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Definition of Capital Punishment

  • Date Submitted: 10/21/2010 12:44 AM
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a) Definition of Capital Punishment
    Besides abortion and euthanasia, another form of so-called “legalized” killing of human beings is capital punishment.   It is defined as ‘the direct killing of someone who, virtually always, has been convicted of a crime by the state authority that orders the execution as per the provision of a law allowing capital punishment, and who is always under arrest when he is killed.     Capital punishment is necessarily direct killing because it is always a means to an end, i.e., unlike indirect (collateral) killing that is not a means to an end.   The definition states that capital punishment is the direct killing ‘of someone who, virtually always, has been convicted of a crime by the state authority that orders the execution as per the provision of a law allowing capital punishment’.   This clause distinguishes the death penalty from non-defensive direct killing of someone who is under arrest but who was not convicted.   The latter is the case in ‘extra judicial’, or ‘custodial’ (in custody) killings whether ordered by the state authorities, or not.   The words ‘virtually always’ have been added because in the extremely rare case, to be discussed below, when capital punishment is morally justified as defense, there is no possibility either of a formal conviction or of a formal ordering of the execution by a state authority. Finally, the definition specifies that the one who is executed ‘is always under arrest when he is killed’.   This clause distinguishes capital punishment from killing someone who is ‘at large’.   Unlike the previous clause in the definition that contains the words ‘virtually always’, this clause specifies the essential element — execution is always inflicted on someone under arrest.   Since the belligerent is under arrest, the intended victim(s) can, virtually always, be defended by less destructive ways than execution and, hence, capital punishment is virtually never killing in defense. Why can direct killing in...

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