William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

On Capital Punishment

A poll posed the following questions:

"Capital Punishment What do members of the church believe? Rate Topic: Poll: Capital punishment (59 member(s) have cast votes)
Hw do you feel about capital punishent?
I am LDS and support the death penalty. (42 votes [71.19%])
Percentage of vote: 71.19%
I am LDS and oppose the death penalty. (13 votes [22.03%])
Percentage of vote: 22.03%
I am not LDS and support the death penalty. (2 votes [3.39%])
Percentage of vote: 3.39%
I am not LDS and oppose the death penalty. (2 votes [3.39%])
Percentage of vote: 3.39%"

To which I responded:

I am LDS and support the death penalty, with the following caveats:

1. My reason for supporting the death penalty is independent of my belonging to the LDS faith.
2. The death penalty should be reserved for the most heinous and egregious crimes; murder alone, without significant aggravating circumstances, does not justify the death penalty. Such aggravating circumstances could include: (a) the murderer's state of mind; (b) the position of the victim, i.e., was it a perfectly innocent three-year-old unable to defend himself; (c) the number of victims; (d) the manner in which the murder was carried out (I think a slow painful death is much worse than, say, just shooting someone in the head); (e) how badly the victim suffered before dying (i.e., if there was torture or violent rape in connection with the killing); (f) the degree to which the murderer suffered from any mental conditions (i.e., retardation); and (g) whether there were circumstances beyond the murderer's control which contributed to the murderer's acts in carrying out the crime (i.e., duress, prior assault by the victim, etc.)
3. Even where the crime is particularly heinous, I believe there should be room for avoidance of the death penalty where it appears that the convict has repented, or shows meaningful remorse, or has some reasonable hope of rehabilitation.
4. Because of the irreversible aspect of an execution, it should also be reserved in cases where there is virtually no doubt as to the guilt of the person to be executed. It appears to me that there have been more than a few cases in American history where innocent people were wrongly convicted of capital crimes and put to death. This should cause us to be extremely humbled and reserved in deciding to execute anyone.

Needless to say, if I ruled the world, the death penalty would not be unheard of, but executions would be rare.

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