting that the role of an artist was to ask questions, not to answer them.

Dead is dead, whether by a bullet to the back of the head, the guillotine or lethal injection. No one can say for certain just how much pain or suffering may be experienced at the moment of death, and I suspect that most if not all of the 65% of Americans who favor capital punishment do not particularly care how it is carried out. Arguing about which method is least painful seems nonsensical to me - especially when the individual involved is someone like Ted Bundy, the BTK killer, Jeffrey Dahmer or any of the many other serial killers who murder innocent people without giving any thought to the pain and suffering they caused in the process.

Does it really matter how we put criminals to death? We seem to be the only country in the world that worries about the pain and suffering of people who have committed crimes that are serious enough to warrant the death penalty. Every society has its own method of choice. For example, the Chinese dispatch them with a single shot behind the ear, the Arabs decapitate them with a stroke of a sword, the Iraqis and other societies hang them or stone them. Whatever the method, they are just as dead and perhaps just as quickly.

However, notwithstanding the complexity of the issue, I wonder why it should matter if a condemned prisoner happens to suffer some discomfort for a few minutes as they are put to death. Many people are of the opinion that whatever discomfort or pain they suffer is generally relatively minor compared to that of their victims. The very idea that the courts should be continuously called upon to review the specific details of the process seems like a pointless exercise. More often than not, the public's reaction is, "Who cares?"

Harris R. Sherline writes “Letters to the Editor,” which frequently appear in several Santa Barbara publications. He also writes a regular email opinion letter, Opinionfest, as well as editorials for two Internet websites. In addition, he has written a series of articles about seniors for the Santa Ynez Valley News and currently writes two weekly opinion columns for the Santa Ynez Valley Journal. http://www.opinionfest.com/?page_id=2

The (capital punishment) controversy passes the anarchy by. For him, the linking of death and punishment is absurd. In this respect, he is closer to the wrongdoer than to the judge, for the high-ranking culprit who is condemned to death is not prepared to acknowledge his sentence as atonement; rather, he sees his guilt in his own inadequacy. Thus, he recognizes himself not as a moral but as a tragic person.

Ernst Jünger (March 29, 1895 – February 17, 1998) was a German writer. In addition to his novels and diaries, he is well known for Storm of Steel, an account of his experience during World War I. Many regard him as one of Germany's greatest modern writers and a hero of the conservative revolutionary movement following World War I. Others dismiss him as a militarist or reactionary.

The death penalty was never regarded as cruel and unusual punishment in the founding and ultimate code of the West, the Scripture. When society was more than just a figure of politicized speech, the moral validity of the death penalty was never in doubt. It was understood that murder sent shock waves throughout the community, and the amplitude of such destructive waves could only be attenuated by a punishment commensurate with the crime. [Second thoughts about the Lawrence case 04 January 2012 12:25 PM]

Removing the death penalty doesn't so much assert as diminish the value of human life - by balancing the criminal taking of it against a prison sentence, no matter how long. That is one argument in favor of the death penalty; deterrence is the other. This is in dispute against all evidence, but one thing beyond doubt is that it deters the executed criminal. This is no mean achievement considering that, since the death penalty was abolished in 1965, hundreds of people have been killed by recidivists who had already served their time for one murder. [Second thoughts about the Lawrence case 04 January 2012 12:25 PM

Alexander Boot is the How the West Was Lost and has published articles on a wide variety of subjects in British and American journals. He was born in Russia where he received an advanced degree in philology from Moscow University, taught English and American literature, and got in trouble with the KGB before emigrating in 1973. Mr. Boot currently divides his time between London and Burgundy and is working on his next book.  

Setting Murderers Free By: Ben Johnson FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, October 05, 2005 - The Sunday New York Times chronicled Thompson’s story in a front-page article written by Adam Liptak entitled, “To More Inmates, Life Term Means Dying Behind Bars” – a headline that belongs alongside, “To Most Humans, Breathing Means Inhaling and Exhaling.” Most people naively think when a judge sentences a murderer to a life sentence, that person will die “behind bars.” However, for a generation or longer the dilapidated state of American jurisprudence dictated that “life in prison” meant the average life sentence consisted of seven years in jail. That has recently edged up to around a decade, but this is far from universal. Even in a “law and order” state like Georgia, most murderers remain eligible for parole after seven years, and only a little more than half (57 percent) of Georgia’s lifers have served longer. Thus, argues the Times, since “life in prison” often meant 7-15 years, no judge actually meant to sentence a lifer to serve more than 15 years.

Setting Murderers Free By: Ben Johnson FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, October 05, 2005 - Or perhaps they're concerned about individuals like Reginald McFadden. Liptak notes McFadden

had served 24 years of a life sentence for suffocating Sonia Rosenbaum, 60, during a burglary of her home when a divided Board of Pardons voted to release him in 1992. After Gov. Robert P. Casey signed the commutation papers two years later, Mr. McFadden moved to New York, where he promptly killed two people and kidnapped and raped a third. He is now serving another life sentence there.

The Times cites this story, not as a warning of the pitfalls of “rehabilitation,” but as the unfortunate setback that has caused governors to rethink their free use of pardons. (Bill Clinton did not get the memo.)

McFadden is but one of a very long list of people the system declared “no longer a threat” and could enjoy personal autonomy again. Ben Wattenberg cites a tiny litany of such figures in his book, Values Matter Most:

  • Willie Horton, the recipient of Michael Dukakis’ benevolent furlough program;
  • Larry Demery and Daniel Green, the men who murdered Michael Jordan’s father, James, in North Carolina. Green, an attempted axe murderer, had been released on parole after serving one-third of his sentence;

Richard Allen Davis, the convict with a long history of violence who violated his parole by kidnapping and murdering 12-year-old Polly Klaas in 1993.

Setting Murderers Free By: Ben Johnson FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, October 05, 2005 - These examples do not make an appearance in the Times’ story. Instead, Liptak insinuates American democracy virtually demands shorter sentences for murderers. He claims that support for the death penalty is slipping, leading to more life sentences. Curiously, the Gallup poll reports that two-thirds of Americans support the death penalty for murderers. The Times reporter must have missed this. Probably because he was worried in most un-liberal fashion, about the costs of incarceration. “By a conservative estimate,” Liptak writes, “it costs $3 billion a year to house America's lifers.” Releasing them early would spare taxpayers needless expense. In a scenario custom-made for Mona Charen’s Do Gooders, leftists argue for life in prison as an alternative to “barbaric” capital punishment, then they blame the additional costs on the Right. The remedy: shorter sentences.

Setting Murderers Free By: Ben Johnson FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, October 05, 2005 - Unwittingly, the Times has made a powerful argument for capital punishment. If the liberals' endgame is freeing all murderers (actually Angela Davis has campaign to do precisely that) then capital punishment would save society from that fate. On other hand, if the goal is to save money, executions cost less than housing, feeding, and caring for an inmate for 15 years. On the other hand, if our hope is to see that these inmates die in prison, the death penalty provides a more direct method to secure this end.