Soon after a shooter takes the lives of several individuals, it is only a matter of time before people call for his execution.
When James Holmes, the Aurora theater perpetrator, ended his rampage, dozens of surviving victims and their families clamored for his death. Rather than accepting the defense’s guilty plea of life in prison without the possibility of parole, the prosecutor representing the people of Colorado demanded, “justice is death.”
The death penalty may be just in cases like Holmes’, but it is far from efficient. Being sentenced to capital punishment is no speedy process. The defendant will first experience the arraignment level and inevitably appeal the trial court’s decision, leading to years of legal wrangling and costs for our judicial system.
Furthermore, prisoners may sit on death row for decades before receiving the punishment.
“Would the time and money devoted to achieving this man’s death not be better spent on services and law enforcement initiatives meant to repair and prevent the mindless devastation of criminal homicide?” James R. Acker, a distinguished professor at the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Albany, wrote.
A 2011 study by two Californian judges found that death penalty cases are 20 times more expensive than cases where the death penalty is not pursued. Factors such as increased time spent in trials and longer jury selection processes are factors in the increased costs.
Death Penalty Focus, a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to the abolition of capital punishment, explains that while our constitutional process ensures that innocent individuals are protected, it also creates astronomical costs in capital punishment cases. Colorado currently harbors three death row prisoners, but the state’s last execution occurred more than 45 years ago, according to the national Death Penalty Information Center.
In many states, such as Colorado, a death row conviction looks more like lifetime without parole because of the state’s unwillingness to execute an innocent person or to even face the discussion of execution at all. Rather than providing victims, their families and the family of the accused an expedient result, these groups are dragged through the emotional upheaval of waiting and watching the justice system work.
As Christians, the fundamental question is whether the death penalty is in line with Scripture’s teachings.
“The New Testament clearly teaches that capital punishment is God’s will for human civilization,” David Miller, a writer for Apologetics Press, said. “Every individual deserves the opportunity to understand Christ’s sacrifice, and none are beyond God’s grace, but the Bible is clear that taking others’ lives is punishable by death.”
Even Paul did not object to death in Acts 25:11, saying, “If I am an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I do not object to dying.”
According to Miller, “Paul was acknowledging that the state properly possesses the power of life and death in the administration of civil justice.”
Christians may support capital punishment without negating their beliefs, but the modern approach to capital punishment is an expensive and emotionally destructive path. The death penalty has become a pit of money and lost years without providing the justice that victims expect.