A CONSERVATIVE LOOKS AT THE DEATH PENALTY….Rod Dreher of NRO’s The Corner writes about the death penalty:
I find the older I get, the more inclined I am to say if err we must, then let us err on the side of life — even if it means suffering scumbags to draw breath until their natural deaths.
I’m getting off the subject here for a sec, but I want to mention something that really got to me. An old man to whom I was close died a few years ago, well into his 90s. On his deathbed, he confessed that he was haunted by his participation in an extrajudicial killing back in the 1930s. He was part of a lynching party organized by the sheriff, who for his own reasons didn’t want to have to worry about the courts. He got the men together, and they hanged this criminal. Well, it came out shortly thereafter that the criminal they hanged was completely innocent. For various reasons, all the men had believed him unquestionably guilty; anyway, the sheriff had told them it was so, hadn’t he? Nothing was ever done to the lynching party, and the incident was forgotten. Sixty some-odd years later, as he lay dying, with an entire lifetime of experience behind him, this is what tormented that old man.
Mind you, our modern prosecutorial and jury system is light years away from a rural lynch mob of the 1930s. Still, the potential for human error, swayed by prejudice, emotion, or plain old fallibility, is always present. Maybe one reason I fear the death penalty is I can too easily imagine myself as part of that lynch mob, trusting governmental authority and carried away by my own emotions, seeing only what I wanted to see, and not aware of my own capacity for error.