The question is inappropriate because it presumes that society should or even need decide the issue. It is an assumption we have mistakenly and uncritically accepted. The problem derives from the false belief, of both those advocating and those opposing the death penalty, that only one of their two views can or should prevail. Both sides are so blinded by their own personal moral agendas that they believe, and have us believing, that we must collectively choose either to uphold or abolish the death penalty. There is no middle ground, no room for compromise, no other alternative. One cannot be a little bit in favor of the death penalty anymore than one can be a little bit dead. The matter has to be resolved one way or the other if justice is to be served. Or so the argument goes. But are these our only choices and do we even have to choose between such bifurcated options? The answer is no on both counts.
So engrossed have we been in debating contrived, irrelevant, and misleading issues that our attention has been diverted from seeing the most obvious and plausible solution to our self-imposed dilemma; a solution that ironically not only validates the opinions of both sides, but also allows them to coexist within the law. Moreover, it is a solution which avoids the pitfalls of having society grapple with an issue it cannot possibly resolve. What is this solution? It is simply to defer to the individual victim the final decision, whether or not to sanction the death penalty, if imposed, against his or her assailant.
Now admittedly this solution may sound at first absurd. After all how can victims decide the fate of their killers from the grave? But is it so absurd? And if not will it provide for a more equitable and legitimate form of justice than our present system?
The answers can be found in a somewhat unorthodox debate on capital punishment during which murdered victims - whose deaths we so ardently decry but whose views and opinions we so conveniently ignore- are finally allowed their say on the subject. Although presented as pure conjecture our improvised debate will prove enlightening if only by offering an entirely new perspective to an otherwise overworked subject, and as a result, allow for very different conclusions to be drawn. Hopefully it will facilitate and support a better understanding of the solution proposed and the rationale behind it.
Let us end our debate by asking each participant to summarize their views in a closing statement and then open the discussion to the audience. First, the Pro-Capital Punishment Side ( PCPS ).
Capital punishment is necessary if society is to protect itself from murderers. If it deters the unwarranted killing of even one innocent victim then it is a worthwhile penalty to preserve and invoke if only because there is no opportunity for executed murderers to kill again as is too often the case under our current legal system. It is an important and valuable bargaining chip that should not be taken off the table further hamstringing prosecutors in pursuing justice for innocent victims of murder.
Now the Anti-Capital Punishment Side ( ACPS )
Capital punishment has not been proven to be an effective deterrent to murder. It is instead a cruel and unusual from of punishment that should not be sanctioned by an enlightened and compassionate society. Those who are poor or members of racial minorities suffer disproportionately. Moreover, it is an irrevocable act inflicted, not only on those that might be rehabilitated, but also, inexcusably, on those later found to be innocent.
Thank you both. Now let's open the discussion to comments and question from the audience. Yes, way in the back there.