A libertarian opinion on capital punishment

Randall Dale Adams (December 17, 1948 – October 30, 2010) was wrongly convicted of murdering police officer Robert W. Wood, and was subsequently sentenced to death.  He served more than 12 years in prison, at one point coming within 72 hours of being put to death.  His death sentence was reduced through appeal to the United States Supreme Court, and eight years later he was released when evidence was uncovered proving his innocence.

In the past I once argued in favor of capital punishment because it is so obvious to me that in murdering someone the murderer forfeits his rights entirely.  I couldn’t stand the objections that every life is equally valid and who are we to take a life and judge a person, etc.  I’ll tell you who we are–we are innocent people who have but one life to live and if some sociopath kills us it’s over forever.  Later on he may serve ten to thirty years, maybe even his whole life, but he gets to live.  In terms of violating the non-aggression principal it’s just not fair.

Over time, however, I have come to distrust the State’s monopoly of power to such an extent that I now believe it is dangerous to entrust it even with this, one of it’s rare but arguably legitimate functions.  Therefore I currently revert my support in it’s entirety for capital punishment.

There are exceptions in my humble opinion.  For example, if honest law men and women  have him dead to rights society will be glad he’s gone.

That said, murder is not the only capital crime in this country: treason, espionage and drug trafficking are still capital offenses in some states, although recently fewer have exercised the death penalty than in the not distant past.

Given our current advantages within law enforcement regarding DNA testing, carbon dating, etc. on could make a compelling argument for the continuation of capital punishment.  I may even prefer the state’s deciding their status on a state by state level.  I cannot however, as someone who will always respect’s the lives and self-ownership of the unborn, consistently not support the lives of those being imprisoned for their crimes.  This consistency is the only prerequisite argument for the existence of a limited state that I will personally ever recognize as legitimate.

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