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In defense of capital punishment

By Scott Tibbs, May 20, 2014

The botched execution of a truly evil man in Oklahoma has brought the debate over the death penalty to the forefront. One interesting exchange involved comparing statistics, but before we can get into debating issues around the death penalty we must establish where our philosophical foundation is. For me, that is the clear commandment of Scripture for the civil magistrate to use capital punishment for certain crimes.

Men and women are made in the image of God, and committing murder is therefore an attack on God's image. When the ultimate crime is committed, the ultimate penalty is required to punish that crime. The murderer does not have a right to life - he knowingly and willingly surrendered his right to life the moment he snuffed out the life of a man or woman made in the image of God. Executing murderers is not an option for the civil magistrate to choose. It is a commandment that we can either obey or rebel against.

Obviously, we must be sure that people who are executed are actually guilty, and more reforms are needed in ensuring the fairness of the criminal justice system - not just for capital crimes but across the board. The most effective way to do this is harsh and severe criminal penalties for government officials (especially prosecutors) who violate civil rights by doing things like withholding exculpatory evidence. This cannot be a slap on the risk, like disbarring someone. This must be decades upon decades behind bars.

Even if we know people are guilty, some argue that the death penalty is applied in a "racist" manner. Frankly, I could not possibly care less about the skin pigmentation of the murderers or their victims. If someone has been found to have committed murder, convicted by a jury of his peers after a fair trial, he needs to die. If blacks are executed more often than whites for similar crimes, or vice versa, does not change the facts of each individual case. If a murderer deserves to die, it does not matter what the statistics look like. He must die. "Fairness" is irrelevant. The solution is to expand application of the death penalty, not reduce it.

There is obviously room for reform in our criminal justice system, and there are perverse incentives in that system that need to be eliminated. But the death penalty is a good thing, because it is the only way to truly have justice for the worst among us. We should address and repair the flaws in our death penalty system instead of rebelling against the clear commandment given to us by God.