A Few Topical Thoughts on Capital Punishment

Sometimes I get the feeling I haven’t caused enough controversy lately, so here it goes…

1) It strikes me that in many ways the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia underscores a lot of the points that opponents of capital punishment which make cause even supporters to feel a bit uncomfortable: The execution occurred 20 years after the trail, and only after numerous appeals that cost the state more than life in prison would have. Several witnesses recanted their testimony after the fact and alleged police coercion (though other witnesses continued to maintain they had seen him commit the crime). Claims were made about poor defense representation. Claims were made about the race composition of the jury being an issue (though I’m unclear how this works, and Davis is black and the majority of the jury was as well.) Etc. All of this does not necessarily serve to clear Davis, but it is the sort of thing that could make many people wonder if it would be easier all around to simply lock such cases up and not deal with trying to use the death penalty.

2) On the other hand, the execution on the same day of Lawrence Brewer in Texas underscores why most Americans support capital punishment in at least some situations. There was absolutely no question as to Brewer’s guilt in the sadistic and racist murder of James Byrd, Jr., and the day before Brewer’s execution he told a reporter, “As far as any regrets, no, I have no regrets. No, I’d do it all over again, to tell you the truth.” For all the claims that society can be kept safe from such people without the use of capital punishment, most people, I think, naturally feel both that someone like Brewer (who had been in prison and released twice before he participated in Byrd’s murder) needs to be executed for the safety of society and also that there is a two mile stretch of bloody highway which “cries out to heaven” for justice.

3) Discussions of this topic invariably display the odd ways in which people vary their assessment of the effectiveness of deterrence depending on their political commitments. Those opposing the death penalty insist that the death penalty does not deter crimes. Those against anti-abortion legislation often insist that it would not actually reduce the number of abortions. Yet many people who hold both of these positions simultaneously believe that banning guns would deter people from buying guns.

4) Many of those who are most angered by the idea of the state executing the guilty are simultaneously most adamant about the “right to choose” the killing of the innocent. Even among Catholics, there is often a split in which those who are most anguished and hesitant about the idea of ever punishing someone in any way for the killing of the innocent via abortion are at the same time the most loudly against the execution of those guilty of murder.

If all of these seem very “sic et non”, it’s because my thinking on capital punishment is very mixed. On the one hand, I grant a lot of respect to the statements of John Paul II and Benedict XVI that the use of the death penalty should be avoided whenever possible. Goodness knows, given the experiences of state action both those men saw in central and eastern Europe, I can see why one would want to take that power away from the state for good. At the same time, I find it hard to accept as a matter of practical wisdom that, given the society we see around us, it is possible for the state to protect the common good while completely forswearing the use of the death penalty. I think that in the modern US it is often applied inconsistently and far too long after the crime to make much sense, but at the same time I cannot help thinking that a polity in which crimes such as those of Lawrence Brewer are punished with a sober application of the ultimate penalty is a more just and balanced polity than one which does not.

44 Responses to A Few Topical Thoughts on Capital Punishment

  • I don’t buy the deterrence argument. Is life in prison not enough of a deterrent? I don’t buy the safety argument. Life without parole keeps society plenty safe. But I do buy the retributive justice argument. Justice for the murder of James Byrd can be satisfied by nothing short of the life of Lawrence Brewer.

    I think the most compelling case against capital punishment is that it isn’t foolproof. On rare occasion, innocent people will die no matter how careful you are. That’s a very powerful argument.

  • “Life without parole keeps society plenty safe.”

    Except for guards, fellow prisoners, lifers who order hits on those outside from prison, hostage situations, etc. True life without parole in a supermax facility is the most likely combination to keep murderers from murdering again. Ironically both of these have come under attack as “human rights abuses” by many of the same people who oppose the death penalty.

    The death penalty has never been a hot button issue for me, unlike abortion. Ban it, have it, use it, don’t use it, it matters little to me as a matter of public policy. I find the arguments of most death penalty opponents fairly weak, except the argument of an innocent dying under the death penalty. Of course the same could be said about an innocent being sentenced to prison. Death penalty cases at least receive high scrutiny, while appeals of sentences involving lengthy prison sentences receive much less.

    However, on a pure emotional level, I can understand why people support the death penalty. I have known two murder victims in my life: a three year old boy and a five year old girl. They were shot to death by their father. He dumped their bodies in a river and would not reveal their location or whether they were alive or dead after he was captured following a nationwide manhunt. Their mother, my client, lived an unbelievable agony for a week until a fisherman found the little boy’s body. After the river was searched, the little girl’s body was found the next day. I always regret that he committed that atrocity in a state which did not have the death penalty, and is still alive while his children have been in the grave now for almost 9 years. Yes, I can understand why for some crimes nothing but the death penalty will do.

  • I have always thought that deterrance (and rehabilitation, for that matter) is a somewhat dangerous idea to use around any punishment, not solely death penalty arguments. I am influenced by C.S. Lewis, among others, on the idea that the type and extent of punishment should be determined solely by one one has done, rather than whether the punishment one receives serves to deter other’s from engaging in similar crime.

    Lewis noted in “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment”, that:

    “It is maintained that the only legitimate motives for punishing are the desire to deter others by example or to mend the criminal. When this theory is combined, as frequently happens, with the belief that all crime is more or less pathological, the idea of mending tails off into that of healing or curing and punishment becomes therapeutic.”

    And added:

    “…[T]the concept of Desert is the only connecting link between punishment and justice. It is only as deserved or undeserved that a sentence can be just or unjust. I do not here contend that the question ‘Is it deserved?’ is the only one we can reasonably ask about a punishment. We may very properly ask whether it is likely to deter others and to reform the criminal. But neither of these two last questions is a question about justice. There is no sense in talking about a ‘just deterrent’ or a ‘just cure’. We demand of a deterrent not whether it is just but whether it will deter. We demand of a cure not whether it is just but whether it succeeds. Thus when we cease to consider what the criminal deserves and consider only what will cure him or deter others, we have tacitly removed him from the sphere of justice altogether; instead of a person, a subject of rights, we now have a mere object, a patient, a ‘case’.”

  • I also remain somewhat on the fence on this issue, and, like Don, it’s not one where I care very passionately about either way. More often than not I find myself agreeing with supporters, particularly when it comes to its constitutionality.

    Your first point is one of the more compelling reasons against, though I have a slightly different take. The death penalty would be more just if applied even more frequently. There are some 50 executions per year in the US, a paltry sum when one considers the number of murders. The number of executions that have been carried out since it was re-instituted in the early 80s is barely more than the number of murders in some major cities per year. The haphazard way in which it is applied makes it an arbitrary punishment meted out on the people who weren’t able to string out the system.

  • One thing C. S. Lewis said of Captial Punishment: nothing better focuses the person onto death so that they can prepare for it if they wish.

  • Jonathan,

    I don’t think it would make any sense to support a punishment for its deterrent value if it weren’t already proportional. However, given proportion it seems to me that the deterrence factor would be one of the ways a society protects the common good through dispensing just punishments for crimes.

    RR, I would tend to think capital punishment has a more visceral deterrent effect than life without parole.

    Don, Agreed.

    Paul, Very much agreed.

  • A more traditional take on capital punishment. Not that it hasn’t been reformed by the Catechism. But it does provide a deep insight to the pre-Catechism view. And by someone that holds that all lying is sinful. ;)

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/03/catholicism-conservatism-and-capital.html

  • I think we could live just fine without the death penalty, but IF it’s going to be used, it should be reserved ONLY for cases in which there is absolutely no doubt that a murder took place and there is no doubt that the defendant did it — the only question is what was the accused’s mental state at the time.

    There seem to be plenty of cases in which no one, not even the defense attorney or the defendant himself, tries to argue that he didn’t do it, or that it was an accident. The only argument they offer is that he was temporarily insane or whatever. In those cases, the death penalty could justly be on the table IMO. But if there is ANY chance at all that someone else did it or that the death was not really a homicide, the death penalty should be off the table. Period.

  • The banned Catholic Anarchist made a futile attempt to leave acidic comments on this thread, the latest in a long line of such attempts to get around his banning. Sheesh, Iafrate, get a life! Do we have to take out an anti-stalking order against you?

  • Well, DC, as you might have suspected from my liberal politics, I found the killing of Troy Davis repugnant.

    A few things. First, I oppose capital punishment, so I oppose execution by the state either way, but the case was muddled with doubts — there was no forensic evidence and the whole case against him was eye-witness testimony based, with seven out of nine swearing they did not tell the truth during the trial, or are giving conflicting statements now, and so on and so forth. We don’t need to re-open that whole argument.

    I try dearly to steer clear of claims of racism. I generally find them highly unproductive. I am not even sure if this is a case of racism, but in 2008, the Georgia Parole Board of Pardons commuted the sentence of Samuel David Crowe to life in prison without parole, less than three hours before he was to be executed.

    This is wonderful, because I abhor unnecessary violence. On another level, it is most interesting. Crowe was convicted for armed robbery and murder, having shot someone three times with a pistol, and beat that person with a crowbar and a pot of paint. He plead guilty. This was a case where there was no doubt.

    The Parole Board gave no reason for granting clemency, though media reports state that Crowe’s lawyer argued that he had profound remorse, a record of good behavior in jail, and was “suffering from withdrawal symptoms from a cocaine addiction at the time of the crime.”

    Why clemency in one case, and not the other? It seems a mystery to me because I’d like to not simply assume the worse.

    Second, I opposed the killing of Brewer, and was given hope by Byrd’s son publicly opposing his execution.

    Third, this is true and there too are those who oppose both, at least consistently.

  • One thing I would note is that Texas did not have life without parole as a sentencing option until 2005, so if a jury wanted to ensure there was no chance a guy got out of jail and committed more crimes, the only way to do this was via a death sentence. Since 2005 the number of death sentences handed down in Texas has dropped 40% (though this isn’t apparent in the number of executions yet because of the lag time between when a person is sentenced to death and when the sentence is actually carried out).

  • The death penalty would be more just if applied even more frequently. There are some 50 executions per year in the US, a paltry sum when one considers the number of murders.

    Yes, but instances of homicide with multiple victims are far less frequent than instances of homicide per se. IIRC, instances with two victims average about 500 per year and instances with three or more average about 100 per year.

  • Ergo, the death penalty is morally equivalent to abortion.

    These people employ prudential judgments over capital punishment to contort consciences and justify voting for the radical abortion extremists so long as said pre-born baby mass murderers consistently recite their personal concepts of social justice.

    I blame this phenomenon for the one big a$$ed mistake America that is running America into a ditch.

  • Davis got to live 22 years after he killed the cop, became another poster boy/cause celebre for the libs and bleeding hearts. Can’t believe the Pope bought into his innocence and weighed in on the side of clemency. What does he know about the case? When guilt in a homicide is found by a jury to be beyond a reasonable doubt and all appeals have been exhausted, then the law and justice must prevail. There’s an infamous case in California where $22 million was spent trying a murderer who keeps filing paperwork to stay his execution. How much has it cost the state to keep Charles Manson alive when he should have been worm food years ago? On the other hand, the cost of a bullet or a piece of rope is not only a lot cheaper but expeditious and saves everyone the trouble of wringing their hands.

    And if I hear one more “insanity defense” like the Tucson shooter, I think I’ll lose it. If ever there was a justification for drawing and quartering that’s it. All you need is a couple of horses and some rope. Better yet, show it on TV.

    It boils down to one thing and one thing only: punish the guilty and spare the innocent. But many today have just the opposite view: kill innocent babies in the womb and let the murderers live.

    We live in a sick world and, as someone once said, there is no justice in or out of court.

  • Judge William T. Moore who ruled on the Davis habeas corpus petition last year, and who was affirmed by the US Supreme Court, wrote an exhaustive 174 page opinion in which he characterized the alleged new evidence that Davis was innocent to be largely smoke and mirrors, the judge’s phrase, and that Davis simply was not innocent of the murder. Read the opinion here:

    http://multimedia.savannahnow.com/media/pdfs/DavisRuling082410.pdf

  • Thanks for posting that, Don.

    I suspect that one of the things which causes so much doubt about these cases, in regards to guilt, in the mind of the casually sympathetic public is that the anti-capital punishment advocacy groups put massive amounts of time and resources into confusing each of the very small number of cases put up for the death penalty each year. While it’s certainly possible that at times all of the machinery of justice goes astray and an innocent man is executed, I suspect it’s far more frequent that those who are against the death penalty regardless of guilt manage to convince casual observers that someone is likely innocent when he is in fact not. (After all, it’s not really in their interest to take a balanced view of the evidence the way it is for a court — they are only looking for exculpatory evidence, regardless of whether or not it’s true.)

    The especially unfortunate side effect of this is that this creates in the mind of the public the idea that the justice system in general is constantly convicting innocent people.

  • Well, as a factual matter, Davis was certainly guilty. He fled the area after killing Officer McPhail, and bullet fragments from a shooting the prior evening that Davis certainly did, matched bullet fragment from the McPhail shooting. Of course, there were scads of eyewitnesses who fingered Davis as the shooter, and the supposed “recanters” don’t say Davis did NOT shoot McPhail, they now claim they can’t be sure who the shooter was. Two eyewitness still steadfastly maintain that Davis was the killer.

    As I point out on my blog, the irony of the two executions, Davis and Brewer, underscore the insincerity of a vast portion of the left about capital punishment. Davis, a favored killer because he feeds into leftist stereotypes, is virtually canonized, while Brewer, a despicable racist, did not generate a hundredth of the anti-DP fervor as Davis– because his execution did not feed into the left’s stereotypes.

    Why the Pope intervened in one and not the other I will have to pass over in respectful silence, lest I encourage the cynical to conclude that the Pope in this instance allowed himself to be used a tool for the left’s agenda.

  • Darwin, fret not… since the re-introduction of the death penalty in the 1970s, there has been not ONE verifiable wrongful execution, despite the frantic efforts of the groups you allude to. They throw lots of sand, and generate lots of heat, but there is no light.

    And frankly, even if it could be shown that there had been a wrongful execution, I’m not certain that it would be a decisive argument against the DP (while it would certainly be a propaganda coup), since there will always be cases of unquestionable guilt where the defendant deserves, and society needs, recourse to the death penalty.

  • I’m another fence sitter, but basically my thoughts mirror Paul’s. What it boils down to in this country is that if you have the money to afford competent representation, you don’t get the death penalty. The Menendez brothers being a case in point. Hell, sometimes if your case is notorious enough, you can still attract competent representation–the dreadful Ms. Anthony is Exh. A (thank you, Nancy Grace).

    What that leaves us with is a death row that is overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately non-white. That’s not just, even if all of the people sitting there are guilty. About which I have nagging doubts, too: a lousy trial performance can be fatal, as the family of Terri Schiavo will sadly tell you, albeit in a different context.

    What keeps me from joining the abolitionists are the truly heinous, hellish crimes that Don describes, as well as ones that have the potential to rend the fabric of society in a truly disturbing way (domestic terror incidents). Lines have to be drawn. Will the abolitionists be satisfied with life without parole? I have my doubts, too. The Western European example is instructive: it is astonishing to me that Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist, will be free in twenty years.

  • My father, who works in health care, once told me that he found the reason people support the death penalty and the reason people support euthanasia seem to spring from the same impulse: that one is uncomfortable with the fact that the other is still alive. With euthanasia, it is usually the family and friends of the dying person who feel that they can’t go on watching this suffering, that they need some sort of catharsis that comes with an orderly death. With the death penalty, it is often the family of the victim and members of the public who can’t feel that they are “done” with the case until the perpetrator dies.

    In the James Byrd case, both the victim’s wife and children have stated their opposition to the execution of the murderers.

  • Side note: though I am opposed to the death penalty in the US (I don’t think we have a country where the DP serves the purpose it is supposed to: to eliminate the danger from the community for the common good) I do think it has application in some areas.

    It’s also rather unhelpful that many anti death penalty crusaders tend to focus on manifestly guilty people and hold them up as an example of someone who deserves freedom due to their innocence, rather than arguing the case that life without parole is fit punishment. Like Mumia Abu Jamal, who is certainly guilty of his crimes, and should never have been allowed to don the mantle of “political prisoner”.

  • What it boils down to in this country is that if you have the money to afford competent representation, you don’t get the death penalty.

    One might replace assigned counsel plans with professional public defenders’ offices with a similar salary scale and per capita caseload to the public prosecutor’s office. If county governments lack the skilled manpower, one can ensconse it in the state welfare department.

    What that leaves us with is a death row that is overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately non-white.

    Do not know what the situation is now, but at one time the proportion of blacks on death row was almost precisely the same as the proportion of blacks convicted of murder. Such was admitted by David Bruck in the articles he was writing a generation ago, at which time he and his confederates developed a more elaborate argument concerning the probabilities of being executed for black-on-black murders, black-on-white murders, white-on-white murders, and white-on-black murders.

    The criminal population in general is overwhelmingly drawn from the impecunious, except on television detective serials.

  • @ Darwin

    “I don’t think it would make any sense to support a punishment for its deterrent value if it weren’t already proportional. However, given proportion it seems to me that the deterrence factor would be one of the ways a society protects the common good through dispensing just punishments for crimes.”

    A differentiation to make, given our comments, is between calculation and effect. For instance, one calculates punishment based solely upon what was done, a.k.a., retribution. However, deterrent effect is natural when laws include the threat of that punishment, and I think that is unavoidable.

  • The criminal population in general is overwhelmingly drawn from the impecunious, except on television detective serials.

    This is why WordPress needs to invent a line-item “like” feature.

  • Mr. McKenna’s additional information is why I’ve started to try to avoid coverage of legal actions where I don’t have either personal knowledge to help sort through stuff or a big enough interest to do a good job of it. The trial around that poor little girl’s death a few months back formalized it– these things are just way too prone to group-think, manipulation and story-making.
    Then, once you DO manage to sift the truth out, you have to figure out how to 1) get people to listen, 2) counter those who were misled (and figure out why/how) 3) deal with those who are deliberately misleading.
    There are few things more frustrating than good people who are trying to do good and thus excuse themselves from un-handy facts.

  • Tom McKenna, “Well, as a factual matter, Davis was certainly guilty. He fled the area after killing Officer McPhail, and bullet fragments from a shooting the prior evening that Davis certainly did, matched bullet fragment from the McPhail shooting. Of course, there were scads of eyewitnesses who fingered Davis as the shooter, and the supposed “recanters” don’t say Davis did NOT shoot McPhail, they now claim they can’t be sure who the shooter was.”

    All of that is consistent with Davis’ story that he was there but didn’t do the shooting. Combine that with the fact that the gun belonged to someone else at the scene and there’s no physical evidence linking Davis to any shooting, and you have reasonable doubt.

  • Of course, the jury convicted Davis and 25 years of appeals sustained the conviction and the sentence because the dude that owned the gun was white . . .

    Davis used the Obama defense (which all convicts use), “It wasn’t me!”

  • Capital punishment was enforced in the O.T. context of Israel. The New Testament is addressed to Christians who comprise a kingdom separate from the world and its political entities. The Bible does not speak to capital punishment in these times. It simply isn’t a matter for Christians and the Kingdom of God. That is not to say it doesn’t concern us as we live out our earthly lives. It is just to say that there is nothing we can say dogmatically either way. We can only argue.

  • [D]eath row… is overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately non-white.Dale Price

    And overwhelmingly disproportionately non-female.

  • Although this may appear to be a VERY minor issue or even a distraction from the debate on the death penalty itself, there is also the matter of the State of Texas announcing that condemned prisoners will no longer be allowed to choose their last meals (they will simply receive the same fare as other prisoners). The announcement was prompted by Brewer’s over-the-top request for a triple bacon cheeseburger, meat lover’s pizza, a pound of barbecue and other items which, when finally delivered to him, he didn’t eat.

    The combox debate over this issue doesn’t seem to have reached the Catholic blogosphere yet, but I find it interesting nonetheless. Many people favor abolition of the last meal tradition on the grounds that last meals are wasteful and an insult to the victims who were never granted any such privilege. Why not, some argue, just not bother feeding Death Row inmates at all in their final week or so since they’re going to die anyway? Who cares whether they suffer or endure indignity, after all, they didn’t think about that when they killed their victims, right? Another “con” (pardon the pun) argument from death penalty opponents: does granting the condemned a last meal simply make the practice of capital punishment seem less barbaric than it really is and condition people to think of it as acceptable or traditional?

    However, it’s the pro arguments (still very much in the minority) that I find most intriguing. Yes, it may be true that a person about to be put to death for a heinous murder (or several) doesn’t “deserve” a fancy meal, but that’s not the point. The point is that even as the condemned is about to be ultimately punished, the State, acting on behalf of society, still tries to be more merciful than the criminal was and allows him to experience one of life’s great pleasures — eating a favorite food — one last time. The request can be kept within reasonable bounds (for example, only being allowed to choose items that are already in the prison kitchen or whose cost is within a certain range) but to abolish it altogether seems kind of petty. The fact that a lot of people no longer want to bother with this form of very rudimentary mercy to the condemned is not, in my opinion, a good thing.

  • I am against taking away the tradition of the last meal for the condemned Elaine, as I would be against taking away the right of the condemned to say his last words or to be offered a blind fold if he is to be shot. Traditions help guide us in a frequently chaotic world and their observance helps us find our way. Of course currently traditions are contstantly under attack and thrown away at a moment’s notice. This is a mistake and merely makes modern life ever more graceless, utlilitarian and gray.

  • RR,

    Wasn’t Davis’ story that he left before the shooting? My understanding is that the cops found McPhail’s blood on Davis’ shorts, but that this was excluded as the fruit of an unlawful search.

  • You anti death penalty folks must think the Catholic Church began around 1980,when Pope J P 2 started to talk against the death penalty. You are wrong.
    The early Christians evidently had nothing against the death penalty. They approve of the divine punishment meted out to Ananias and Sapphira when they are rebuked by Peter for their fraudulent action (Acts 5:1-11). The Letter to the Hebrews makes an argument from the fact that “a man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses” (10:28). Paul repeatedly refers to the connection between sin and death. He writes to the Romans, with an apparent reference to the death penalty, that the magistrate who holds authority “does not bear the sword in vain; for he is the servant of God to execute His wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4). No passage in the New Testament disapproves of the death penalty.

    Turning to Christian tradition, we may note that the Fathers and Doctors of the Church are virtually unanimous in their support for capital punishment, even though some of them such as St. Ambrose exhort members of the clergy not to pronounce capital sentences or serve as executioners. To answer the objection that the first commandment forbids killing, St. Augustine writes in The City of God:
    The same divine law which forbids the killing of a human being allows certain exceptions, as when God authorizes killing by a general law or when He gives an explicit commission to an individual for a limited time. Since the agent of authority is but a sword in the hand, and is not responsible for the killing, it is in no way contrary to the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” to wage war at God’s bidding, or for the representatives of the State’s authority to put criminals to death, according to law or the rule of rational justice.

    In the Middle Ages a number of canonists teach that ecclesiastical courts should refrain from the death penalty and that civil courts should impose it only for major crimes. But leading canonists and theologians assert the right of civil courts to pronounce the death penalty for very grave offenses such as murder and treason. Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus invoke the authority of Scripture and patristic tradition, and give arguments from reason.

    Giving magisterial authority to the death penalty, Pope Innocent III required disciples of Peter Waldo seeking reconciliation with the Church to accept the proposition: “The secular power can, without mortal sin, exercise judgment of blood, provided that it punishes with justice, not out of hatred, with prudence, not precipitation.” In the high Middle Ages and early modern times the Holy See authorized the Inquisition to turn over heretics to the secular arm for execution. In the Papal States the death penalty was imposed for a variety of offenses. The Roman Catechism, issued in 1566, three years after the end of the Council of Trent, taught that the power of life and death had been entrusted by God to civil authorities and that the use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to the fifth commandment.

    In modern times Doctors of the Church such as Robert Bellarmine and Alphonsus Liguori held that certain criminals should be punished by death. Venerable authorities such as Francisco de Vitoria, Thomas More, and Francisco Suárez agreed. John Henry Newman, in a letter to a friend, maintained that the magistrate had the right to bear the sword, and that the Church should sanction its use, in the sense that Moses, Joshua, and Samuel used it against abominable crimes.

    Throughout the first half of the twentieth century the consensus of Catholic theologians in favor of capital punishment in extreme cases remained solid, as may be seen from approved textbooks and encyclopedia articles of the day. The Vatican City State from 1929 until 1969 had a penal code that included the death penalty for anyone who might attempt to assassinate the pope. Pope Pius XII, in an important allocution to medical experts, declared that it was reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned of the benefit of life in expiation of their crimes.

    Summarizing the verdict of Scripture and tradition, we can glean some settled points of doctrine. It is agreed that crime deserves punishment in this life and not only in the next. In addition, it is agreed that the State has authority to administer appropriate punishment to those judged guilty of crimes and that this punishment may, in serious cases, include the sentence of death.
    The current Pope, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, stated in 2004:
    3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia” THATS A QUOTE
    “Here’s the site….READ IT
    http://www.priestsforlife.org/magisterium/bishops/04-07ratzingerommunion.htm

  • BA, Davis says he was there for the fight but left before the shooting. I believe the bloody shorts rumor was started by Eric Erickson. There were shorts but they were of no forensic value.

  • Don Curry is right, I think. I know the Christian consensus has always favored the death penalty. I was unaware that John Paul II was the one who altered that. But I maintain that the death penalty in N.T. times can only be argued for or against. Nothing dogmatic can be said. Scripture doesn’t address it because it addresses the church, not the world.

  • “There were shorts but they were of no forensic value.”

    No, that is not the case. They were taken from a dryer at the home of the mother of Troy Davis. The defense successfully kept them out of the trial by a motion to suppress, on the grounds that the search of the home of the mother of Davis had been without a warrant. In the numerous appeals the State fought to have the shorts considered by reviewing courts.

    http://savannahnow.com/troy-davis/2010-06-22/bloodied-shorts-among-davis-hearing-evidence

  • Recantations years and years after the verdict from a jury are very suspect. And, if you look at the details, the defense HAD the statements years before they filed for new trial. (Why did they sit on them?) EVERY court…every one….ruled the jury verdict correct. And Ill tell you this—IF there were reasonable doubt at the jury trial…with a black defendant…I guarantee you, ONE of those 7 blacks on the jury would have held out for acquital. You can take that to the bank !As a former prosecutor, Ill tell you a black majority jury does not convict a black guy unless there is OVERWHELMING CREDIBLE EVIDENCE !

  • Don, you obviously didn’t read the opinion you posted. On page 161:

    “The State introduced evidence regarding Mr. Davis’s “bloody” shorts. (See Resp. Ex. 67.) However, even the State conceded that this evidence lacked any probative value of guilt, submitting it only to show what the Board of Pardons and Paroles had before it. (Evidentiary Hearing Transcript at 468-69.) Indeed, there was insufficient DNA to determine who the blood belonged to, so the shorts in no way linked Mr. Davis to the murder of Officer MacPhail. The blood could have belonged to Mr. Davis, Mr. Larry Young, Officer MacPhail, or even have gotten onto the shorts entirely apart from the events of that night. Moreover, it is not even clear that the substance was blood.”

  • Yes I did read it RR, but obviously not carefully enough to catch footnote 97. I assume that the Defense then filed their motion to supress just for the heck of it, or perhaps they filed it because the substance was blood and they were fearful what a DNA test would reveal, even though Davis’ mom had thougtfully laundered the shorts for him. I know in my defense cases I generally do not file motions to suppress evidence that I know will not hurt my client.

  • “In the Papal States the death penalty was imposed for a variety of offenses.” -Don Curry

    Sounds like an argument from Tradition. Now I’m curious if any books have been written about the Papal States’ domestic and foreign policy. I think that would be very illuminating.

  • The church is now against the death penalty. You may stop debating about it.

  • Completely untrue.

    “3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

    Cardinal Ratzinger

    http://www.tldm.org/news7/Ratzinger.htm

  • Hey Randy…nope you are totally wrong…I can still, as a Catholic, still be in excellent standing with the church, and not so with Abortion and euthansia. Here’s what the Pope says: QUOTE
    3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”
    Here’s the cite
    http://www.priestsforlife.org/magisterium/bishops/04-07ratzingerommunion.htm
    So when you dismiss my opinion…remember Randy…the Pope doesnt.
    .

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