Let Capital Punishment Die

I’m saddened that it takes a death sentence to make us think about government-sponsored dying. But, as you might expect, the recent sentencing to death of the Cheshire home-invasion monster Joshua Komisarjevsky has prompted a spate of well-deserved hand-wringing over the paradox of a blue state engaging in culturally conservative behavior.

I was born and raised in red-state Texas and believe passionately in law and order, but I’ve long been opposed to the death penalty, not out of sympathy for the victim — who in all cases is a convicted murderer — but on libertarian grounds: How can people who say they believe in small government cheer the state as its grinding bureaucratic machinery systematically puts one of its own citizens to death?

And I am unmoved by capital-punishment opponents such as The Hartford Courant, which lamented in an editorial this morning that the death penalty isn’t administered fairly and that it winds up being more expensive than life-without-parole because of the extensive appeals process. I’m not even swayed by the position, also trotted out by The Courant in that same editorial, that the motivation for capital punishment is more rooted in revenge that justice.

Like death penalty advocates, I find all those arguments largely irrelevant, but for an entirely different reason. For in capital punishment we are confronted by the barbaric specter of a government doctor administering a lethal injection to a convicted killer. And, in giving the state the sacred authority to do so, we are party to a behavior that is even more barbaric — and potentially more frightening — than that of the perpetrator.

Any state that allows the government to decide who lives and who dies has a lot of soul-searching to do. So let’s start at home, eh?

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