Alan Clarke’s points are the usual ones. I don’t think that just because the system is not perfect we should drop the whole thing (that is, by the way, a favorite fallacy for liberals in all subjects). Our legal system is getting better and we continue trying to improve the accuracy of any type of judgment anyway. The small government point is stupid since law enforcement is and always has been one of the few exceptions even for the most radical libertarian. And finally no, stay locked in prison is not as horrible as death (if it was we wouldn’t be having this discussion in the first place).
Now, even though I like Robert Blecker I disagree with his rationale to justify death penalty. I don’t think it should be based on emotion, even though I totally agree that retribution is natural and it is always part of the equation anyway. The idea of getting people to sign a living will that says “don’t execute my killer in the event I am murdered” is interesting and I wouldn’t be against it. I just wonder if people who sign this would be willing to make this choice public…
But in any case, to me the death penalty is really about human nature and survival. Human nature because I believe that If you have a human that was able to kill in a certain way (premeditated, cold blooded killing of a complete innocent) then there is no way to “recover” that person. He will continue to be a killer and the only options we have are to keep that person locked forever or the death penalty. And there is where survival comes to play. Keeping that person alive is simply too risky. The chances of having another innocent killed when we have a clear chance of eliminating that risk trumps everything else. There is where we cannot make a mistake. When a criminal kills after having been arrested most of the blame is on the system.
This is what justice should be about: punishment of crime in the most just and effective way.