Conservative Political Commentary

...usually with an attempt at historical and economic context

Saturday, October 10, 2009

EU Wants U.S. To End Death Penalty


“End death penalty, EU tells U.S.” – Headline
The European Union wants the United States to abolish the death penalty. They cite examples of people wrongly convicted and sentenced to death and maintain that the death penalty is subject to errors and doesn’t help human dignity.

“‘For the EU, it’s a matter of principle,’ said, John Bruton, former Irish prime minister and the EU ambassador to the United States.’” [1]

“‘The EU believes that the elimination of the death penalty is fundamental to the enhancement of human dignity and to the progressive development of human rights,’ [Swedish Ambassador Jonas] Hafstrom said on behalf of the 27-member political union.” [2]

“EU wants death penalty halted; Perry says butt out” – Headline
Governor Rick Perry of Texas, the leading state for executions in the U.S., has been unmoved by the EU’s calls for death penalty abolition. Replying to an EU request to him in August 2007, was the following:
“The governor's spokesman, Robert Black, said in a statement that ‘230 years ago, our forefathers fought a war to throw off the yoke of a European monarch and gain the freedom of self-determination.

“‘Texans long ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens. While we respect our friends in Europe, welcome their investment in our state and appreciate their interest in our laws, Texans are doing just fine governing Texas.’” [3]

Some Arguments
There have been a few cases of the death penalty being applied in the U.S. in recent years in which DNA evidence did not support the guilt of the person executed, or prosecutors illegally withheld mitigating evidence. These cases are regrettable and actions are being taken to use DNA evidence where possible and judges are likely more sensitive these days to use of evidence against defendants. But these items, unfortunate, tragic, as they are, do not present a convincing case against capital punishment.

Any law can be mistakenly applied. If the death penalty were being illegally or erroneously applied in many cases, there would be an argument for making it illegal. But such is not the case. The philosophical and legal arguments should be the basis of decisions on the death penalty. Here are some reasons I support it:

1. There are cases in which the death penalty represents the only possibility of approaching a just punishment. Many crimes are extremely horrendous and any punishment short of the death penalty appears to almost excuse them.

2. The state does not offend human dignity by properly applying the death penalty. It offends human dignity by not punishing serious crimes sufficiently.

3. The state has every traditional, legal, and moral right to execute perpetrators of very serious crimes, provided they do so in accordance with the law.

4. Some object to the death penalty on biblical grounds. But the Bible indicates that use of the death penalty under strict rules is not only acceptable, but was sometimes mandatory. While we do not have the same laws as ancient Israel, nor should we, the aforementioned fact shows that scripturally, the death penalty is not, ipso facto, wrong, although it can be wrongly used.

People interested in the legality of the death penalty may find the following exchange between Alan Keyes and Barack Obama of interest. This is from a debate when both were candidates for the Illinois Senate seat which Obama won:



President Obama has said that he is in favor of the death penalty in certain extreme cases, such as child rape. He has also said he would support the death penalty for Osama bin Laden. My own views are quite in agreement with Mr. Keyes on both the death penalty and abortion. Dealing with life and death issues stirs emotions on all sides. While I can see an execution as a tragic event, it normally follows an even more tragic crime. Sometimes, justice simply cannot be served with a lesser punishment. But in any case, serious deliberation and careful consideration of the evidence is needed. Otherwise, one crime is compounded by another.

Does the EU Know What’s Best?
The other issue involved in the EU call for ending the death penalty is that of the appropriateness of the EU getting involved with American laws:

“The EU said it was helping capital punishment foes in the U.S. by filing amicus curiae briefs in appellate courts hearing death-penalty appeals. The EU also has funded studies by the American Bar Association to investigate the fairness of specific cases.” [4]

I see this as somewhat inappropriate, similar to the Supreme Court using foreign laws to help them adjudicate cases.

In a prior case, as commented upon by Debra J. Saunders at sfgate.com,

“Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave Our Betters in Europe a taste of their own bitter medicine. Angry at the governor's refusal to stop the Dec. 13 execution of convicted four-time murderer Stanley Tookie Williams, city leaders of Graz, Austria, mobilized to remove Austria’s most famous son's name from a stadium. Schwarzenegger responded with a ‘Dear Hans’ letter. In it, he revoked the city's permission to use his name on the stadium and promote Graz as a tourist destination. Schwarzenegger also returned a ‘ring of honor’ bestowed by his hometown in 1999....

“It apparently takes a European-born American to see what the Euro-elites are -- so desperate to promote themselves as better than Americans that they kowtow to thugs.

“One ‘human rights’ group, the Association of Christianity and Social Democracy, proposed that the stadium be named after Williams. That makes sense: Flaunt how your opposition to capital punishment makes you superior by honoring a felon who shot an unarmed man in the back, then later shot a father, mother and their adult daughter and left them to die slow, painful deaths.” [5]

Americans are not always fond of being preached to by European authorities, whom many view has having little moral authority to lecture the U.S. We do not need to make pleasing Europeans on this issue a high priority. We have already compromised our national sovereignty in too many other ways.

[1] Alexander Besant, Hearst Newspapers, “End death penalty, EU tells U.S.,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram online, 10/09/2009, at http://www.star-telegram.com/nation/story/1675231.html.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “EU wants death penalty halted; Perry says butt out,” My SA News 08/21/2007, at
http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/MYSA082207_2B_perryexecution_3221f1d_html35741.html.

[4] Besant, see [1].

[5] Debra J. Saunders, “The governor strikes back,” SFGate.com, 12/29/2005, at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/12/29/EDGG6GDPDE1.DTL&type=printable.

Photo: Dreamstime.com

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