We punish to deter. We punish to acknowledge the harm brought to the victim, to their loved ones, to their community. We punish to shame and to publicly dishonor the criminal. But the way we do it should embody ideals of humanity, magnanimity, and improvement. Punishment thus should be as light as is consistent with the requirements of security and harmonious society. We must learn, against the grain of our vengeful retributive instincts, to find satisfaction in justice that leaves the thief with his hands, the murderer with his life.
Lee Siegel wishes the Davis case had attracted more attention:
Davis’s scheduled execution received more and more attention as its hour approached, but nothing like some previous causes célèbres over the past few months. If Davis’s impending execution had, in the same time period, received half the attention lavished on Anthony Weiner, the earthquake that barely was, the hurricane that wasn’t, and a dozen other subsidiary collective obsessions—e.g., Charlie Sheen’s world-historical roast—the question of capital punishment itself might be at the center of debate, and not only the question of Troy Davis’s innocence.
A chart on death penalty public opinion via Tim Murphy:
Murphy notes some newer numbers by the Public Religion Research Institute:
There is … an important intensity gap. Three times as many Americans say they strongly favor the death penalty as say they strongly oppose it (33% vs. 11% respectively).
And where, one wonders, are the Catholic bishops? Still trying to stamp out the real evil of gay couples settling down and committing to one another.
(Photo: Demonstrators wait as they call for Georgia state officials to halt the scheduled execution of convicted cop killer Troy Davis at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia, on Wednesday, September 21, 2011. The execution of Davis was delayed while the US Supreme Court considered a last-minute appeal from the convicted murderer's lawyers. By Erik S. Lesser/AFP/Getty Images)