“SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A former middle-school football coach convicted of abducting and killing a 10-year-old Missouri girl has been sentenced to death.”
How can anyone oppose the death penalty after reading a lede like that?
Merely warehousing a vicious subhuman like this until the end of his natural life, at taxpayer expense, surely must not be the worst punishment we can inflict?
And it does make it tough to justify opposing the death penalty. After all, I would not mind one bit if I read this monster got stabbed in the gut by another inmate tomorrow. And that’d be a rather more painful way to go than being put to sleep like an old dog. Why would I want to protect him from the state’s ultimate punishment?
Because that’s why. Because it’s death meted out by the *state*.
(The state of Missouri, in this case. While it’s not Texas, it’s still no slouch at giving convicts the needle.) (Surprisingly, while Texas is still the grim reaper’s best friend for total killings, it is not the leader per capita.)
Why object to *state* killings? Part of it is the specter of mistakes, of executed people getting cleared posthumously. Part is the natural bias of the judicial system stacked against poor people and people of color. But mostly because of the simple fact that it’s the state that’s doing the killing.
The moral taint of it begins with the executioners, to the technicians who prepared the inmate for his death, to the guards, to the warden, to the state legislators who pay their salaries and let this happen, to the governor who didn’t spare his life, and ultimately, to the voters.
And do we really want such a power afforded to state agents that already may deprive us of our property without any due process; wiretap us; execute us without a conviction or without even losing their jobs; and which continues to slide ever further toward lawlessness, gangsterism and thuggery, where the value of an ordinary human life continues to plummet but the value of a politically-connected oligarch continues to soar?
It’s increasingly clear that limiting the scope of government is, while very unfashionable these days, also the only way to protect rights, both from a liberal standpoint (this, abortion, sex workers’ rights, the right to not get shot for the crime of walking down the street while black) and from the usual conservative-libertarian point of view (guns, religion.) Even if that means a few horrible examples of human excrement wind up living a few more years than we otherwise would have desired.