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Death Penalty and Race

November 06, 1986

Allow me to take issue with your pronouncements on the death penalty as stated in your editorial.

Your proposition that the death penalty should be abolished on grounds that more killers of whites are executed than killers of blacks, is not only illogical, but actually unjust.

It is illogical because it attacks a system, based not on a possible intrinsic lack of desirability but on the way the system is used. It would not surprise me to read one morning an editorial suggesting that car theft could be eliminated by abolishing cars.

It is unjust because abolishing the death penalty would leave no commensurate punishment for killing, which is the worst and most socially intolerable of all possible crimes, regardless of who the victim may be.

Even the death penalty itself is not commensurate punishment for aggravated killing, such as previously tormenting a victim, infanticide and wanton ideological or political killing (the so-called terrorist, as well as the original physical aggressor in a war, is a murderer).

Civilization cannot endure without punishment of anti-social behavior, and if "punishment must fit the crime" and murder is the ultimate crime, death is the only fitting punishment.

In fact, if justice were truly to be served, rather than eliminate the death penalty, the wisdom of the "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" method should become apparent and be applied. Not for "blind revenge", but for justice, even at the risk of remotely possible miscarriages.

Perfect is the enemy of Good. Given a civilized, consensual legal system, the "better that ten criminals go free, than one innocent person be put to death" philosophy is pusillanimous--and a misguided concern for one possibly innocent person at the expense of ten more really innocent persons that would almost surely be put to death by the freed criminals.



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