In the wake of a lethal injection execution in Arizona that took 117 minutes to complete, fresh calls have been issued to ban capital punishment.
The man who was executed, Joseph Wood, killed his two victims in 1989 in a premeditated and cold-blooded fashion. Furious with his ex-girlfriend, whom he had treated abusively in the past, he ambushed both the ex-girlfriend and the woman’s father in his place of business and shot them both dead at point-blank range. There were multiple eyewitnesses to the murders, who both saw and heard it as it went down.
He received his constitutional right to a trial by jury, was convicted by the overwhelming nature of the evidence, and was sentenced to die. His sentence was at long last carried out.
In other words, this execution was not “botched,” as media headlines scream. He was sentenced to die, and die he did. Justice was done, although it was meted out 25 years too late.
If we are looking for a more humane form of execution, death by firing squad is it, as even liberal jurist Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit agrees. It is certain, instantaneous and literally painless for the criminal. Death happens so quickly that the human nervous system does not even have time to register the pain before the deceased is standing before his Maker.
A federal judge in California recently ruled the state’s death penalty statute unconstitutional, on the grounds that it has become “inordinate and unpredictable” since over 900 people have been sentenced to death but only 13 people have been executed. The endless delays, caused by a clunky appeals process, means by the time the executed dies, there is no longer any “retributive or deterrent purpose” to an execution.
He is certainly right that the obscenely long time between conviction and execution bleaches away entirely the deterrent effect. As the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of men is fully set to do evil.” In other words, executing a man 25 years after he committed cold-blooded murder makes things worse, not better.
Capital punishment is, without question, biblical. God himself authorizes the death penalty in Genesis 9:5-6. “From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” (Emphasis mine throughout.)
The authority of God-ordained government to exact the ultimate penalty is reaffirmed in the New Testament, where we read, “[I]f you do wrong, be afraid, for he (i.e., civil authority) does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4). The sword, of course, is an instrument of lethal force.
And it is impossible for the death penalty to be unconstitutional, for we read in both the 5th and 14th Amendments that no one can “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” In other words, it is constitutionally appropriate to deprive a man of his life for heinous crimes if the finding of guilt is the result of due process (trial by jury, assistance of counsel, right to question accusers in open court, etc.).
Simply put, then, the death penalty is both biblical and constitutional, and should be carried out swiftly once due process has been observed.
Bottom line: the solution to California’s problem seems simple and direct. Instead of letting the 13 off the hook, perhaps we should put the other 887 in front of a firing squad and send them to their final destination as soon as possible.