I asked a while ago, “When is it right for one person to kill another person.” We talked a fair amount about self defense. But another controversial example is a state authorized execution.
Arizona has recently had a special role in American death penalty jurisprudence. Specifically, Ring v. Arizona [syllabus]was the case that said juries, not judges, had to find the factual justifications for making a defendant eligible for the death penalty. The named defendant, the opinion affected several others, just recently accepted a life sentence. Although, it appears he has some more appealing in mind, perhaps asserting that he was in fact innocent. [story] The story does a pretty nice job of summarizing things, except I didn’t know any defense attorneys who thought this was going to be good for defendants.
The Hebrews had some rules about putting people to death. Exodus 21 contains the list of offenses. (If you pull up the link, notice that in Exodus 21:22 our translators think the offense is causing the woman to have a premature birth; but the note tells you maybe it means miscarriage. I think the causing the baby to come out of her almost certainly means miscarriage, but that translation interfers with pro-life position so it finds its way into the footnote.)
Exodus 22-23 have some interesting stuff about property rights and cultural laws. Here is a bit about mercy and warning against wrongful conviction. Here are verses 6-7:
Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.
Seems like the Hebrews, after much reflection on their relationship to God and their place in the world, came to a pretty similar conclusion as Americans on this topic. There are some things that merit the death penalty, but man you better be very careful in handing it out, and it better not matter what your social class is in making the determination.
I think there are probably people who deserve to die (whatever that means) but I think it is too hard to do it right in our huge anonymous society.