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Posted: January 29, 2009 7:14 p.m.

The quality of mercy

 Unlike many citizens, I have actually represented people on death row. It seems another lifetime ago, but casual calls for executions still get my attention.

 Justifications run from murderers having failed to show mercy to saving taxpayers money.

 Murderers by definition fail to show mercy, but that seems like an odd reason for us to become murderers ourselves. Police officers arrest murderers, they don’t simply kill them. District attorney’s and judges spare many from the death penalty. Jurors and sometimes even family members of victims don’t want the ultimate penalty.

 Isn’t the quality of mercy what makes us different from those we confine in prison for the crime of murder (as well as other crimes)? That we shy away from taking human life without need? That we refuse to ask others to become murderers on our behalf?

 What does our call for the death penalty do to those who know one day they will walk prisoners they have gotten to know to the death house? What of the executioners who commit murder on our behalf?

 How much do we demean human life to make it a matter of taxpayer expense? The same can be said for many programs, not the least among them Medicare for example, which primarily serves the elderly. What sort of people would we be to kill others or let them die to save a few dollars?

 But I have known very vocal supporters of the death penalty. Actually, one of them was a client on death row. Not in his case, but certainly for others. Not really all that surprising. After all, he was a murderer himself.

 Patrick Durusau is a resident of Newton County. His columns regularly appear on Fridays.

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