Death penalty is dumb

AK Pachla, Copy Editor

Governments around the world since the beginning of civilization have imposed capital punishment, the death penalty, for various reasons. Even today, countries employ the death penalty against citizens for crimes ranging from the moral, such as acts of blasphemy or indecency, to the legal, such as high treason or crimes of war.

The most common violation leading to a death sentence, however, is murder. Even today, people quote sacred texts and give logical reasons for why equivalent retribution is the appropriate reaction for a state to have to individual murders. The reasoning is repeated so often it almost seems intuitive. An eye for an eye, right? Except it’s not intuitive.

Think about it: Why would otherwise rational people decide that the way they should prove their collective belief that killing is wrong is by killing? The application of capital punishment for the crime of murder runs completely counter to any logical progression. This is because the death penalty is not what it claims to be.

Dressed up in legal jargon and draped in medical trappings, we’ve turned what is essentially revenge killing into a gaudy pantomime of civilized society. There is no time when we are less the creatures evolution has made us than when we take each other’s lives, and it does not matter who or why. A murder is a murder, and one may feel justified in taking a life, but that does not change the nature of the act.

The question not being asked is “Is it truly always morally wrong to kill?” It’s true that killing is one of the most reprehensible things humans do, but can there ever be a good and valid reason for taking the life of another person? Death penalty advocates will sometimes say that taking certain people, people who commit repeated atrocities and refuse to be rehabilitated, permanently out of society is a case of government valuing the needs of the many over the needs of the one.

This is a misdirection. It is in the best interest of everyone that the state not have the authority to commit murder against citizens, even citizens who break laws. Laws change, and what is worthy of death today may not even exist tomorrow. Lives once taken, however, cannot be replaced.

Blackstone’s Ratio is a concept in criminal law devised by English jurist William Blackstone in the 1700s. Perhaps you have heard the phrase, “It is better to let ten guilty men go free than to punish one innocent man.” This is Blackstone’s Ratio, although it is occasionally attributed to American statesman Benjamin Franklin, who included the idea in his writings as well. Similar concepts are even found in the Christian bible, when God promised to spare Sodom if even ten righteous men could be found within the city.

Given what it means to consciously choose to end another person’s life, the consequences of punishing an innocent person in that way are unthinkable. Why would we, as a collective, choose to do that to ourselves and call it justice? Call it revenge. Call it irrationality. Call it pure ape rage if you want. Just realize that calling it law is almost laughable.

You do not prove that you believe killing to be wrong by killing people. It simply does not make sense.