The Right Opinion

A Capital Idea!

By Burt Prelutsky · Sep. 19, 2010

I would venture that the question over which Americans are most passionately divided isn’t abortions or even whether or not Julia Roberts has any sex appeal, but the issue of capital punishment.

Frankly, I don’t understand the position of those who are opposed to ending a life for taking a life. I mean, aside from murderers and their cohorts, criminal defense attorneys, why on earth would anybody object to society’s ridding itself of its most vicious predators?

There are those people who argue that an execution is the same as a cold-blooded murder. That is such a loony contention that only a pinhead would ever suggest it. A murder, after all, involves an innocent victim; an execution doesn’t.

The other major difference is that murderers are done away with as humanely as possible. That is an option that their often-tortured and mutilated victims are denied. In fact, I find it bizarre that in America there are only two groups that are provided with merciful, painless deaths–our beloved pets and our most degenerate psychopaths.

There are those, of course, who draw their inspiration from the Ten Commandments. Thou Shalt Not Kill, they repeat ad nauseam, unaware, I assume, that they are parroting a bad translation of Thou Shalt Not Murder. You don’t have to be a biblical scholar to appreciate the enormous difference between those two words. It is fairly obvious that God had no qualms when it came to killing in a righteous cause. And what could possibly be more righteous than to take the life of one who has cruelly taken another’s? Unlike in a war, there is no collateral damage. No innocent women and children die when a serial killer is executed. On the contrary, future atrocities are thus prevented.

Some misguided souls contend that life imprisonment is just as effective a deterrent. This contention is false for any number of reasons. The first of which is that deterring a possible crime is secondary to punishing an actual one. But, so long as a murderer is alive, there’s always the chance he’ll do it again–thus endangering prison guards, medical personnel and fellow inmates. Besides, as proven a while back by the outgoing governor of Illinois, there’s nothing to prevent a feeble-minded politician from pardoning and commuting to his heart’s content.

But what about those innocent people who, through judicial error, wind up on Death Row? Would I happily see them executed? Of course not. Every effort must always be made to guarantee that justice be doled out in our courts. However, if it were left up to me, I wouldn’t let a murderer off because some court of appeals decided after he was convicted that the guy’s lawyer didn’t measure up to Clarence Darrow, or the trial judge had neglected to tell the jury that the defendant had been spanked when he was a child–and perhaps that’s why he grew up to be a mad dog.

I have heard it argued that the death penalty should be eliminated because far too many blacks and Hispanics are executed. The fact of the matter is that far too many blacks and Hispanics commit murder. To use the race card as a reason to eliminate capital punishment is sheer humbug. Study the statistics and you’ll find this to be one area in which minorities consistently over-achieve.

Finally, I resent it when people use the measure of intelligence or sanity as a reason not to execute a murderer. The well-meaning argument is that it wouldn’t be fair because the defendant wouldn’t have the mental capacity to assist in his own defense. Particularly where the retarded are concerned, folks like to argue that to do otherwise smacks of Hitler’s Germany. To which, I reply, the Nazis eliminated such people as a matter of barbaric national policy. Their victims, no matter how kind and decent they may have been, were doomed. They were not being punished for their evil acts. As for the necessity that a defendant be able to assist in his own defense, I say the only appropriate question is whether he was capable of murdering on his own.

The way some people troop out to hold candlelight vigils every time the state executes one of these villains, you’d think they were an endangered species we were eliminating. Ah, if only they were, what a better world this would be.

Moreover, I am sick and tired of people, including members of the murder victim’s own family, who self-righteously forgive the killer. The only people who have the moral authority to offer forgiveness are the victims. And I very much doubt if, given the opportunity, any of them ever would.

Finally, I don’t want to hear anyone insist that life in prison is worse than death. If that were truly the case, those serving life terms would all be doing the decent thing for once, and imitating lemmings.