On Taking a Life


For the sake of this discussion, let us assume a few things.

First, let us assume that when judgements in capital cases are handed down, they are judicially pure.

We know this is often not the case, that judgements can be the result of political machinations, bribery mismatches, racial inclinations and numerous other motivations. But let us assume for these few minutes that they are indeed pure and free from bias.

Second, let us also assume that the verdicts in capital cases are always correct.

That is, let us ignore the countless overturned findings, miscarriages of justice, and wrongful executions. Instead let us say for now that guilty verdicts are 100% correct and never is a person wrongly convicted.

Third, let us next assume that the ones caught are always the key players.

For this discussion let us assume that only the ring leaders are caught and tried, never the small fry or racially disadvantaged or unlucky mistake-makers who got caught up in the tip offs of exchanged geopolitical favours.

Fourth, let us assume that there is never any chance of rehabilitation.

Although we know some countries have shown improved rehabilitation programs, and many offenders have reformed and contributed significantly to their communities, let us assume all convicted criminals would definitely reoffend.

Fifth, let us also assume that capital punishment is a proven deterrent to would-be offenders.

Even though numerous studies have shown that capital punishment provides no reduction in crime, let us say that’s not the case.

Sixth and finally, let us assume that all of the offenders ‘deserve’ to die.

Whether they ignored signs in airports, or took lives; without knowing much of their mental state, the pressures they were under, the contributing circumstances – let us say for this discussion that we agree that they deserve to die.

Let us assume all these things are true.

Even then.

Even then capital punishment is wrong.

It’s wrong because the punishment is delivered so acutely and so terribly to those who haven’t offended. To the families and loved ones of the accused. To the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives and husbands. To the long-time friends and colleagues and neighbours. The punishment for these people never ends.

And it is too much.

The very fabric of a society is broken when a mother who has grown up in a country, and contributed to it, and lived for it, must watch as that country exterminates her loved one. Or the two in Bali, or the eight in total. Or the 140 worldwide in March this year. Or the at least 607 in 2014. Or the thousands in China.

Because everyone has someone who loves them. Even the vilest of criminals and the worst of offenders has someone who loves them. And the pain for those who love sears for the rest of their lives, long after the offender has been extinguished.

This is why we cannot ever accept capital punishment. Even if we decide that we are powerless to fight against it physically, or financially, or mentally.

Even so, we must never accept it as being okay.

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By Craig Bailey