Thirty years ago, two black, mentally disabled men were convicted of the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. One of the men spent all thirty years on death row. A few days ago, DNA evidence was used to show that both men are innocent, and they have been ordered to be released.
Now here’s the ironic part. Back in 1994, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia used this case as an example of why the death penalty was necessary, saying in a legal opinion:
For example, the case of an 11-year-old girl raped by four men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat. How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that!
And this is exactly the problem with the death penalty. It is justified based on the perceived horror of the crime, and not paying much attention at all to whether or not the convicted is clearly guilty or not. We recoil at the horror, and use that to justify the ultimate punishment.
In this case, there was plenty of evidence that should have created doubt that the men were guilty. But that evidence was ignored, in order to create the appearance of justice.
My problem with the death penalty is not so much that I think it is morally wrong. The point is, we are woefully unqualified to make decisions in capital cases. After all, who are we to judge?