Our ultimate immorality

Our imagination seems boundless when it comes to killing someone as punishment for committing a crime. From times in our distant past until today, we continue to choose to punish by ending someone’s life. Consider some of our methods:

Crushing by elephant

Tearing apart by horses pulling one’s body in opposite directions

Being tied to the mouth of a cannon, which is then fired

Boiling to death

Being buried alive






Slow slicing


There are many other ways, of course, some we might consider more humane, if one could consider that even possible. These days, beheading has become less common. No one uses the guillotine any more, but Saudi Arabia still does this with a sword. Hanging remains among the most common methods. Some governments choose electrocution, firing squad, or gas inhalation. Many have turned to lethal injection.

We punish people who do horrible things by killing them. An eye for an eye. Does away with the evildoer, all right, but does it scare others into turning away from a life of crime? No.

A recent study by Professor Michael Radelet and Traci Lacock of the University of Colorado found that 88 percent of the nation’s leading criminologists do not believe the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime. Studies show that crime rates are lower in states that do not use the death penalty.

Today, these states and the District of Columbia do not use the death penalty: Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. My state of North Carolina is among the other 36 states, the federal government and the U.S. military, that still believe in killing people who have been judged guilty of committing certain crimes. They include espionage, treason, and death resulting from aircraft hijacking. Mostly they consist of various forms of murder such as murder committed during a drug-related drive-by shooting, murder during a kidnapping, and murder for hire.

Aside from the value of a person’s life, what is the cost of killing criminals? Best estimate is about $1.26 million per case. Maintaining a prisoner on Death Row costs taxpayers $90,000 more per year than an inmate in the general prison population. Most Death Row prisoners languish there for about 15 years. About one fourth of them die of natural causes while waiting execution.

We have come a long way since the horrors of medieval punishments, but still we intentionally bring lives to an end as punishment. The death penalty has never made sense to me for several practical reasons. What is more important to me is my strong belief that legalized murder, which we euphemistically call the death penalty, is morally wrong, our ultimate immorality as a civilized society.










Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s