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If everything goes according to the Governor’s plan, Carey Dean Moore will be executed on August 14. Because Pope Francis has changed the Catholic Church’s official stance on capital punishment, and because lawsuits have been filed by certain pharmaceutical companies who no longer want their drugs to be used in lethal injections, and because activists, such as Omaha’s Sen. Ernie Chambers, continue to fight against capital punishment in Nebraska, I believe the time has come to restate the argument for the death penalty.
Pope Francis recently changed the Vatican’s stance on capital punishment, which he has every right to do. But the Pope changed his position on the basis that capital punishment is “…an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” By ‘person’ he means the murderer convicted of a capital offense. But, just the opposite is the case. Capital punishment stands as our only rational defense against the spread of deadly violence across our land. The death penalty is justified morally by the simple need to protect society’s most valued possession of all, namely innocent human life. Acts of violent murder are considered heinous crimes worthy of the death penalty precisely because they violate our most sacred sense of human dignity in the life of the victim.
The Bible endorses capital punishment because the victim was made in the image of God. The death penalty was the first civil law ever mandated in the Bible. But, notice that death became the penalty prescribed for murder in Genesis 9:6 precisely because the victim was made in the image of God: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” So, the Bible justifies the death penalty because of the sanctity of the victim’s life. Moreover, capital punishment was later codified into the Mosaic Law in Exodus 21:12-14. In the New Testament Jesus recognized Pilot’s authority to crucify him in John 19:11, and the Apostle Paul recognized the authority of the secular state to administer the death penalty in Romans 13:4. So, the Bible justifies capital punishment in both the Old Testament and the New Testament and it does so on the grounds that the victim was made in the image of God.
Currently, the death penalty is administered through lethal injection. Because certain pharmaceutical companies no longer want their products to be used for capital punishment, the lethal drugs have now become difficult to purchase. But, the problem of how to administer the death penalty effectively should really be viewed as nothing more than a false dilemma created by these pharmaceutical companies, especially once one considers that nitrogen gas, a firing squad or even hanging by rope may accomplish the same results and do so with minimal pain and a much cheaper price tag.
Some activists object that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. But, our Founding Fathers passed the Eighth Amendment with full knowledge that both state governments as well as the federal government would continue to administer it. For instance, when the Bill of Rights were adopted in 1789 all 13 states practiced capital punishment. Similarly, on the federal level the Crimes Act of 1790 mandated executions for acts of treason, and the U.S. Coinage Act of 1792 mandated the death penalty for counterfeiters. So, if the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment, why did all 13 states continue to administer it and why did our Founding Fathers pass these two Acts of Congress within the first three years of their adopting the Bill of Rights? Clearly, our Founding Fathers never viewed the death penalty as a violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Death penalty opponents also complain that capital punishment is just too expensive. They say that the legal process involves too many layers of appeals, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars. But, this is not true. For instance, between 2003 and 2014 there were 11 inmates on death row in Nebraska. These 11 inmates made 35 appeals during those years. By way of comparison, more than 5,000 appeals were filed by non-capital offenders during that same period of time. So, the argument that the death penalty creates too many layers of appeals fails by way of comparison to the number of appeals filed by non-capital offenders.
Finally, the death penalty works as a powerful deterrent against violent crime. A 2003 nationwide study conducted by researchers from Clemson University and Emory University found that each execution deters on average 18 additional murders. So, we know that the death penalty acts as a powerful deterrent against violent crime.
In 2016 the people of Nebraska voted through a ballot initiative to reinstate the death penalty. Capital punishment is what the people of our state want. I, too, believe it is right for Nebraska. Therefore, I will work to pass the kind of legislation which will continue to deter violent crime and keep our citizens safe.