One of today’s news headlines reads “Death Penalty Out if Marine arrested in Mexico”.
For those of you who haven’t been reading the news, here is a brief summary of the happenings in this story: In December, Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach (pregnant) went missing. A couple of weeks ago the police identified the primary suspect in the case as Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean. To make a long story short, they have compelling evidence to convict this guy, but he is now believed to be in Mexico.
Why flee to Mexico, rather than many other countries? It turns out that Mexico refuses to extradite suspects who may face the death penalty in their country. As a matter of fact, we are one of the only ‘developed’ countries to still use the death penalty.
A brief list of countries that have abolished the death penalty:
Mexico, Canada, Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela, French Guyana, Paraguay, Uruguay, EVERY COUNTRY IN EUROPE except for Belarus, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, and Australia. In addition, it is abolished except for in times of war in Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. Heck, it is even abolished in practice in Russia and most african countries!
Now a list of who we share this fine distinction of STILL USING THE DEATH PENALTY with:
Guatemala, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, India, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Chad, UAE, Oman, and Mongolia.
Is it right to punish someone for killing another person by committing the same act ourselves? This is the classic question of ‘do two wrongs make a right?’ Many supporters of the death penalty site its effectiveness as a ‘deterrent’… do those who site this effectiveness know that research shows that most criminals who commit crimes punishable through capital punishment are actually SAFER and have a LONGER life expectancy on death row?
Ironically, many supporters of the death penalty identify themselves as members of the ‘religious right’ side of politics… are they aware of the Catholic Church’s official stance on the death penalty? For those Catholics (I am not one myself) who are unaware of the church’s official stance, in 1995 Pope John Paul II stated that execution is only appropriate “in cases of absolute necessity, in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today, however, as a result of steady improvement in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.” He went on to say that “This is the context in which to place the problem of the death penalty. On this matter there is a growing tendency, both in the Church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. The problem must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice ever more in line with human dignity and thus, in the end, with God’s plan for man and society. The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is to redress the disorder caused by the offence. Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfills the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people’s safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated.”
To all who support the death penalty, I ask you to read that statement carefully, and carefully consider the FACTS regarding its effectiveness before deciding on the right way to deal with violent criminals. Anytime something as terrible as murder is being discussed, it is easy to place one’s emotions before critical thought.
Is a society that condemns the act of murder, yet uses it as a form of punishment truly civilized? In the case of the U.S., we have come quite a way, but it seems we may still have a long way to go.