Bridging the Death Penalty Divide

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I’d like to offer a simple proposal that, if enacted, could generate a great deal of a most precious resource: moral clarity.

It concerns the death penalty.

Opponents of capital punishment for murderers argue that the state has no right to take a murderer’s life. Apparently, one fact that abolitionists forget or overlook is that the state is acting on behalf of the murdered person and the murdered person’s family, not only on behalf of society.

In order to make this as clear as possible, here is my proposal: Americans should be able to declare what they want the state to do on their behalf if they are murdered. Those who wish the state to keep their murderer alive for all of his natural years should wear, let us say, a green bracelet and/or place a green dot on their driver’s license or license plate. And those who want their convicted murderer put to death can wear a red bracelet and/or have a red dot on their license.

Just as I have a pink “donor” circle on my driver’s license signifying that in case I die, I wish to provide my organs to help keep some person alive, I wish to make it known that if I am murdered, I do not want my murderer kept alive a day longer than legally necessary.

There are a number of reasons for recommending such a policy.

First, as noted, it is clarifying for the individual. It is easier to take a position in the abstract than when it hits home. It is one thing to oppose the death penalty when others are killed, but if you have to decide what happens if it is you who is murdered, the mind focuses with greater clarity.

Before deciding which color to choose, let a woman imagine herself raped and then stabbed to death. And let her further imagine that if this happened to her, she now has some say in determining what happens to the person who did this to her. She is no longer a silent corpse. Her voice will be heard, perhaps even be determinative of her killer’s fate.

Likewise, the woman who truly opposes death for any murderer, no matter how heinous and sadistic his actions, will also now have the ability to speak from the grave. No matter how much her family may seek the death penalty, family members will have no say. Any woman — or man — who passionately opposes the death penalty under every conceivable circumstance can now help to ensure that at least in his or her case, a murderer’s life that might have been taken might now be preserved. There is no more direct way to give death-penalty abolitionists the right to have a say over the fate of a murderer.

Second, such a choice gives great power to the individual. Abolitionists who live in pro-death-penalty Texas, for example, can now have a say on a matter of enormous moral magnitude.

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  • Alexander Gofen

    I think the position of the surviving family members of the murdered victim is as important as that of the victim. They must have a legal say in determining if execution of the convicted murderer should take place.

  • Alex Kovnat

    Thank you Dennis for your well thought out idea. If it were my choice I would very definitely wear a bracelet or make it known, that I am in favor of the death penalty for cold blooded murder during the course of armed robbery. I am steadfast in my belief that it is not in the best interest of society to outlaw the death penalty completely, for even the most heinous crimes.

  • joe blowe

    Another excellent article. Thank you.

  • Divrr1230

    It would be far more simpler and economical if we were to obey the Word of God, the Creator of life to begin with:
    "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image." (Genesis 9 verse 6)
    The problem with the justice system today is the power we give to bleeding-heart magistrates and judicial bureaucrats who don't have a clue about true justice for the victim, much less the Word of God. Another example of modern liberal academia twisting the feeble minds of today's elite.
    Where I live in Canada, we had absolutely no laws regulating snowmobile safety…until our minister of transport's wife got killed in a snowmobile accident. Now the code is the strictest in the country.
    The blind liberals who run the judicial system don't care since it doesn't involve them or theirs.
    If the blindfold on the familiar statues holding the scales of justice found standing at entrances to most courthouses in the country was to be removed just for an instant, lady justice would probably lose her balance and fall…appalled by the flagrant injustice regarding the victims in our country and the world.

  • Annie

    An excellent article! As a veteran of Iraq, I can assure you that there is plenty of evil afoot in this world, and it is walking around upright on two feet. There are people in this world who need killing in order to protect their families, neighbors, and even civilization at large.

    I disagree with Mr. Gofen (response #1) that the opinion of surviving family members should hold equal weight as those of the victim. They will need to find their own murderer in order to have their own personal viewpoint trump that of the current victim.

    The fact that one has some liberal loons (or ultra-conservatives) in their family should not change the victim’s wishes.

    I would also recommend a mandatory death penalty be instituted for child molestation of any degree. It should be automatic for a few reasons…first of all because nothing short of death can “cure” a sexual criminal, the victims often have not reached the age of reason (much less the age of consent) and don’t understand the implications of their choice, and lastly because a molested child often turns into a child molester.

  • John MJ

    The reason that we in the UK don't have the death penalty is not that it is in some way cruel or wrong. We don't have the death penalty because we realised that we were executing far too many innocent citizens on the say so of an untrustworthy criminal justice system. The people in the system are usually trustworthy but our system, no matter how we tinker with it, tends not to be able to distinguish between the innocent and the guilty in many cases, not just murder. For that reason we refused to give our State the power over life and death of convicted murderers and we insist on periodic reviews of prisoners convictions and sentences by an independent tribunal of senior judges. We have had over 1200 years to get our legal system right and we still can't do it. I'll bet that most countries' systems are just as prone to getting things wrong as ours is. Recent experience has taught us that even the seemingly most watertight case against a criminal can easily turn into a miscarriage of justice when something as simple as a new piece of evidence is uncovered by a diligent detective years after the suppossed criminal has been convicted.

    • aspacia

      LOL, just like outlawing guns led to more crime in the UK than ever before.

      • John MJ

        Actually, gun control in the UK has been singularly successful at preventing the ordinary criminal from carrying guns – almost all crime, apart from muslim terrorism, takes place without guns being involved. Many muslim terrorists are also finding it so difficult to obtain guns that they have to resort to home-made (from fertilizer) explosives such as those used in London in the underground and bus attacks. The USA has roughly four gun deaths per 100,000 people per year whereas the UK has roughly 0.32 (yep, zero point three two) gun deaths per 100,000 people per year which is very roughly one fourteenth of the USA's figure. Incidentally, we have gun control NOT the outlawing of all guns as you imply. Incidence of crime in the UK has fallen consistently for the last sixteen years from an already low point to an even lower point with all crimes showing significant falls except for burglary which is static and criminal on criminal violence which is rising (not that anyone cares much about that).

        • aspacia

          On a June evening two years ago, Dan Rather made many stiff British upper lips quiver by reporting that England had a crime problem and that, apart from murder, "theirs is worse than ours." Here is the link:

          • John MJ

            I don't know about England, which is merely one country in the UK, but Britain most certainly does NOT have a crime problem – I know because I live here and travel all over my country on business. How journalists choose to present or exagerate a supposed story is not my responsibility but I must, in all conscience, bear witness to what I personally find. So, for example, I make many trips to the USA on business and for pleasure and I have never yet seen in the USA a single crime being committed nor have I ever heard a gun being fired nor have I ever seen a gun in anyones possession – the same applies to my own country. I choose to believe my own senses and the official statistics compiled by various reputable agencies not the vapid maunderings of overpaid journalists and TV presenters, most of whom, both here and in the USA, have the intelligence and attention span of a gnat.

          • aspacia

            How about:
            * England: According to the BBC News, handgun crime in the United Kingdom rose by 40% in the two years after it passed its draconian gun ban in 1997.4

            Oh, nearly forgot, but Mum is British, and I keep in touch with my numerous relatives living throughout Britain.

            * Japan: One newspaper headline says it all: Police say "Crime rising in Japan, while arrests at record low."5

            3. Fact: British citizens are now more likely to become a victim of crime than are people in the United States:

            * In 1998, a study conducted jointly by statisticians from the U.S. Department of Justice and the University of Cambridge in England found that most crime is now worse in England than in the United States.

            It depends on where you are, and it does not matter what you did not see. I do not witness the murders and robberies in Vegas, but they do happen, and often in the Northern part of town. Do not rely on your own senses, rely on police reports and crime reports. When I moved to Sin City, I checked the police crime reports and called Metro before deciding on living in Anthem or Henderson. I do not see students attacking other students, but often have had students hospitalized after being jumped, and approximately 4 have died in gang violence. Did I see any of this; NO. Did these events happen; YES.

            We enjoy target shooting and live in the U.S. Just because you have never seen us shoot, doesn't mean that we never have.

  • NotaBene

    You people go ape if the government so much as suggests that Americans eat more fruits and vegetables, but you’re fine with the state deciding who lives and dies?

    • Steeloak

      There is a difference between unelected bureaucrats dictating what we shall or shall not eat, and a just punishment handed down after a fair trial. A trial in which both sides are able to present their best case, cross examine each other's witnesses, and challange each other's evidence.
      The state does not decide who lives and dies, the jury does, and yes, I am fine with that.

      • trickyblain

        Nobody in the federal gov't is dictating what people eat, so it's kind of a moot point.

        • Steeloak

          No, they set "Guidelines" which are attached to Federal funding of many programs, particularly in Education. Violate the "Guidelines" and you can find your Federal funding in jeopardy. This leads to nonsense like a 4 year old's lunch being confiscated & her being made to eat a government approved lunch of chicken nuggets.
          The Federal Government didn't tell any person what to eat, but the end result is exactly the same.
          So the point is NOT moot, and is completely relevant.

        • aspacia

          Right, that is why there have been numerous restaurant regulations passed in the last 3 years. O and M preach about a good diet then eat burgers and fries; hypocrites.

    • aspacia

      That's right, because "Us people" are more concerned about the victim and the victim's family than the perpetrators.

    • Anne Havranek

      The criminal, by his own actions, put himself in that place!

  • Zundfolge

    My opposition to the death penalty has nothing to do with the morality of putting heinous criminals to death. I have no problem with hanging, shooting, injecting or gassing murderers, child molesters, rapists or for that matter crooked politicians (wishful thinking I know).

    My problem with the death penalty is that our system has become so corrupt that I don't trust them not to put large numbers of innocent people to death.

    A better solution is for government to get out of the way, repeal most (if not all) gun control and "duty to retreat" laws and start embracing a culture of self defense and the problem will for the most part be self correcting.

    • mrbean

      Zundfolge babbles: "My problem with the death penalty is that our system has become so corrupt that I don't trust them not to put large numbers of innocent people to death."

      Zundfolge use standard liberal psychobabble. The real problem is that even those murderers who are convicted and sentenced to death don't get executed for 10 – 20 years and over 80% never get executed. The execution exception of course was Timothy McVeigh. Of course the Marxist cop killer Mumia Abu Jamal still enjoys life in his furnished prison cell with occasional furloughs to universities to address the indoctrinates like Zundfolge.

      • Zundfolge

        We're all ostensibly on the same side here mrbean … no need for all the ad hominem. Knee-jerk name-calling is the domain of the left. Lets be better than that.

        I simply don't trust the courts to not convict and thus execute a significant number of innocent men (and if that innocent man ends up being you or me then "one" is a significant number).

        You accuse me of using "standard liberal psychobabble" and then go forth and prove my point with stats. The system is broken, lets fix it first and THEN we can start giving murderers their just deserts.

        Just look at the result of several high profile jury trials and tell me that you would trust YOUR life to such a system.

    • aspacia

      Nearly 300 innocent U.S. citizens were executed during the 20th century. During this century, many who sat on death row for a decade or longer were exonerated. I understand you point, however, current DNA evidence is damning and I do support the Capital Punishment.

      • John MJ

        DNA evidence is the gold standard because the probability against your DNA being identical to anyone else's is very high but it is still only a probability and that probability can be meaningless in small inbred population groups. Also, and unfortunately, the Laboratories, and the scientific technicians who work in them, have been proven time without number to make the most ghastly mistakes or to deliberately, and sometimes inadvertently, cook the evidence to please the police. There is also worldwide dispute on the correct protocols for testing DNA and what would be accepted as evidence in one country would by laughed out of court in another. So no, DNA is not damning – it ought to be but it isn't, and it never will be as long as humans are involved in the system.

        • aspacia

          Do you have a valid link? I would like to peruse this further.

          • John MJ

            Real life is interfering here and the links are on my other machine at home. I'll get back to you within a few hours. DNA evidence is a very interesting discussion and for the life of me I found that the debate left me more confused than I started out! Anyway, let me get finished off here and get home and fed and watered and then I'll post what I have – JMJ

          • aspacia


          • John MJ

            Three links to start you off on this fascinating subject –
  … (scroll down, this is an odd-looking page on the screen)

            Have fun. Email me I'm on , if you want to talk about this more. —-John.

          • aspacia

            Excellent. Inaccurate results when a human life is at stake should cause severe consequences. Hence, all DNA tests should be sent to two labs for results. Any person and the company that employs her/him responsible for inaccurate results should suffer heavy fines.

  • Alex Kovnat

    Annie suggests, "I would also recommend a mandatory death penalty be instituted for child molestation of any degree."

    I wouldn't go so far as to hang child molesters, but I wouldn't mind it at all if the likes of Jerry Sandusky were to be slugged by the fathers of one or more of the young boys he molested.

    Re the possibility of an innocent person being executed by mistake: That is the ONLY argument against the death penalty I have any respect for. But as much respect as I have for such, I still don't believe its in the overall best interests of society for someone to kill in cold blood during the course of armed robbery or some other felony, without any chance of being him- or herself being put to death. That's just the way I am.

    • aspacia

      I support Capital Punishment for child molesters. I agree regarding the possibility of innocent being executed. Guess what, capital crime states have less capital crime by population, which demonstrates it is a deterrence.

  • mrbean

    The averaged number of murders per year in the US from 1960 through 2010 is around 18,000 per year. 75% of these murders were 1st degree or murders committed during a felony. So say around 13,000 warranted a death penalty. Say that you only caught an convicted 60% of these or around 7,000 convictions warranting the death penallty. Say 5,000 murderers were actually executed. Well, that is a deterent now isn't it. Unfortunately, between 1960 and 2011 the average number of executions is 34 with a high of 98 executions in 1999 because the number of murders exceeded 20,000 per year during the 1990's. If the seath penalty as punishment is not certain, it cannot be a deterent – because there is no fear of it.

  • Abisja

    A excellent idea; giving the victims "their day in court", so to speak. BUT what about the close to 100mil aborted babies since abortion became legal in your country – who speaks for them. A SICK LEGAL SYSTEM! SHAME ON YOU AMERICA, SHAME ON YOU.

  • Alex Kovnat

    Totally forbidding capital punishment for all time, no matter the heinousness of the crime, is too rigid.

    So is totally forbidding abortion, no matter what the circumstances.

    • aspacia

      Sorry, I meant to post a thumbs up. Abortion, especially in older women or in the case of an ovarian pregnancy will save a woman's life.

    • Anne Havranek

      Unfair comparison. The baby committed no crime!

  • Cinda Grimm

    people are not considering the family of the executed murderer…..why should they suffer the death of their child, parent, loved one, because another suffered the loss of theirs? This is a loose, loose situation. No matter how many or how few people are murdered, they are still leaving behind people with pain ans suffering. Why is it any more suffering for the family of a murder victim, then it is for the family of those executed? I doubt very much that the mother , sister or child of the condemned is feeling all warm and fuzzy towards the person who decided to have their loved one put to death that the murder victims family. Again, the family is innocent. Their love is real and they are as important as everyone else concerned.

    • rachaelamb

      Enter text right here!

      I actually agree with what your saying to a certain extent. I have always felt compassion for the murderers family too. Unless,of course,their like the family of a Palestinian terrorist who cheers on their murderous offsprings evil deeds.

      The problem where do you draw the line with this sympathy? If Hitler had survived WW2,should we have not executed him because we felt sorry for his family? At some point,people have to defend innocent human life. And a murderer is not innocent.

    • aspacia

      It is lose, not loose. Nope, if guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt, deserves a speedy execution with only 1 appeal. Frankly, I wouldn't give a brass farthing for how the executed family feels; my concern is for the murderer's victim.

  • Goemon

    Im skeptical since i think opposition to the death penalty is due in part to egos. Imagine the moral pride of some people who’d
    declare they’d not even wish death on their killer.

  • dirt

    Why abortion is murder? Because abortion has a precursor, which is pregnancy and the cause of that leads to the wrong doing. What caused a person to think termination of the unborn child is OK? Because what they did in the first place was not right (sin). In cases like incest, rape, sexual activities before or outside marriages, all lead to the people involved to be condemned by their conscience as well as the pressure from the society, and the condemnation leads to the wrong decision.

    To summarize, sin (any sexual activities outside marriage) causes pregnancy, which causes condemnation, which causes the decision to terminate the unborn. The pro-choice crowds just focus on the last 'easy' part and conveniently let go the important ones.

    And since without the fetus, the delivery of a child would be impossible, without the fertelization, the formation of the fetus would be impossible. Therefore no one can argue that a fetus or a fertilized egg is not a human in development, except they don't have ways to defend themselves.

    It's not right to correct a wrong action with another wrong action!

    • aspacia

      Another Bible thumper@$$%!###$ I am not a Christian, and do not follow the tenets of any faith. I am a Deist. You know what you can do with your preaching.

      • badofdirt

        Eventually murderers and rapists will roam free under the logic of people like you. LOL!

        • aspacia

          I have taught logic, not superstition. Some of the worst people alive are religious, some atheist, some agnostic. Some of the kindest people alive are religious, atheist, agnostic. Just because a person is not religious does not mean that they would tolerate murderers and rapists. Remember, it is the Catholic church that opposes capital punishment, not this Deist.

          • Abisja

            WHAT! The catholic "church" opposes capital punishment after centuries of murdering people of GOD in the most cruelest ways, too ghastly to even repeat in decent conversation. What a farce – has any pope ever admitted or repented on behalf of the organisation he belongs to of those grotesque deeds – to society or before GOD. The world is waiting mr. Ratzinger!

          • aspacia

            Agreed! I know the Catholic Church admitted error regarding Copernican Theory, but not until my lifetime. I do not know about the Inquisition and its numerous other crimes. Actually, it promoted one pediphile cover-up cardinal to the Vatican and only asked for forgiveness over its recent problems with priests.

  • trickyblain

    This is, by far, the most bizarre thing I've read today. And there was a local murder-suicide story involving a senior-citizen love triangle at a model airplane enthusiast meeting. This story is weirder.

    A bracelet that tells people what to do to the killer in the event I am murdered? Really, Dennis Prager? Can't I just write it down somewhere obvious?

  • Gamaliel

    The pragmatic side of justice often gets forgotten. Murderers are released after a certain number of years, roam the streets and murder again. If they were executed we would be saving the lives of their future victims.

  • AbsolutelyRight

    Love this idea. The only things I would add is the victims (survivors) should be able to determine 1) manner of death for the murderer 2) Whether or not they want the execution televised.

    Gallows and firing squads are cheap, effecient and painless as opposed to these ridiculous expensive means of execution like lethal injection, gas chamber and electric chair. Trained national gaurdsmen and Bullets and plywood from home depot are cheap. Let's go back to common sense.

    As far as televising the executions, this should only be done if the events are put in context. Hollywood can finally get back to serving society by producing reinactments of the crime(s) of the murderer ala "forensic files" to be televised right before the execution. It would be cathartic, highly moral and a detterent for many would be murders.

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  • aspacia

    I am sick of the Bible thumping. Not everyone is a Christian or religious.

  • palidin911

    I've tried seeing things from the point of view of those like you who are bigoted against religious people, but I can't get my head that far up my ass.

  • aspacia

    Faith usually is not considered valid support in an argument. I do not care what faith you are, worship a stone, but frankly faith is invalid support in a claim.