Wednesday, February 01, 2006


On the topic of eschewing capital punishment because of its inherent fallibility, I have repeatedly received missives of the following nature:

What, in your opinion, happened to the right to life of a murder victim.
1. You have murderer a who may not be executed because the constitution protects his/her right to life.
2. You have a murder victim who HAD a right to life but it has been voided by the murderer whose right to life is still protected by the constitution.
Does the constitution only protect the right to life of murderers?
Something does not add up here.

The questions posed by this individual are non-sequiturs. The topic of the blog was the inherently fallible nature of capital punishment. It has nothing to do with the right to life of anyone other than a person incorrectly convicted of a capital crime and sentenced to death…a person who is not a murderer, but who may well be executed as one. The blog was about innocent people facing execution because the justice system has no way of ensuring 100% accuracy in its convictions and, because of that, it cannot justly condemn anyone to death without risking the execution of innocent people.

The American Constitution does not protect the lives of murderers…it permits the death penalty to exist, which, unfortunately takes the lives of the innocent as well as the guilty. The problem with the death penalty is that we humans cannot know if a person is truly guilty or not when we sentence him to death…we can only make our “best guess” based on the evidence presented to us and, entirely too often, we guess wrong. Would anyone reading this care to be shut alone in a windowless room less than six metres square for years on end, wondering each morning if this to be your last, when you committed no crime? If it happened to a law abiding citizen like Ray Krone, who wasn’t even in the wrong place at the wrong time but simply had crooked teeth, you can be assured that under such a justice system, you are just as much at risk as he was.

The question of one’s right to life covers the innocently convicted as much as it covers the victim of murder, and until there is a 100% accurate means of convicting only the murderer, until there is a 100% means of preventing convictions like Ray Krone’s, the mechanism by which Ray Krone was almost deprived of his life by the very government tasked to protect him must be dismantled. A man serving a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole is as isolated from preying on society as a dead man: if he is guilty, he is punished by his isolation and the society is protected from his predations; but if he is innocent, if and when that fact finally comes out, he can be released. You can’t give an innocent…but executed…man the rest of his life back. It is important to err on the side of conservatism in matters of life and death…if you must make mistakes in conviction, which is inevitable at this point in history and scientific development, then those errors must not take innocent lives.

The life and death of the victim are moot in this discussion. The victim is already dead, his right to life violated, and no rights exist for dead people. At best, his remaining right is to have his killer apprehended and punished, but that is violated by the State when an innocent person is brought to book. But what of the rights of the person who committed no crime but who faces the death penalty anyway? What of his rights? What is germane here is the life of the innocent person who may be convicted for causing the victim’s death…because he is innocent, does he not have a right to have his life preserved? And what of the further victims of the real perpetrator, still running loose in society because the authorities, satisfied with their conviction of the innocent, fail to pursue? The real rapist/killer, in Ray Krone’s case, went on to sexually assault a child. Sentencing an innocent man to death deals a double tragedy, for not only can an innocent person face institutional death, the authorities cease to search for the real perpetrator, who continues to prey on society and may well commit further crimes.

The death penalty surely kills people guilty of murder. But it just as surely kills people innocent of it. And until we have an absolutely foolproof means of telling them apart, it simply makes sense to stop the killing. How, after all, does the execution of an innocent man effect justice for the victim?

A final note: many people mistakenly believe that the US Constitution guarantees its citizens “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” These words do not appear in the Constitution or in any of its Amendments. The words come from the Declaration of Independence, which does not have the force of law.


  1. I completely agree with you: while there is a chance of an innocent person falling foul of the justice system and being wrongfully executed, capital punishment must be banned.

  2. I am not disagreeing with you at all AND do you condone capital punishment under any circumstance? What are your suggestions re BTK and other sociopaths who admit their crimes and have substantiated DNA evidence? (Talk about arrogance and the criminal mind, he's beyond classic)
    NF in Modesto, where Scott Peterson was convicted with circumstantial evidence.


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