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Friday, January 25, 2013

Death Penalty Shenanigans

[ Patrick Tuohey ]

We were glad to learn that the Missouri Senate is considering a study of capital punishment from a cost perspective, but it reminded us that most examinations of the death penalty concede too much legitimacy to the practice. For example, last year the Missouri Supreme Court put on hold the executions of six men on death row over concerns that the sedative to be administered to them amounts to "cruel and unusual punishment."

According to The Wall Street Journal,

Rick Sindel, a lawyer for some of the inmates involved in the lawsuit, said the court’s ruling on Tuesday “gives us the time to put before the court the evidence we think is necessary to make a decision about whether this protocol is constitutional.”

Mr. Sindel said the drug propofol “has a fairly significant history of causing pretty bad pain upon injection.” The drug was made famous for its role in the death of Michael Jackson in 2009.

Arguments about propofol are likely legal shenanigans put forth by those opposed to capital punishment regardless of how the sentence is administered. This is a shame, because in the interim they concede the larger argument in order to quibble over details. With all due respect to Missouri Senators seeking to consider its cost effectiveness—it misses the point.

This column has argued repeatedly that most arguments in opposition to capital punishment are completely facile. The practice is constitutional, neither cruel nor unusual, does not conflict with individual repentance and is applied sparingly. It is also wrong.

Opponents to the death penalty ought to own up to their principled views and lay aside the small potato arguments they make on each issue. As we wrote in January 2010,

The problem with capital punishment is that it is one more event in which the state places its prerogatives over the rights of an individual.

If conservatives believe government should be trusted with the power to kill us, how can they credibly argue against government power in significantly lesser matters such as health care and taxation?

Conservatives are completely comfortable arguing that the individual right to life is inviolable regardless of cost, utility, health or stage. Their argument only gains strength by recognizing that the right is also protected against one's own crimes.

1/25/2013 9:23:28 AM

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