Like the existence of God or the meaning of life, the death penalty appears to be one of those eternal questions that can be debated perennially until Judgment Day, but is it?
Both the pro-capital and anti-capital punishment lobbies tend to argue with their stomachs rather than with their heads. Time and time again we hear such nonsense as what if they execute the wrong person; an eye for an eye; it doesn't deter murder; public opinion demands it, and so on. Most of these arguments can be dismissed summarily.
The claim that the state has no right to take somebody's life or that capital punishment is the moral equivalent of murder is particularly frivolous. To begin with, although pragmatic politicians like to avoid it, most states have no qualms about going to war when it suits them. Modern warfare is more or less contingent on the killing of innocent people, including at times women and children. A state that is unwilling to execute a serial killer who has been convicted by due process of law ought not to take up arms against another country, certainly not as Britain did in the Falklands War, to take just one example.
The argument about wrongful execution sounds compelling when presented by the likes of shameless liar Clive Stafford Smith, but that too evaporates when considered rationally. Execution is the extreme punishment, and if reserved for extreme cases, there are no real grounds for opposing it. And extreme cases are? Ted Bundy. That is about as extreme as they get. Bundy was tried for three murders and convicted of all three. Although he protested his innocence, he was convicted on overwhelming evidence, and later confessed to many more in a vain attempt to stave off his execution.
What rational argument can there be for not executing a serial killer who has been convicted of murder after murder on absolutely overwhelming evidence? Recently, a woman who murdered six people was hanged in Japan. A man who had murdered two people during the course of a 2003 robbery was also executed. A total of 7 executions have been carried out there this year - there were none last year. For a nation that has a population of over 125 million, that is surely an acceptable rate of execution.
Regarding the supposed inhumanity of capital punishment, what is the alternative for serial killers and others who are so dangerous they can never be released? In practice, the only thing that can be done is lock them up for life. Is this humane? Ask Ian Brady, or take a look at some of the videos of SuperMax prisons on YouTube. The picture below is an artist's impression of a cell in one such prison. How would you like to be confined in a cell like that every day for the next thirty, forty or more years? Double killer Gary Gilmore who was sentenced to death in October 1976 could have delayed his execution for months, years or even perhaps decades but elected to die rather than face such a fate.
An artist's impression of a cell in an American SuperMax prison.