The death penalty does not comment on the criminal nor his crimes. Rather, it comments on the society in which he lives.
I understand the outrage that can occur when hearing about a particularly heinous crime. Just recently a man was arrested with his girlfriends esophagous in his shirt pocket. He also allegedly gouged out her eyes and heart and cut off one one her hands and one of her feet. He hasn't been tried yet, but it doesn't look good for him. Without a doubt, this is a sick and viscious crime.
But what good does it serve if this man should be found guilty and executed? Where is the benefit? Some would say that it saves the state money, thereby equating human life with dollars in a most direct manner. To them I ask, "How much for your daughters?" To equate human life with money is easily recognized as wrong that it shouldn't even be an issue.
Some might say that we, as a society, should execute them because we, as a society, find their actions so despicable that we need to say, in no uncertain terms, that murder is entirely unacceptable, that human life is so valuable that those who take it need to be done the same way. But how does emulating a murderer, whom I think we can all agree is terrible, somehow show that murder is wrong? Imitating criminals, that is, taking the life of the defenseless, doesn't seem a wise course of action.
There are other things that generally blur the issue at hand. Things like the execution of innocent men, the conditions of prisons, rascism and classism in the justice system, etc. These are all important topics. However, they don't speak directly to the wrongness of the punishment in the first place.
Embracing the death penalty isn't about morality, for murder isn't moral. It's about sating bloodlust. It's about wagging our collective finger at the guilty and getting a rush from his death. When Ted Bundy was executed in Florida, news reports said the scene was like a college football game. People were eating hotdogs and laughing and holding signs like the one that said "Thank God it's Fryday." It's hard to believe that justice was uppermost in the mind of the crowd. It looked more like bloodlust.
On a personal note, I've been opposed to the death penalty for a long time, but when I watched the coverage of Karla Faye Tucker's murder on television I was aghast. It was the same feeling as looking at the pictures of concentration camps from WWII. It was so obviously wrong, but they did it anyway. It's not that I cared about her conversion, for I'm not a Christian. I'm not even religious. It was the horror of life being taken. Gov. Bush said in a press conference that he'd prayed for guidance. Bush is a Christian. Apparently, Jesus is a little more bloodthirsty than he used to be.
We all know that killing is wrong. Wrap yourself in the auspices of official state power all you want. It's wrong.
And you know it.