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Opening Arguments

Ultimate crimes, ultimate punishment

Should we make application of the death penalty swifter by shortening the appeals process? We have another execution scheduled for Aug. 31, which would contribute to our record-setting year. It's not that the state has suddenly become bloodthirsty, but that a lot of appeals are running out at the same time; the guy next up committed his crimes back in 1985. (Lots of Indiana death-row statistics here.)

I've been all over the map on the death penalty -- completely for it, completely against it and everything in between. I'm still not philosophically opposed to capital punishment; if we do away with it completely, it says that we no longer believe there are ultimate crimes for which society must reserve the ultimate punishment. It's impossible to read the news for just one day and still believe that.

But I agree with people who have opposed the death penalty for children and the retarded, and I sympathize with those who question its use against the profoundly mentally ill. It's fair to ask people like me at what point we've excluded so many categories that it would, indeed, be cruel and unusual punishment against the few people we still do subject to it.

I find this, from a site that's not exactly an outpost of liberal opinion, to be a thought-provoking essay on the death penalty from the Christian perspective.