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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Monday, May 20, 2024
The Echo

Death to the death penalty

By David Adams | Echo

Convicted murderer Clayton D. Lockett was scheduled to be executed via lethal injection in April. Oklahoma officials planned to use an untested cocktail of drugs, due to difficulties obtaining the standard drugs, according to the New York Times.

The execution went badly awry.

Lockett experienced vein failure during the injection of the first drug, a sedative. Witnesses reported Lockett may not have been fully unconscious while the second and third drugs, one intended to paralyze his body and the other to stop his heart, were administered. At least one of the witnesses said Lockett raised his head and groaned.

A review of the execution by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (ODPS) found the drugs killed Lockett as intended, but there were a number of flaws in the execution process. The ODPS made recommendations-like better training for executioners or maintaining additional supplies of the drugs-to improve its process for future executions.

Instead of fixing the death penalty like Oklahoma, it's time for America to end it-for good-and for Christians to join the call for its execution.

The federal government and 32 states maintain death penalty statutes, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. However, the U.S. is one of only 20 U.N. member states that executed criminals in 2013, Amnesty International Reported. No other country in the Americas, or any in Europe, executed a criminal last year.

Despite the clear international trend against capital punishment, more than 60 percent of Americans still support it, Gallup reported in surveys conducted in October. Americans cite the lower cost of execution compared to life in prison, the deterrent effect of the death penalty on would-be criminals and the "eye-for-an-eye" principle as their top reasons for supporting capital punishment.

Each reason collapses upon closer examination.

Criminals on death row wait years for their executions, with their lengthy appeals, guaranteed by law, driving up the legal fees of their punishments. A 2012 study in California found that the state's death penalty system cost the state over $4 billion since 1978. The study's authors concluded eliminating the death penalty would save the state $5 billion over the next two decades.

Similar studies discovered that trials involving capital punishment cost three to 10 times as much as non-capital trials.

The deterrent effect of the death penalty, another main reason Americans support the punishment, is oft claimed but only tenuously supported.

Law professors John Blume of Cornell University and Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia University testified before the New York State Assembly that research indicates the death penalty does not deter murder. Fagan said murder was a multifaceted crime and that potential murderers were unlikely to be aware of executions in their states, much less be influenced by them.

More Americans cite the "eye-for-an-eye" principle-the notion that death is the only punishment severe enough for a convicted murderer-than any other as the reason they support the death penalty. No empirical evidence can defeat this retributive notion, but perhaps biblical consideration may provoke Christians to rethink their views.

The Old Testament legal system rests heavily on capital punishment-for heinous crimes against man, like rape and murder, as well as crimes against God's holiness. Paul seems to support the notion of the death penalty in Romans and Acts, deferring to the state's authority to punish its citizens.

Yet, as Bible Gateway's Andy Rau pointed out, the biblical story centers on God offering redemption to those who do not deserve it. Should Christians support a penalty so severe it negates any possibility of reconciliation between a criminal and his victims-or worse, between a criminal and God?

Absent a strong biblical mandate, financial incentive or deterrent benefit, capital punishment can only be seen as an act of retribution. If offering reprieve to America's 3,000 death row inmates-even reprieve through commuting their sentences to life imprisonment-gives even one of them the chance to seek forgiveness from God or man, the end of the death penalty would be validated.

Killing the death penalty defends life, ministers reconciliation and prevents unjust man from dealing ultimate punishment.