Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2000 06:37:27 -0700 (PDT)

Texas: The Execution State

Gary Graham was executed by the state of Texas last night. He was convicted of a murder in 1981. He conviction rested on the testimony of a single eyewitness. Two other eyewitnesses claim that Graham is (was) innocent. While the testified in open court, they were never allowed to take the stand. Graham was 39 years old.

Texas has scheduled 15 more executions before election day.

You can visit the Texas execution web site at:

The state of Texas has executed 135 people over the last five years.

Recently in Illinois, thirteen people have been released from death row because it was discovered that they were actually innocent. In at least one case, the accused was framed by police in collusion with a district attorney.

Ask yourself: Can we honor the sanctity of human life by killing an unwilling person?

Argument: "It's a deterrent."
Counter: False. All research on this topic has indicated that the death penalty is not a deterrent. Criminals simply try to avoid the maximum penalty, whatever that may be.

Argument: "It balances the scales."
Counter: What scales? Show them to me.

Argument: "It makes the victims feel better."
Counter: What about me? I cried this morning when I heard the news. I feel bad, really bad. Any victim who needs to have a human life snuffed out in order to feel better needs counseling.

Argument: "God demands justice."
Counter: God demands a lot of silly things like that we not wear clothing of a diverse sort (somewhere in Leviticus - read the whole book). Those of you wearing poly-cotton blends get undressed right now.

Argument: "Justice demands an eye for an eye."
Counter: If we really subscribed to this, we would release rapists after their first prison experience as a rape victim. Who is Justice? I haven't even seen a picture or heard a recording of this putative entity demanding anything whatsoever. Let's be honest. Abstractions demand nothing. Justice does not demand executions. Rather, people demand revenge.

Argument: "When a life is taken, it is society's responsibility to take a life in return."
Counter: This is called revenge. While almost every Hollywood yahoo action flick centers around this concept, revenge is not a motivation that accomplishes positive results. Revenge is a response from anger, an emotion that clouds thinking. It is closely related to hate, the most destructive emotion a person can feel. In case you have never fully parsed the statement "Revenge is a dish best served cold," consider how many times you have wished someone ill in a moment of anger. Then consider whether you even cared the next day. If anger persists for you, get some counseling.

If you endorse the death penalty, ask yourself whether you are willing to sacrifice innocent people to the pyres of revenge. Innocent people are routinely executed. It has happened. It continues to happen. It will continue to happen for as long as humans are fallible and the people of our society continue to be willing to respond to wrongdoers with anger.

Do you subscribe to democratic values? Democracies recognize two basic facts of the human condition:

1. Everybody matters.
2. Everybody matters exactly as much as everybody else.

These facts are not conditional. The fact that a human life has worth cannot be invalidated. The death penalty is a societal invalidation of the sanctity of human life. It is a failure to recognize that, while a person has done something horribly wrong, that person is still a person with value.

In a democracy, the power stems from the society's constituents. Power is granted to the government through the assent of its citizens. This is why we are allowed to vote. Ask yourself: do you grant the power life and death over your own person to your government? Do you grant the powers of life and death over your own person to your neighbors? To the stranger in another city? Do you entrust the power of life and death over your spouse, lover, or children to the hate mongering bigot across the street? Remember that in a free society, a wide variety of values coexist. Those who sit in judgement frequently view things differently from those who are judged.

Argument: "Some people should die. That's just unconscious knowledge." (With a tip of the proverbial hat to Perry Farrell for his eloquent statement)
Counter: Yes, probably some people should die. There are a great many people without whom the entire human race would be better off, but it is not our place as reasonable people who value the sanctity of human life to kill those people. It is our responsibility to respond to the worst of situations with as much compassion as possible. It is only through compassion for our fellow human beings and not through motivations of hate or revenge that we can build a better society and a brighter future.

Alan Wescoat

"Revenge is a dish best served cold."
What price, revenge?