When you think “Capital Punishment” I bet the first thought that crosses your mind is not “mercy.” In fact, in Amanda’s opening statement she believes that sparing someone the death penalty is both merciful and just.
When I first started trying to respond to this line of thought, I had the problem of pinning down exactly what mercy means. In my mind it’s a shifting and subjective concept. But when we finally agreed on what it was, we came to the following:
Mercy is not getting what we deserve.
The problem with stating that Capital Punishment is both merciful and just is that you have to define what just is first.
In order for you to say that it’s merciful to allow someone to live instead of sentencing them to death, you have to say that they deserve death. Stated slightly differently, the position that it’s merciful not to kill someone for a capital offense states, by definition, that it would be just to put them to death.
This presents a dilemma for Amanda’s point of view. Once you’ve moved the bar to say that it is just to give them life in prison, the bar for mercy then must move as well. Since the two are interlinked.
So, for example, if it is just to have them spend life behind bars, then mercy would either cut the sentence short (not give them the whole time they deserve) or would make their stay more pleasant.
If we grant, for the moment, that it is just for them to lose their life for the capital offense, we are then faced with the question of whether it’s more merciful to have them spend their life behind bars or to kill them.
First, I would argue that it is more merciful on them to put them to death because of the living situations in which they would find themselves. Should they live their life out in solitary confinement, they would spend countless years living a shell of an existence. Since it is just that they be put to death, and they will die eventually, we are just extending their misery.
Also, while they are in solitary or permitted appeals their life is in question. The final outcome is not known. There’s still the chance that they could escape or get parole. And don’t think that the inmate who has spent multiple years in solitary or in prison has not contemplated how they might get out– even if it’s a remote possibility.
Second, I would argue that it is more merciful on the families. The current system prolongs the agony while awaiting closure. The family deserves to have the situation finished. They were unjustly punished by the removal of their loved one, and yet the one that took the life still lives and has everything he needs for life provided for him. Food, clothing, shelter, exercise, for the rest of their lives. Provided by the state (something that also is unfair and a burden on the innocent).
Lastly, if the convict is a believer (or converts after being imprisoned), it would be more merciful to usher them into the presence of the Savior than to have them remain on this Earth in solitary or other confinement.
It is my belief that sparing someone Capital Punishment could be considered merciful or just, but not both. If just, then there has to be a reason why we should extend such mercy to someone that deserves to die. If unjust, then it’s not mercy that we’re extending, but just enforcing whatever we believe should be the greatest punishment.