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Is Capital Punishment ever Justified?

10/28/10

Permalink 11:22:00 pm, by Brandon Norgaard Email , 654 words   English (US)
Categories: Morality

Is Capital Punishment ever Justified?

A few weeks ago I made the case for people having natural rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This essentially means that it is morally wrong to infringe upon other people's life (to murder someone), or to unnecessarily infringe upon another person's freedom or happiness. I argued as well that the right to life is paramount because one cannot have free will or happiness unless they have life. It is best to allow others to decide what to do with their own life.

Now, there may be situations where it is actually necessary to kill someone, though this is rare. If someone is completely insane, meaning there is no possibility of reasoning with them, and all signs indicate that this person will certainly kill others very soon, then if there are no other options to restrain this person in order to prevent the killing of others, then it does make the most sense to preserve the lives of the innocents by killing the crazy person.

This situation might happen if someone breaks into your house with a gun and is about to fire it on your family and you have access to another gun and you can prevent this person from killing your family by killing this person. Now, in such situations it would most likely work just as well to protect your family by merely injuring the intruder, to just shoot this person in the shoulder or the arm to prevent them from firing the gun, but it is conceivable that a situation could occur in which one must actually kill the intruder in order to save one's family. Not that likely, but it could happen.

Then there are situations where someone has already committed horrible offenses against others, of what to do with these people. If someone has already murdered other people, and they have been put in custody and where innocent people are now safe from the horrors of what this person might do, would it then be morally acceptable to execute this person?

Even if they have committed horrendous murders, rapes, etc, I would say no. It is morally wrong to end someone's life unless you are trying to save the lives of other innocent people. This person is still human and, though they have committed offenses against humanity, they still do have the chance to turn their lives around while in captivity. Now, I would never, ever let the worst of the murderers out of prison. They are a danger to society. Only in rare circumstances would I think it is acceptable to parole someone who committed a single murder many years ago. But I think the best punishment for the worst crimes against humanity is for them to be forced to live their lives in captivity, with little resources available to them.

Though we certainly want to punish these people as much as we can, it is irrational to think that killing them is going to do any good. It is sufficient punishment for them to be in a small room with little food and no comforts of life for the rest of their lives. It is morally wrong to kill them, but it is not morally wrong to deprive them of liberty and happiness because the worst criminals do not deserve either of these. We are still giving them the opportunity to turn their lives around spiritually, but we are not under any moral obligation to make their lives comfortable.

So in summary, capital punishment is never morally justified, but in some rare circumstances it might be necessary to kill someone to prevent them from killing others. These are the most reasonable conclusions on these matters that I can draw from my fundamental moral principles.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Is capital punishment ever morally justified? Let your voice be heard in the forum. You can also email the me at brandon@enlightenedworldview.com

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