Killing Them Softly

Having in the past made a principled case against the death penalty, Dalrymple now makes a pragmatic one at the Library of Law and Liberty:

There is, however, an aspect of the death penalty as it [is] employed in the United States that is truly scandalous, and that is the time it takes to carry it out. If any punishment were cruel and unusual, to keep a man on death row for 10 or 20 years and then kill him is surely such a punishment. To maintain a man in prolonged apprehension of his own demise is to torture him mentally. If execution were done, ’twere best done quickly. Swiftness, after all, is an important quality of justice.

It might, of course, be said that lengthy delay is necessary to exhaust all legal avenues and to exclude all possible miscarriages of justice. If so, this is not testimony to the scrupulousness, but to the inefficiency, lack of self-confidence, and indeed incompetence of the criminal justice system. If it really takes 10 or 20 years to prove beyond doubt that a man is guilty as charged, he should not have been convicted in the first place.

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