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View Diary: Death Penalty in the U.S.: Desmond Tutu Asks "Why?" (35 comments)

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  •  The ancient Hebrews... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buhdydharma, BYw

    ...worshiped that Old Testament god, but they still made it impossible to impose the death penalty.

    •  really? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      corvo

      I thought capital punishment was typical for many offenses.

      •  The ancient Hebrews... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bene Gesserit1

        ...weren't the fundamentalists many people make them out to be -- just because the Bible prescribes the death penalty for numerous actions doesn't mean it was actually carried out. Consider the requirements:

        1. Two adult men had to witness the crime.
        1. Both witnesses had to warn the perpetrator prior to committing the offense that the prescribed penalty for his/her crime was death.
        1. The perpetrator had to have acknowledged the warning and committed the offense anyway to be eligible for the death penalty.
        1. Following the acknowledgment of the warning, the perpetrator had to have committed the offense immediately. With any delay, the Sanhedrin was obligated to rule that the perpetrator may have forgotten about the warning, and so could not be held liable to the point of death.
        1. Each witness had to be so certain of his testimony that he was willing to carry out the penalty himself.
        1. A witness found to be less than 100% accurate and honest in his testimony could be subjected to the same punishment faced by the accused.
        1. The accused had to be convicted at trial by a unanimous panel of 23 judges. In some cases, the panel was expanded to include the full Sanhedrin, 71 judges -- and they still had to rule unanimously to impose the death penalty.
        1. There was no standard for "beyond a reasonable doubt." For any of the judges to vote to convict in a death penalty case, the accused's guilt and liability had to be proven beyond any doubt.
        1. There were restrictions on who was entitled to act as counsel in death penalty cases. Advocates had to prove themselves extraordinarily qualified and committed to justice.
        1. No hearsay or circumstantial evidence was allowed.

        I'm sure I'm forgetting a few things as well, but tell me -- under all those requirements, what do you suppose are the odds that anyone was ever actually sentenced to death?

    •  Difficult, perhaps, but (0+ / 0-)

      I doubt it was impossible.

      Those who believe in the NT know of at least one instance where just such a death penalty was about to be carried out -- until Jesus stopped it by using a rationale found nowhere in Mosaic Law.

      It's also worth noting that the OT god called for the elimination of entire peoples.

      •  We also know... (0+ / 0-)

        ...that parts of the NT were written a hundred years or more after Jesus lived. You can't take it literally any more than you can take the OT literally.

        In any case, we also have from the Talmud, which is by all accounts a much better reflection of the people's attitudes at that time, that a court that imposes the death penalty even once in 70 years is "bloodthirsty." So the OT may have called for the death penalty for 36 different offenses, but the rabbis didn't have the stomach to follow through with it.

    •  But their god regularly slaughtered people (0+ / 0-)

      just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

      I hads a 401K but the economy ated it.

      by nightsweat on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 02:23:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Do you really believe that? (0+ / 0-)

        If so, you must be a fundamentalist of some sort, because you're taking a very literalist interpretation of the Bible.

        And in any case, as far as the imposition of the death penalty by human beings goes, so what? They still believed that killing people was best left out of the hands of human beings, and that's kind of the point of banning capital punishment, isn't it?

        •  No, I'm actually an atheist. (0+ / 0-)

          I don't believe it literally happened that God reached out a hand and whacked people since there is IMHO, no god.

          But that IS how it's written.  I've read the Catholic Bible front to back with no stops in-between.  It was part of what made me decide I was OK with being a non-believer.

          I hads a 401K but the economy ated it.

          by nightsweat on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 04:26:12 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  But again, you're taking it literally (0+ / 0-)

            You're taking the fundamentalist interpretation. The vast majority of people who accept the Bible as a sacred text these days treat it more as a collection of parables than something to be taken literally.

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