Adhering to the principle of opposition to capital punishment is an absolute among the infinite nuances of circumstance. It's easy to cite the statistics showing that the application of capital punishment is racist and classist, that it does not deter crime, and that most nations with pretenses of being civilized have abolished it. It's easy to point to The Innocence Project, and the numerous convicted murderers who have been exonerated by modern technologies such as DNA evidence that weren't available to probably countless innocents who were wrongly convicted and then executed before such technologies were available. It's easy to point to the absurdity of the reasonable doubt standard, which applies only to initial trials and not to the upholding of convictions on subsequent appeals where, as in Davis's case, doubt itself is not just reasonable but almost certain. Eyewitness evidence is known to be one of the least reliable forms. Unless someone invents time travel, there will not be true certainty about far too many criminal convictions. But there is certainty about the consequence of capital punishment. At the very least one would hope it provides some semblance of emotional relief for the victims and survivors of the victims of violent crimes, but history shows that even that often isn't the case. The concept of "closure" is one of those false concoctions promoted by the traditional media, but it rarely has anything to do with the realities of how psychological trauma lives in people. But this isn't about the flaws in the system. This is about a principle.
Right wing demagogues love to blither about the Ten Commandments, but how many oppose on principle capital punishment? Thou shalt not kill contains no asterisk, yet so many of those directly involved in the process of executing people purport to be Christian. Rick Perry comes to mind. But so many Democrats also support capital punishment, some no doubt for the pure cynical politics of not being labeled soft on crime, thus further enabling the falsity that executing people has anything to do with reducing crime. And executing people does make some feel they are doing something about violent crime even thought they really aren't. Politicians can pat themselves on their backs and declare their missions accomplished even as they continue to pursue and enact policies that continue to exacerbate the social psychoses that cause or contribute to the perpetuation of the perpetration of violent crime. As Holly Near sings: Why do we kill people who are killing people to show that killing people is wrong?
Principled opposition to capital punishment often comes from deep in the gut. Although it is for some, opposition to capital punishment need not be associated with religion or any other formal moral structure or stricture. To some it is plainly obvious, not even open to debate. Capital punishment is barbaric. It is in opposition to the very ideal of humanity. It is a symptom of unevolved consciousness. There are other ways to deal with even the most cruel and brutal criminals, and putting them to death makes society itself—and all who in it live—cruel and brutal. Until we demand and force its abolition, we are all complicit. When government of, by and for the people kills people, the people themselves are complicit. Some know this in their hearts. Some cannot be convinced.
Some believe there must be a way to improve the conveyor belt of capital punishment, that if there's a problem, it's mostly a question of process. Some believe there can be or will be better techniques and processes that can make it more fair and just and more humane. As if killing people can ever be humane. As if there can be such things as fairness and justice that are as absolute as capital punishment itself. But capital punishment solves no societal ills. It perpetuates many that should not be perpetuated. It must be abolished. Not only for those like Troy Davis who almost certainly were innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted, but also for those like Lawerence Russell Brewer who certainly were guilty. And this is where principled opposition to capital punishment seems complicated. But it really shouldn't be. Because as long as this nation is executing the Lawrence Russell Brewers it also will be executing the Troy Davises. It is not possible to have one without the other. This must be understood. It must be understood that it is not possible to have capital punishment and still have fairness and justice and a society that is at its core humane.
This is a test. This is a test this nation continues to fail.