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The Death Penalty: Right Or Wrong, Good Or Bad?

By Dr. Don Boys
© 1997 Cornerstone Communications

Can we agree that if the death penalty is right then it is also good and if it is wrong, it is also bad? Of course, our first concern should be, what does the Bible teach about the state putting people to death? If we can ascertain that then it doesn't matter what philosophers, theologians, sociologists, criminologists and weeping, whining and whimpering liberals have to say about the subject.

Genesis 9:6 clearly teaches that if a man sheds another person's blood, then his life will be taken by the government. Moses wrote, "whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man." When a person premeditatedly takes a life, he not only assaults society but attacks God since man was made in His image. For those who accept the Bible as binding on what we believe and practice, that should settle the issue.

However, sincere people tell us that God also commanded us, "Thou shalt not kill" so killing is wrong, but even astute Sunday school pupils know that that verse means, "Thou shalt do no murder." And of course, we should not murder. If we could not kill, then we would be prohibited from killing a fly, beef, hog, etc. Nor could we kill in times of war or self defense, but that is not the issue. The issue is murder.

We are experiencing about 20,000 killings each year in the US, but back before the states stopped putting killers to death, we "only" had 10,000 per year. So when the death penalty was stopped, in 1965, an additional 10,000 people were killed each year! We had been executing about 50 killers per year, but we stopped obeying God and stopped executing killers, and the result was 10,000 additional innocent people being killed each year. We only execute one killer for every 10,000 victims. That's why I say we are playing with the death penalty even though three-fourths of Americans want killers executed. It's not vengeance but justice.

Some states are back to executing killers, but we are only playing with the death penalty. Execution is still not sure and very slow coming to the killers. A killer should know that after a fair, fast trial and one appeal, he goes to the chair! He should be in the grave before the first anniversary of his victim's death. Will the number of killings go down if each state really gets serious about executing the killers? I'm not sure, but that's not the issue. Killers deserve to die. The blood of innocent ones cries out for justice, and one thing is sure: the executed killer will never kill again. Often, the bleeding hearts tell us that a man must be insane to take a life so they put him in a mental hospital, but studies show that they are back on the streets in a few years. My position is, if they are truly insane, lock'em and leave'em. If sane, try'em and fry'em.

But why not be humane and give him life in prison without possibility of parole? That still doesn't satisfy the scriptural demand that killers be killed nor does it speak to justice. It also puts prison guards in jeopardy. Since killers have nothing to lose, why not kill a guard during an escape attempt? Why not kill another prisoner during a fight? After all, the killers have nothing to lose. A life sentence can't be any longer. And why shouldn't thieves or kidnappers kill witnesses since they would not have a possible death sentence hanging over their heads?

To hear many death penalty opponents talk, you would think that our only argument is the deterrent effect of the death penalty, but that is only an insignificant argument. They often point out that states without the death penalty have about the same number of killings as those that do execute killers. Of course, no one says that all killers are deterred. We know that no law deters everyone. We do not know how many thousands of men thought of taking a life then considered the death penalty and changed their minds.

However, we do know that many criminals have not taken guns to their crime scene because they might be forced to kill someone and "get the chair." That is deterrence.

While preaching near Toronto, Canada I talked with a man who was the youngest police chief in Ireland. He said, "Dr. Boys, you might be interested to know that we asked nineteen convicted killers if they would have killed if Ireland had the death penalty." He said, "All nineteen killers replied that they would not have killed if Ireland had a death penalty." Well, that's from the experts – the killers themselves.

During television talk shows I have been told many times that more poor people are executed than rich people so in fairness society should not execute people. I tell them more poor people are executed for murder because they do more murders! After all, there are more poor people out there than rich people. It is also a fact, that really does not need to be expressed, that rich people don't usually have the motives to kill. They have money, friends, homes, cars so they usually only kill during very emotional times.

Of course, when a rich person kills another, he or she should get the death penalty as poor people do. Yes, rich people can afford better lawyers than poor people, but that is a fact of life that must be accepted.

We are also told that more blacks get executed than whites; however the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty does not discriminate against blacks. Furthermore, a Stanford University study revealed that killers of whites (whether the killers are black or white) are more likely to get sentenced to death than killers of black people (whether the killers are black or white). But blacks who kill whites were less likely to receive death sentences than were whites who killed whites. Doesn't sound like discrimination to me unless maybe it is reverse discrimination!

It is also interesting that women commit about 13% of the murders in the US yet less than 1% are executed. Maybe we can expect the screaming ladies at NOW to do something about this glaring inequality and injustice. Unless you look good in blue, don't hold your breath until the feminists carry signs demanding, "Execute more women," "More Women to the Chair," or "Put more women on death row."

We had better demand that all people be treated like people whatever their color, gender or social status. The answer is to mete out punishment equally, not drop it altogether. A study by the National Center for Policy Analysis found that a killer could expect only 1.8 years for murder in 1990. That's not justice.

"But if we execute all the killers on death row in the various states, that would be a blood bath," says the innocent one. What do you think we have today? If there is going to be a blood bath, let it be the blood of convicted killers. If all 50 states were to executed all 3000 killers tomorrow morning at 6:00, it would sure send a message to other potential killers, wouldn't it?

Authorities should also get the message that felons should be in prison, not on the streets. Streets are for people who obey and respect the law. Rebels belong in prison. But at least 30% of those arrested for violent crimes were on probation, parole or on bail. We must send officials a message: Keep violent criminals in prison!

The US Justice Department's annual report revealed that two-thirds of those on death row had prior felony convictions and a full 10% of those killers had killed before! That 10% should not have been permitted to prey on innocent people because they should have been in prison. You've heard of three strikes and you're out, but it should be one strike and you're dead. No second chance for killers.

Scores of people have told me on talk shows that an innocent person may be executed so we should do away with the death penalty. Well, since we live in an imperfect world, I'll concede the possibility that an innocent person may be executed. But without the death penalty, there will be the certainty of many more innocent killings.

I have also heard the old canard that it is better to let a hundred guilty men go free than to executed one innocent man. Now, I'm not advocating executing innocent people, and the thought is horrifying, but it is a silly statement. We are comparing one innocent man to the hundreds of other innocent people who will be killed if the hundred killers go free. Liberals are non-thinkers.

Often the opponents of the death penalty affirm that many innocent people have been executed, so it should be done away with, but as usual, they are wrong. They usually quote the Stanford Law Review to prove their contention, but they didn't read the complete article. Professors Bedan and Radelet looked at 2300 capital crime convictions since 1900 and said they thought 25 men were wrongly executed. The professors "believed" the men were innocent, but they did not prove their case. They even listed such notorious cases such as Sacco and Vanzetti, Hauptmann, the Rosenbergs, etc., all cold-blooded killers and traitors whose cases were reviewed by various courts. The professors ended up saying, "...in none of the cases...can we point to any state action indicating the belief that the person executed was innocent." Evidently my opponents never read the full article.

Yes, it could happen. It may have already happened, but it is unlikely with all the restrictions placed on the police, the emphasis on the rights of the accused, the jury trial, numerous appeals, and usually a long period on death row. Add to that the fact that most governors hand out pardons like campaign literature and are gutless "cry babies" who are super-sensitive to the bellowing and whining from leftist groups who have never seen a guilty killer they didn't like.

We are told that it is state-sanctioned murder to carry out the death penalty, but if that is true is it state-sanctioned kidnapping to keep a person in prison? Are fines state thievery? It is incredible that opponents of the death penalty tell us that it perpetuates violence. They can't see the vast difference in a person who takes another person's life and the state doing so after a fair trial. Government is supposed to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. Those are the two functions of government, yet our states are failing at both.

It is almost always true that those people who oppose the death penalty for convicted killers (and I think that kidnappers, rapists and traitors should get death as they did 50 years ago) almost always are loud proponents of abortion! Let's see now: they don't want vicious killers to be killed, but they do want innocent, unborn babies to be butchered! I don't think I understand that kind of thinking.

I have asked my opponents if I have a right to defend myself if a person is trying to kill me, and most of them agreed that it was acceptable. I then ask them, "If it is morally and legally right for me to defend myself – even killing my attacker – before I am killed, why is it wrong for the state to kill him after he has killed me?" They are strangely quiet.

Often, in desperation, my death penalty opponents remind me that most civilized nations have banned the death penalty as cruel and inhumane. I usually pause for a few seconds and say, "So?" When European nations were ruled by tyrants like Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, etc., we didn't emulate them by looking for a home grown dictator, so why follow them in their folly now by abolishing a reasonable and scriptural tool for the sake of society? European nations are also collecting the fire arms and opening their borders to almost anyone. Should we follow them in that direction? I think not.

We are told that we should forgive the killer, but I reminded them that no killer has asked for my forgiveness. Besides he didn't take the life of one of my relatives so I don't have the right to forgive him. During a talk show I debated forgiveness and mercy as it related to the Susan Smith case – the mother who drowned her two little boys. I had just demanded a death sentence for her, but the judge I was debating asked, "But what about mercy, Dr. Boys?" I replied, "Mercy you get from God; from the courts you expect justice."

He said, "But the clergymen in her small town have all asked for mercy in her behalf." I said, "Her two children would liked to have seen some mercy from her, but instead they were pushed into a lake to drown. Besides, preachers asking for mercy is not an argument since most preachers pull on panty hose each morning and wear lace on their shorts." The host said, "What did you say?" I then repeated it, and he said, "I thought that's what you said.

We members of society must demand of our legislators that crime not pay. That message must resonate to every city and country town that killers will not be pampered and made heroes in the media. Killers will be executed and after all, that can facilitate the best kind of rehabilitation. If a man knows he is going to die in 30 days, while the ACLU, PAW, NAACP and other radical groups whine, weep and carry candles for him, then maybe he will experience the ultimate in rehabilitation and turn to Christ for genuine salvation.

State officials had better get the message that we must feel safe in our homes, cars, and the streets, because if we perceive that authorities can not or will not impose upon offenders what they deserve, then seeds are sown for anarchy, vigilante justice and lynch law. When that happens, we are all losers.

Copyright, 1997, Don Boys, Ph.D

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