Friday, August 28, 2009

Apparently innocent man executed in Texas 5 years ago

I don't really have anything more to add to what Rep. John Mayo said in his blog:

A Texas man was not only executed for a crime he did not commit but for an incident in which there was no crime at all. And, had the prosecutor, crime scene investigator, and fire marshall had any competence at all, two independent, one by the State of Texas which carried out the execution, studies concluded that they would have also reached that conclusion and the state would not have murdered an innocent man.

Every legislator in the state of Texas has blood on their hands. Doesn't matter if a mistake was made, someone was incompetent, or a jury reached that conclusion. I can't make a more stronger statement than to say,

"State legislators are directly responsible for the death of innocent men by allowing the death penalty to continue."

If the death of an innocent man is the price we endure for societal justice, I will stand before God on judgement day and tell the Almighty this is WRONG and suffer God's wrath.


Here's the article to which he responds.

14 comments:

Kingfish said...

So Eichmann should not have been executed?

Justin said...

KF,

I think the argument is that the gravity of the mistake of killing an innocent man is not worth the penological justification in executing the guilty. The possibility of an error is frightening, but when that possibility becomes a reality, there's a tragedy. This is the ultimate decision a State can make.

When that decision is based on the whimsies and arbitrariness of a jury full of their own natural opinions and prejudices. Top that off with the initial arbitrariness of the State by even seeking the death penalty in some instances, and you've got a situation that just completely renders an undesirable outcome.

While there may be people deserving of capital punishment, there's no real science to figuring out who does. That's my take at least.

The risk of the ultimate mistake does not justify the imposition of the ultimate punishment.

Matt Eichelberger said...

I don't believe our justice system should be the place work out our collective lust for blood. Vengance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.

Kingfish said...

Bullshit. You want to make the argument that a criminal justice system can make mistakes and that we shouldn't take the risk of executing innocent people, I can buy that and understand where you are coming from even if I disagree with it.

However, when it comes to mass murderers and true war criminals, there should be a final penalty for them and its not life in jail. There should also be a death penalty for terrorists, which I would classify as mass murderers in most cases. What I don't want is some terrorists who are sitting in jail for life after they killed a few hundred people as their comrades will then engage in what Israel saw in the 70's, which is other terrorists taking hostages and committing more acts of terrorism while demanding they free them.

As for Eichmann, people like him should be killed. I would say that the Eichmann verdict was not based on the whim of a jury but people who knew EXACTLY what he did and how he did it.

Ginger Williams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin said...

Ooops. Posted under the fiancé's name. Stupid hangover. Anyways...

Eichmann was executed by Israel, so, therefore, not subject to the demands of the United States Constitution.

It may seem trivial, but I think it's of some concern.

KF, you ever heard Ron White's take on being opposed to the death penalty for Osama Bin Laden? It's quite eye opening and hilarious.

Kingfish said...

Oh, I'm SORRY. I thought we were discussing the theory of the death penalty in general, not just the American court system and how the death penalty is applied here.

Jim Craig said...

I'm interested in Kingfish's categories of acceptible death sentences: "when it comes to mass murderers and true war criminals, there should be a final penalty for them and its not life in jail. There should also be a death penalty for terrorists, which I would classify as mass murderers in most cases."

It's worth noting that this would be very few of the prisoners on the death rows of the State and of the Federal Government.

This strikes me as a case of the exception proving the rule. KF's extreme examples may indeed be grounds for retaining capital punishment in those scenarios, but would have the effect of abolishing the death penalty in 95% of existing cases.

Christopher said...

I said this in a comment a couple months ago but by then, I think the post was buried. I like Matt's quote of Romans 12:19 in which Paul exhorts Christians not to seek vengeance but to leave room for the wrath of God. The implied hermeneutic in this interpretation is that somehow God will directly visit His wrath in some supernatural medium.

But Paul isn't finished with that thought. Keeping in mind that chapter and verse divisions were not part of the original text, check out just five verses later where Paul explains how God visits His wrath:

"For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil." Romans 13:3-4

In other words, individuals are not to take justice into their own hands. That's what the government is for. The Romans 12:19 citation I often see pressed into service against capital punishment actually supports it.

Matt Eichelberger said...

Christopher, here's my crack at the hermeneutics on this one:

At first glance, you're correct. In the chapter following Romans 12, Paul does speak of fear of authorities established by God. He goes on to curse those who rebel. Here's the portion of Chapter 13 you skipped:

"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."

Now, how are we to reconcile this passage with the fact that many authorities throughout history have committed atrocities that bear no resemblance to "good?" The Nazi example from above is a good one.

And how are we to reconcile the fact that we, as a people, rebelled from Britain to establish our nation?

As you point out, you must read passages from the Bible in concert with those that surround it. We, as the rulers of this country, are the ones personally responsible for the actions of our "authority," as we are that authority. And we are taught in the passages surrounding Romans 13:3-4 that:

"Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse."

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil."

As the "authority" in this nation, the populous is called upon to mete justice. However, we cannot willfully avoid the calling to exhibit the type of love demanded in the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles and still lay claim to the salvation described later still in Romans 13.

Christopher said...

"Now, how are we to reconcile this passage with the fact that many authorities throughout history have committed atrocities that bear no resemblance to "good?" The Nazi example from above is a good one.

And how are we to reconcile the fact that we, as a people, rebelled from Britain to establish our nation?"


Let me add one to the list: The Roman Empire which went on the methodically murder Christians for their faith. Consider the irony that not 20 years after Paul wrote Romans 13 he was murdered by the very government he was describing in it. It is not a valid option to discard the biblical teaching as contrary to human experience.

The Bible is not silent about the role and function of the civil government (one of the three God-ordained governments, in addition to the ecclesiastical and the familial). Therefore it is often not difficult to assess when and how much a government has strayed from its proper role. But the consistent teaching of the Bible is that it is just to repay certain crimes with death, and that the state wields the sword in these circumstances.

The American Revolution and World War II are frankly irrelevant to the overarching question of whether capital punishment is "on the table" in a just society.

As the people, we are not the authority. That's the very point. Even if we were key figures within government, we would not be the government. The fallacy in pressing the verses you cite into service as condemning capital punishment is that it conflates individuals with a corporate entity which they do not even compose. In that sense, it may even be a double fallacy.

As individuals, we are to exhibit love, mercy, and understanding. But that has never meant letting the bad guys get away with it. Even if it did, it does not follow that governments are to discharge their duties with these attributes. As an individual, I am at liberty to forgive someone who sins against me. In fact, I am required to do so. But if I am judge (for example), I am not at liberty to allow a criminal to go free for the same reason.

Micah 6:8 - "He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?"

Kindness and justice are not opposed. It is possible (indeed, necessary) to exhibit both. But just as it is a perversion to insist on justice when an individual suffers a minor wrong, so it is a perversion to insist on kindness when a person commits a heinous act on society.

As a pastor/author whom I respect once said, love of wolves is hatred of sheep.

Matt Eichelberger said...

As the people, we are not the authority. That's the very point. Even if we were key figures within government, we would not be the government. The fallacy in pressing the verses you cite into service as condemning capital punishment is that it conflates individuals with a corporate entity which they do not even compose. In that sense, it may even be a double fallacy.

I'm sorry. We apparently have a fundamental disagreement as to the form of government under which we have chosen to live for the past 233 years. Here's what Thomas Jefferson had to say on the matter:

"I consider the people who constitute a society or nation as the source of all authority in that nation...." Thomas Jefferson: Opinion on French Treaties, 1793.

"[It is] the people, to whom all authority belongs." Thomas Jefferson to Spencer Roane, 1821.

and finally, "Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Thomas Jefferson: Declaration of Independence, 1776.

Moving on now to your assertion that it is "the consistent teaching of the Bible is that it is just to repay certain crimes with death, and that the state wields the sword in these circumstances," I can only assume you mean such crimes as working on Sunday (Exodus 31:15), cursing your parents (Exodus 21:17), or being a rebellious teenager (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).

How "consistent" is the Bible in the face of this?

"As I live, says the Lord God, I swear I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but rather in the wicked man's conversion, that he may live." Ezekiel (33:11)

The bottom line is that we could spend eternity throwing texts back and forth at one another and miss the point. This is as close as it gets to "missing the forest for the trees" in my opinion. There are indeed consistent and overarching themes in the Bible, and one of them is God's devotion to and love of each individual person. Taking the life of another human is inconsistent with that theme, in my opinion.

Now, that aside, what is the end achieved by the use of capital punishment?

Christopher said...

I agree with you 100% on missing the forest for the trees. That's the inevitable result of "cherry picking" verses, and you're right, we could throw verses around all day. But I point out that my initial comment on this post was in response to your citation of a Bible verse. I have no doubt that you are sincere, but my point here is simply that Romans 12:19 has no application to the capital punishment discussion, except to set up Romans 13 which makes it explicit that a key function of the civil government is to wield the sword against wrongdoers as an instrument of God's wrath.

The "forest" that continues to be missed for the trees is the principle that individuals are to be the bearers of God's love while the civil government is to be the bearer of His wrath. There is therefore no verse that does not fit squarely within this paradigm.

The reductio is also fairly simple. If Romans 12:19 leaves no room for governments execute capital criminals, it leaves no room for any sort of punishment. After all, God says "vengeance is mine," so we should not lock up thieves. The Bible says to turn the other cheek, so if a man rapes and murders someone's daughter, we should give the murderer someone else's son. The Bible says to repay evil with good. So once we've convicted someone, we should set him free and give him an allowance.

The reason all this is important to me is that biblical ethics shapes my entire worldview. I am perfectly aware that there are many people that do not share my worldview, and that's fine. The question you pose at the end of your last comment indicates a greater concern for social utilitarianism. While I think utility is certainly a benefit, it is my no means necessary. In this case, I am content to answer the question thus: What is achieved by capital punishment? If nothing else, obedience to God. For me, that's an awful lot.

justiceforjuveniles said...

Is God's wrath mean death? What is the definition of wrath. Sword is a metaphor, not necessarily meaning a literal sword.