Thursday, April 29, 2010

Murderers Do Change and Become Useful

The morality of capital punishment in Korea is very much a controversial subject, with citizens in favor of the penalty by a 6 to 4 margin. Although the government supports the penalty as a justifiable punishment for serious crimes, no one has been executed in recent years. In many countries the citizens, although opposed, have abolished the death penalty.

A lawyer appealing for a death row criminal gave his views on the subject in a recent article. His account, the story of a condemned criminal, Jacob, encourages us to once again reflect on the value of this ultimate punishment. .

The lawyer met the condemned man and the priest who had baptized him in the court house where he was appealing the verdict, and offered to defend Jacob.

The condemned man had been renting in the house of the murdered man and did confess to the crime. While in prison he wrote many letters of remorse to the Religious Sister, who regularly visited the prison. The judge of the case-- the last case he worked on before his promotion --was persuaded to change the punishment to life in prison--very fortunate for Jacob.

For the last 20 years in prison, Jacob had been sending a letter to the lawyer which arrived on every Wednesday of the week, without fail. The letter was full of praise and thanks to God and described how he was serving others who were in prison with him and about the joy that was in his life. That had been a goad for the lawyer in his own faith life.

Jacob was called "the monk" while in jail. In every trade or program offered by the prison, he either was awarded a licence or was certified as capably finishing the program. He won the tennis tournaments each year and in recent years had learned over 300 hymns that he could play with the harmonica.

Because he was a model prisoner, his sentence was commuted from life to 20 years, and just recently he was paroled. The lawyer finishes his article by asking for prayers for Jacob and his family.

There are many reasons for or against the death penalty but the fear of putting the innocent to death is uppermost for many. The difference between manslaughter and murder many times is a judgment made by lawyers and judges, but we also tend to forget the pain of the criminal's innocent family, as we tend to focus on the pain of the victim's family. What is often forgotten, however, is that those guilty of even the most serious crimes, whether intended or not, can turn their life around through remorse, as Jacob did, and become useful members of society.


  1. A full assement is important.

    "The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents"

    "The Innocent Executed: Deception & Death Penalty Opponents"

    The 130 (now 139) death row "innocents" scam

    "A Death Penalty Red Herring: The Inanity and Hypocrisy of Perfection", Lester Jackson Ph.D.,

    25 recent studies finding for deterrence, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation,

    "Deterrence and the Death Penalty: A Reply to Radelet and Lacock"

    "Death Penalty, Deterrence & Murder Rates: Let's be clear"

  2. Mercy & Redemption: Support for the death penalty
    Dudley Sharp

    1.) Quaker, biblical scholar Dr. Gervas A. Carey:

    Carey agrees with Saints Augustine and Aquinas, that executions represent mercy to the wrongdoer:

    “. . . a secondary measure of the love of God may be said to appear. For capital punishment provides the murderer with incentive to repentance which the ordinary man does not have, that is a definite date on which he is to meet his God. It is as if God thus providentially granted him a special inducement to repentance out of consideration of the enormity of his crime . . . the law grants to the condemned an opportunity which he did not grant to his victim, the opportunity to prepare to meet his God. Even divine justice here may be said to be tempered with mercy.” (p. 116).

    2. Romano Amerio, a faithful Catholic Vatican insider, scholar, professor at the Academy of Lugano, consultant to the Preparatory Commission of Vatican II, and a peritus (expert theologian) at the Council.

    “The most irreligious aspect of this argument against capital punishment is that it denies its expiatory value which, from a religious point of view, is of the highest importance because it can include a final consent to give up the greatest of all worldly goods.

    This fits exactly with St. Thomas’s opinion that as well as canceling out any debt that the criminal owes to civil society, capital punishment can cancel all punishment due in the life to come. His thought is . . . Summa, ‘Even death inflicted as a punishment for crimes takes away the whole punishment due for those crimes in the next life, or a least part of that punishment, according to the quantities of guilt, resignation and contrition; but a natural death does not.’

    The moral importance of wanting to make expiation also explains the indefatigable efforts of the Confraternity of St. John the Baptist Beheaded, the members of which used to accompany men to their deaths, all the while suggesting, begging and providing help to get them to repent and accept their deaths, so ensuring that they would die in the grace of God, as the saying went.” (2)

    Some opposing capital punishment ” . . . go on to assert that a life should not be ended because that would remove the possibility of making expiation, is to ignore the great truth that capital punishment is itself expiatory. In a humanistic religion expiation would of course be primarily the converting of a man to other men. On that view, time is needed to effect a reformation, and the time available should not be shortened. In God’s religion, on the other hand, expiation is primarily a recognition of the divine majesty and lordship, which can be and should be recognized at every moment, in accordance with the principle of the concentration of one’s moral life.” (2)

    Some death penalty opponents “deny the expiatory value of death; death which has the highest expiatory value possible among natural things, precisely because life is the highest good among the relative goods of this world; and it is by consenting to sacrifice that life, that the fullest expiation can be made. And again, the expiation that the innocent Christ made for the sins of mankind was itself effected through his being condemned to death.” (2)

    1) synopsis of “A Bible Study”.from Essays on the Death Penalty, T. Robert Ingram, ed., St. Thomas Press, Houston, 1963, 1992. Dr. Carey was a Professor of Bible and past President of George Fox College.

    2) “Amerio on capital punishment “, Chapter XXVI, 187. The death penalty, from the book Iota Unum, May 25, 2007 ,