Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Devaluation of Life in New Jersey

New Jersey today outlawed the death penalty, thus declaring that the life of a cold-blooded murderer has value. Declared Governor Jon Corzine, "Society must determine if its endorsement of violence begets violence and undermines the sanctity of life..." Sister Helen Prejean, death penalty opponent and author of Dead Man Walking, said "There's no place on Earth I would rather be. The word will travel around the globe that there is a state in the United States of America that was the first to show that life is stronger than death, love is greater than hatred and that compassion is stronger than the need for revenge." (New Jersey Star Ledger 12/18/07)

But one must question the fundamental premises of the death penalty's opponents.

The death penalty issue is primarily a moral one, and it boils down to one question... does human life have value, or doesn't it? If it does, then that which destroys it is evil and thus has no value. The act of committing cold-blooded murder (the taking of another's life in the absence of extenuating circumstances) is the ultimate violation of one's most fundamental right...the right to life. By taking the life of another human being, the cold-blooded killer thus forfeits the right to his own life.

Remember that we are speaking here of the most heinous type of crime...the rape-murder of a child, the gunning down of a store clerk during a robbery, the assassination of a police officer. To speak of "the sanctity of life", or of "love" or "compassion" for life's destroyers is to make a mockery of those terms and to devalue the lives of all of us.

One can not value man's life and the destroyer of man's life at the same time. To the extent that one assigns value to the destroyer of man's life, then to the same extent he is devaluing it. There is no way out of this lethal contradiction. Not if one's standard of value is man's life.

The death penalty is justified, morally justified, not because of hatred or revenge. Nor is it justified on the grounds of deterence. The ruling principle in favor of the death penalty is justice. The ultimate crime must be met by the ultimate punishment. Death to cold-blooded murderers, the destroyers of life, is the ultimate affirmation of "the sanctity (and value) of life."

Sadly, by abolishing the death penalty, our great state of New Jersey has chosen to devalue life.


RonPaulMountainBiker said...

According to the innocence project, there are often people wrongfully convicted.
It can take a long time to prove that those people were wrongfully convicted. With an active death penalty, sometimes a buried corpse is all that is left to exonerate.
To me, a life behind bars is worse than no life. In prison I imagine there is no freedom, life is ruined.
I think it is more important to value the life of the wrongfully convicted than to value executing prisoners.

Mike Zemack said...


There are certainly legitimate reasons for opposing the death penalty.

The possibility of executing an innocent person is a serious concern and, in my opinion, the only valid one for opposing the death penalty. The issues involved here are legal ones and belong to the field of law, which I did not address in my post.

Life behind bars may indeed be worse than death for some. But justice, not the suffering of the convicted, should be the basis for any criminal sentence. I.E., the punishment should fit the crime.

But the abolition of the death penalty in New Jersey was based primarily on humanitarian, not practical, grounds. It is this that I object to. Hence, my response.

My argument was strictly a moral defense of capital punishment.