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The Straggler

Sad, Bad, Mad

by John Derbyshire

John Derbyshire hears both sides of the capital-punishment argument

Scowling out at me from my New York Post is Steven Hayes, recently convicted of an exceptionally vile crime in my neighbor state of Connecticut. With another man, not yet tried, Hayes invaded a family home, clubbed the father senseless, raped and strangled the mother, and then set the house on fire, burning alive the two daughters. He has been found guilty on 16 charges, six of them capital. The sentencing phase of the trial now begins, with arguments as to whether or not Hayes should be executed.

Public opinion in the region strongly favors execution — a respectable poll recorded 76 percent for, 18 percent against. Anglosphere nations, and most other nations too, I believe, always have good majorities in favor of capital punishment. This is, however, one of those issues on which public opinion seems unable to manifest itself as political action. For decades now capital punishment has been less and less practiced in civilized nations, part of the general softening of manners and attitudes that has come with what Francis Fukuyama called “the Great Disruption” — the slow, mostly peaceful revolution that began in the mid-1960s. Connecticut has executed just one person since 1960.

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