Murder by the People


COMMENTARY-I doubt few would argue that the most important aspect of life, is life itself. With it, there is hope. There is opportunity. There is joy and laughter. Without it, none of these.

People can choose to die or, with the miracle of modern medicine, fight death to the bitter end. But no-one would deny that the taking of a life is wrong. 

The choice to kill transforms a person – and not for the better. 

Old Testament verses in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy call for an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.   

Biblical retribution and revenge have driven the American legal system for generations. But revenge is not justice. 

And both Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that an eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind. 

There is nothing more abhorrent to me personally than to think justice can be served by a court, a jury, a judge, a government, condemning a person to die, torturing them for months and decades with this future, and then exacting such a penalty. Too often in grisly circumstances where the electric chair cooks them slowly to death, or they writhe in agony with an improperly administered drug cocktail. 

Too often dying for crimes of which they are not guilty, or extenuating circumstances are not considered, or they just don’t have the money. 

Money needed not only to manipulate our labyrinthine legal system, but to provide a basic defense where too often public defenders are drinking buddies of the cops and prosecutors and see their clients as deserving to die. Whether guilty of the crime they stand accused of, or not. 

And since only prospective jurors who affirm they are pro-death can be considered for juries in death penalty cases, the system stacks the court in favor of murder by the people. 

The image of a family finding closure in watching such a death is a false one and leaves blood on their hands as well. Very often they fight the execution, even of the guilty, but the divine retribution mantle donned by the courts and governors steamrolls over their wishes. 

Is that justice? 

No, it’s retribution. It’s crass revenge and all those moralistic chest-beating Christians in the Courts and in the electorate need to read their New Testament where not only is vengeance reserved for the Lord, but Matthew and more straight out reverse the demand of an eye for an eye and call on their followers to turn the other cheek. 

The concept that a government that I support through my taxes, that elected officials paid with them should torture and murder anyone in cold ugly blood like this turns my stomach, wrenches my guts. 

Is this any better than the Romans watching lions eat Christians or the Brits of old for whom a Sunday’s entertainment was watching traitors’ guts pulled out so their agonies would last longer than a simple hanging?   

How can this country consider itself modern and a world leader when, day after day, year after year, they execute their fellow human beings? 

One more case of ritualized murder by the state is one too many. 

Each of you can choose to stand up, speak out, and make a difference on this issue. 

Other than the U.S. which consistently ranks in the top 5, countries that routinely use capital punishment are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen, North Korea, Egypt, Pakistan, Vietnam, South Sudan, Libya, and Syria – such wonderful company for a country that would like to reclaim the sobriquet of Leader of the Free World. 

The only country in Europe to practice the death penalty is Belarus and for this reason, cannot apply for EU membership. Even Russia has had a moratorium since 1999. 


--TedX Talk: Killing People is Always Wrong 

--Death Penalty Focus 

--Innocence Project 

--The American Psychological Association’s position on capital punishment 

--Even though the proposition he was supporting lost, this has good information


(Liz Amsden is an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She is a Budget Advocate and past Co-Chair and has written extensively on the City’s budget and services. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today’s world.)