The Corner

I Don’t Buy It

Or maybe I don’t understand it. A reader writes:

Dear Mr. Goldberg,

The argument against executing Mr. Smith is that other murderers (assuming he is, of course, the culprit) have performed substantially similar actions

and have not been executed.

See eg, Reinhardt’s argument (his answer to question 10).

Not to suggest it is a particularly compelling argument, but it is certainly valid to question whether it is justice to execute the murderer who makes numerous mistakes, incontrovertibly proving his guilt, while letting the smarter but no less worse murderer receive only life in prison due to a lesser body of evidence against him.

ME: Assuming I understand his point, I don’t see why person X should not get the punishment he deserves because person Y didn’t get the punishment he deserved. If some murderers are cheating justice because of a lack of evidence, that’s too bad. But that’s the price we pay for a system based upon fair trials. But it simply doesn’t strike me as “unfair” to execute a murderer caught dead to rights even if someone else gets off for a similar crime. The justice system makes all sorts of compromises with circumstance. But if it doesn’t have to, and the guy deserves it, why not go for the most just punishment? I think it’s terrible that mob hit men strike deals for their testimony, getting cushy safe-houses and/or country club prisons. But just because those mass murderers get such deals, does that mean all mass-murderers should get similar deals?

By the way, I’m not saying that all murderers should always get the death penalty. I think we can discriminate, as most laws do, between different kinds of homicide.


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