COLUMN: Even murderers have rights to life

Allen Hines

A little-publicized provision of the bill to renew the U.S. Patriot Act would give federal prosecutors more chances to get a death sentence if the jury can’t agree during the penalty phase of the trial.

Right now, all 12 members of a jury have to agree to sentence someone to death, and if a jury deadlocks, the defendant is sentenced to life in prison. The provision of the Patriot Act would allow prosecutors to seat a new jury if one or more jurors of the original jury votes for the death penalty. And the process could go on as long as at least one juror on each subsequent jury votes for death.

This provision would allow the federal government to play Yahtzee with people’s lives. If one jury doesn’t call for the death penalty, prosecutors can put the dice back in the cup, shake and pour out a winner.

This is just another way to kill Americans deemed undesirable. The death penalty is not only barbaric, but it also contradicts its purpose and violates a person’s right to life.

Killing another human in any case is barbaric. By killing a murderer, we are saying that he has lost all intrinsic value as a human being. All of us have value, no matter our faults.

Many times when people are sentenced to death, they have committed murder. So, if that sentence is carried out, the justice system would be committing murder by executing the murderer. Igor Primoratz, principal research fellow in the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, answers this criticism by saying that this objection is invalid because it would mean that imprisonment is contradictory since it denies the prisoner his constitutional right to liberty, and fines are contradictory to legal protection of property. However, this argument deals with the rights of human beings and not the hypocrisy of the justice system. The courts do not fine people for imposing fines on others nor do they imprison people for locking others in penitentiaries.

All men and women have an inviolable right to live, no matter what they have done with their lives. This idea was spelled out quite clearly when “thou shalt not kill” was inscribed into a stone tablet. However, Primoratz argues that a murderer cannot claim his right to life after denying it to someone else. Primoratz is correct in this assertion, but the murderer should not have to make that claim. The right to life is central to human existence, and denial of that right should not be an option for anyone under any circumstances.

The death penalty is immoral and should be abolished, but instead lawmakers are making new laws to kill even more people.

Allen Hines is a freshman pre-journalism and mass communication major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].