Friday, December 2, 2005

Moral Authority and the First 1,000

Today is a sad day in our country. Today is the day the 1,000th execution since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1977 took place in North Carolina. Kenneth Lee Boyd was pronounced dead at 2:15 a.m. after receiving a lethal dose of chemicals for a double murder in 1988 of his wife and father in law.

Today there is a debate raging in our country about the death penalty. Is it humane? Is it fair? Is it accurate? Is it a legitimate action for a state to take against one of its citizens? Today, I will not be touching on any of these issues. Instead, I want to focus on just one aspect of using the death penalty. Is capital punishment effective?

Just after 9:00 this morning in Houston, Texas, a clerk at Vega's Meat Market was shot during the course of a robbery attempt. He died later at the hospital. Just eight hours after the 1,000th execution in the modern era of capital punishment took place, a murder was committed in the state with the most executions during the same period. Clearly the threat of execution was no deterrent to the two men seen fleeing from the scene.

One argument for the death penalty is that it deters people from committing crimes, yet murders continue to occur. Crime has not gone down since the death penalty was reintroduced. If there is a way to deter crime, we either have not found it, or at least are not using it. When murders occur constantly across the country, there is clear and present danger to our society, and we must do everything we can to stem the tide of blood that flows through our cities. If capital punishment is the best solution we can come up with as a society to solve this problem, however, then I feel ashamed to call myself a member of this society.

I do not know what the best answer is. Maybe it is to increase funding for education. Maybe it is increased restrictions on handguns. Maybe it is increased restrictions on ammunition. All I do know is that we are not better off now that Kenneth Lee Boyd is dead, and as long as would have remained locked away in prison, we are not any safer than when he was alive.

The only other thing I know is that our moral authority is at stake. I do not know how we can claim to have the moral high ground on any subject when we still carry out barbaric practices that keep us in league with Iran, China, Singapore, and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. I am looking forward to the day when no one is led into the death chambers at San Quentin, or Terra Haute, or Raleigh, or Huntsville, or anywhere else. We will all be better off when we are not killing anybody as a society.