Dear News Diggers Editor,

The article in your esteemed publication entitled “Screw the Death Penalty” by David Julian Wightman on the 3rd of May 2017 cannot pass without comment as it has very poor arguments that I shall rebut with direct quotations from the author.

“… capital punishment has no place in any society that wishes to call itself civilized, let alone ‘Christian’. Execution is not Christian, as it is not forgiving. In fact, capital punishment is the opposite of Christian, and the antithesis of forgiveness.”

The Bible from Genesis to the Apocalypse is full of judgment, punishments and death. Entire cities with thousands of inhabitants (Sodom, Gomorrah, Jericho, etc) were put to death by God himself or his agents without forgiveness. Every first-born male in Egypt was killed by the angel of death sent by God. Cities were put to the sword (men, women and even babies and small children) upon God’s commandment. The entire human race was killed off in a global flood! Why didn’t God “forgive” all these millions but chose to “execute” them? God often forgives but he also punishes.

In the New Testament during the Christian era, Ananias and Sapphira were killed by God for being dishonest (Acts 5:1-9). In Revelation 6:8, we read of a future event of God allowing billions of people (25% of the population on earth) to be killed by famine, plague and wild animals. In Romans 1:18-32 Paul shows that evil people deserve death.

Romans 1:32 says “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things DESERVE DEATH, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them”. Clearly, the Bible does not support Mr Wightman’s argument but infact refutes it completely.

“State-sanctioned execution is a form of hysterical vengeance and legal bloodletting. Worse, the death penalty teaches the populace that some people deserve to be killed by the State―to be put down like a rabid dog or wild beast.”

A very poor argument meant to appeal to the emotions. Some people such as serial killers and premeditating murderers definitely deserve to be killed because they are thoroughly evil people and death is the only punishment that is equal to and is sufficiently severe for their actions. To use an emotional argument, I doubt Mr Wightman would make this argument if he had a daughter that was raped and murdered (God forbid!).

By violating the basic human right to life of their victims, murderers have lost any right to life, the same way a person trying to murder you loses their right to life and you can kill them in self-defence. And a life sentence forces us the taxpayers to keep prisoners alive which is unfair.

“With all due respect to Judge Newa, the ‘wrong message’ being sent to society is that the State can ‘kill when provoked’.”

What about a war where a neighbouring country attacks you? Isn’t that state sponsored killing after provocation?

“…how can we approved of the death penalty and then cry and complain when someone is killed by the police? What is to stop extra-judicial killings if State-sanctioned execution exists?”

A false equivalence and conflation of two different issues. A murderer being executed is a punishment for their actions after they are found guilty by a competent court. An extra-judicial killing by the police has no trial (under strict rules of evidence) and is based on arbitrary decisions by the police (eg a police chief eliminating a journalist who exposes him for corruption).

“Even in the heartland of executions, the United States, the use of capital punishment has been reducing as popular opinion turns against the vicious and outdated punishment. Support for execution has dropped to roughly 50% in 2015 from almost 80% a decade earlier. More and more Americans are rejecting the death penalty as the faults of State-sanctioned murder become more evident.”

Public opinion is hardly a rational argument. Public opinion in America also shows that they want more and more free things funded by deficit spending and taxing the rich. I doubt anyone can argue rationally that endlessly increasing the huge debt of America (currently more than 100% of GDP) is a good thing based on public opinion.

Secondly, a huge majority of American States, 31 out of 50 (62%), still have the death penalty so the statistic about its waning popularity is misleading. Why haven’t we seen half the states abolishing the death penalty as citizens elect people to remove it?

During the 2016 elections, California which is arguably the most liberal state in America rejected a proposition to remove the death penalty. Nebraska and Oklahoma voted to bring it back. Nebraska voters brought it back despite the state legislature abolishing it.

“In the US, 90% of people sentenced to death were too poor to afford a decent lawyer, while many are also people of colour.”

This is not a good argument to end capital punishment, but an argument to increase the standard of proof before sentencing someone to death. eg irrefutable DNA evidence can be made a requirement before anyone is sentenced to death. While it is still possible for someone to be wrongly convicted, it is a very tiny possibility with better evidence standards. No one can rationally expect 100% perfection, otherwise you run into the absurdity that even a life imprisonment sentence can be wrongly handed down to an innocent person.

“While the death penalty can only be applied in cases of aggravated robbery, murder, and treason, the arbitrary nature of capital punishment sentencing is one obvious reason to abolish the draconian punishment in Zambia. Clearly some judges will lean more heavily toward the death penalty than others, and such inconsistency is not legitimate nor viable when deciding between life and death.”

Again, abolishing it is not a logical deduction from this. Rather, an introduction of objective standards for sentencing.

“…most death row inmates had bad lawyers…. significant numbers of death row inmates were represented by lawyers who showed gross incompetence, or who had been investigated, disciplined, and even disbarred for misconduct. Poor people in Zambia are regularly denied effective legal defense due to poverty.”

If this is an argument to abolish the death penalty, whatever alternative punishment is given to replace it is also subject to the same weakness. Of course death is irreversible but so is an innocent young man convicted to life imprisonment and beaten and raped by inmates, or killed in a fight in jail. The latter is arguably worse than the death penalty.

“… if we look at it critically and through the eyes of Jesus, the death penalty is clearly immoral and wrong.”

According to who? Mr Wightman? Gimme a break! Let is not use our own interpretation of the Bible to make such definitive unsubstantiated sweeping statements.

“There is simply no legitimate reason for Zambia to sentence anyone to die at the hands of the State.”

There is. A serial rapist and murderer who kills young girls or minors after raping them. Any person who murders at least two people is also worthy of death. Such people are less than a cockroach and deserve to die once the elevated burden of proof for their cases is met. I do however think that treason and aggravated robbery should not carry the death sentence.

Michael Chishala.


Screw the Death Penalty By David Julian Wightman

States With and Without the Death Penalty (As of 2016)

In three states, US voters move to reinstate, even accelerate, the death penalty

Nebraska votes to reintroduce the death penalty after backing Donald Trump to become president