Does The Death Penalty Diminish Us?
“It is done!” Those were convicted murderer Eric Robert’s last words as he was executed Monday night for his role in the attempted escape and murder of correctional officer Ronald “R.J.” Johnson at the South Dakota State Penetentiary in April of 2011.
South Dakota is getting ready to execute Donald Moeller the week of October 28th. Warden Doug Weber has yet to announce when the exact date and time will be. Moeller has spent years on death row appealing his conviction for the May 1990 kidnapping, rape and murder of then 9 year old Becky O’Connell. Moeller has since waived any further appeals, made his confession for the crime and now awaits his turn to die by lethal injection.
Robert decided from the beginning he deserved to die for his crime and waived any appeals whatsoever. Whether it seems fair or not, Moeller used almost every appeal at his disposal.
The appeals process can be controversial, given the fact that the state has to make sure it is executing the right person for the crime. Weighed against that, are the families who have to sometimes wait decades for justice to be done.
Those who are proponents of the death penalty believe in the Old Testament theme of “an eye for an eye.” Opponents of the death penalty believe that it is wrong that violence should perpetuate more violence and often cite the 6th Commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill.”
As a human being, I believe that with every life that is taken, we are diminished as a race of people. I sometimes wonder what was destroyed for the human race in the Nazi death camps, the Stalinist purges in Russia, the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia as well as scores of other massacres, genocides and wars. Did a cure for cancer die with someone?
One step further, I ask myself if we are diminished as a people for taking the life of someone guilty of taking another human life. When I try to wrap my head around it, it’s difficult to do. Impossible if it were my wife or family member murdered in cold blood.
Are we as a society morally or ethically just in deciding who lives and who dies? This seems to be the burden we live with when we have the death penalty.
Please weigh in with your comments.