Letter to the Editor: Death penalty morality not simple as ‘eye-for-an-eye’ mentality

I recently came across a copy of the Oct. 26 issue of the Daily Skiff in which I read an article in the Opinion section titled “Death row inmates deserve harsher execution method.”I enjoy taking the time to read the Skiff in between classes and catching up on my classmates’ viewpoint on current affairs.

However, in this particular issue I was disappointed in the effort put forth by one of your writers.

I understand the nature of the opinion section of the paper, and I of course respect the writers who are willing to share their opinion to so many people.

On the other hand, there is a certain responsibility that goes along with printing an opinion article on such a controversial topic.

If the ideas are underdeveloped or rushed, it is very likely that the readers will be disappointed, if not offended, by the opinion.

After reading the brief article there are a few points I would like to present to the writer as some food for thought. Perhaps he considered all of these points and simply left them out due to constraints on the length of the article; or perhaps not.

Whatever the case may be, I feel like these issues must be addressed at some point.

Before attending to any particulars in the death penalty topic, it seems to me that we must first ask ourselves what exactly is the role of the U.S. government.

Obvious answers that come to mind may be: to protect and balance the rights of its citizens and to reflect the beliefs of its citizens. In doing this we may also add the intangible factor of setting an example for us and the rest of the world by doing “the right thing.” The last function stated there is crucial.

We like to think of our government in this manner when we try to rationalize invading other countries to spread freedom to oppressed nations.

What is it that tells us freedom is such a great thing to begin with? It’s a common set of morals and beliefs, whatever they may be, that unites our effort to help afflicted nations.

“Doing the right thing” is a marquee term for U.S. foreign relations.

However, it is not something that can be swept under the rug in domestic issues.

This same set of morals and beliefs that we follow on the global scale must also be applied at the individual level.

We, as Americans, have a preoccupation with our right to live freely.

It is also understood, though, that once someone threatens the rights of others, it is the government’s role to step in and correct the situation.

As far as I understand, according to the eighth amendment, it is also necessary that the government correct this imbalance in the proper way.

It must do only what is necessary to make the situation right.

Anything more than that could be cruel and unusual punishment, and anything less would be a failure to fulfill its role as protector of its citizens.

That being said, let us look at the example provided in the original article in the Skiff.

It is explained how a harsher form of the death penalty would be conducted if a criminal had been convicted of murdering someone by stabbing them numerous times.

“If a killer stabbed someone multiple times, he or she should be murdered by being stabbed also.”

With the example above, we have established a simple rule of thumb for punishing murderers: “as unethical as it sounds, death row inmates should die the same way their victims did. It’s as simple as that.” However, I somehow get the feeling that it’s not as simple as that.

This is not any disrespect to the victims or their families or even to the writer of this article.

This is simply an extremely underdeveloped idea.

The U.S. government is not in the business of revenge, and in protecting the rights of some, it does not assume the rights of an organized murderer.

In what warped form of morality does it make sense to double the amount of violent murders in our country?

According to this plan, every time someone is stabbed to death we can simply double the number. Soon enough, the government will step in and brutally murder that person as well.

Not only is this morally wrong, but it’s also legally wrong in this country.

Punishment should only be enforced to the level at which all other citizens regain their balance in rights again.

If we lock up the murderer then he will not murder innocent citizens again. Anything more than that is cruel and unusual punishment.

If I get into a fight with John Doe and he punches me, what happens? Do police come, punch him and say it’s all been handled?

No, they don’t, because as a nation we have progressed far beyond simple acts of revenge.

The police will only do what they believe needs to be done in order for John Doe to stop punching people; whether it’s issuing a ticket, spending some time in jail, etc.

All moral philosophy put aside, there are some pretty obvious functionality problems with this new plan as well.

I can only imagine that the people who give lethal injections surely must lose some sleep on those nights.

It must be a horrible feeling knowing that your job is to murder people whom you don’t even know.

But who is going to apply for the job of brutally stabbing people to death? In reading the article, I could only assume that the person who developed this plan must be willing to take that job.

If you really believe it’s the “right thing to do” then you would not have any problem shooting a murderer multiple times or stabbing them and watching them bleed to death.

I may be making a horrible assumption, but it just seems like there is no way the writer ever even thought of that.

What about the religious implications that may follow? I don’t assume any religious affiliations of the writer because I certainly don’t intend for this to be a religious battle.

However, it is possible that the hired killer who will be stabbing convicted murderers to death today may be a Christian.

As a Christian he would probably believe in a judgment day, and certainly that thought would cross his mind often as he abruptly sent people to theirs for a living.

What would his god have to say about the last 30 years of his life when he took that government job? Were those murders warranted? Are they ever warranted? These are only a few topics that I felt needed to be commented on or at least considered when writing an article in support of organized murder.

Of course with a topic as controversial as this I’m sure we could all go on for days, but just as with the writer of this article we all have our constraints.

Derek VerHagen is a junior entrepreneurial management major.