Kimberly McCarthy became the 500th person executed in Texas since that state re-instated capital punishment. The problem with this morally, if we dig into the story, is that executing her really didn’t help anyone. As we read through her story, McCarthy’s case is one that is particularly heinous. She killed an elderly woman to steal from to help feed her crack addiction. You don’t get much lower than that.
At her execution, McCarthy offered no repentance for her crime. She said nothing to the victim’s family at all. She stood with her friends and a spiritual advisor and said she just looked forward to being with God. The victim’s family felt justice had been done. Death penalty opponents viewed the whole process as barbaric.
But shouldn’t our goal when we find a soul that far off course is to help them recognize the wrongness of what they have done? Shouldn’t we help them to see the nature of what they have done and hopefully get them to feel some genuine remorse? Shouldn’t we even find a way for them to offer some type of compensation (not that anything could pay the victim’s family back for such a crime) but it would help the perpetrator at least try to make a difference for good instead of evil? Shouldn’t we get such a person to help others see the evils of drug addiction? And even if the perpetrator never repented and saw the error of their ways, isn’t there some work we could make them do some work that would be of benefit to society (even behind bars) rather than have their whole life as a collective minus sign? We should punish the guilty but the punishment should be one that tries to help everyone – the victims, our society, and even the perpetrators. Killing them might save us money but it does nothing to right the injustices they committed or prevent other killings from happening.
The death penalty doesn’t scare people into being law abiders (despite their 500 executions, Texas does not have one of the lowest murder rates. Indeed, my home state of Louisiana has some of the most executions and we also have one of the highest murder rates). So, if it isn’t a deterrent, then what is it for? I suspect that it makes us all emotionally feel that at least we have sent a strong message to society over how we view that person led their life. But there really is no evidence that it helps anyone in the long run, is there? Can’t we get beyond our emotions and figure out, even for the most negative souls, how we can get them on a more productive path (even if it is behind bars for the rest of their lives for some)? Isn’t there a way we can make our correctional system correct bad behavior and somehow produce a productive member of society again?
History, even the Bible, has a good number of stories of people who were on a very wrong path but found a better way by the end. Can’t we at least try to offer the same?
If I were a member of the victim’s family, it would not have left me with good feelings seeing my family member’s murderer sitting in her execution chamber, showing no remorse, and just eagerly looking forward to heaven. Heaven and forgiveness might indeed await her (only God knows that) but I strongly believe in the need for repentance. When none is offered we as a society should be gravely concerned and we short circuit any type of good that person’s life could have been for when we terminate it.
I do believe there are times when human beings need to use lethal force in defense of others. I wouldn’t serve in the military or support our law enforcement officers if I didn’t. But once we have someone in custody and they are no longer a threat, I think we are smart enough to figure out how to get even the worst souls to be contributors to our society. I also believe even the most lost souls can find their way in time. And I think that we can offer more to victim’s families than simply to execute their loved one’s perpetrator.
Capital punishment may be easier but it is not the best path.
What do you think?
Until next time,