Here’s Exactly Why O’Malley Shouldn’t Be Making the Death Penalty an Economic Issue

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Two days ago, I posted about Gov. Martin O’Malley’s attempt at a repeal of the death penalty in Maryland. Specifically, I questioned his choice to build an economic argument against capital punishment when it’s primarily a moral issue. I noted O’Malley’s commission’s claim that the death penalty costs Maryland about three times as much as life imprisonment. 

Yesterday, North Carolina pro-death penalty blogger Dudley Sharp contacted Baltimore Fishbowl to refute those numbers. And from a different angle than that of Maryland Republicans, as outlined in Ilana Kowarski’s Maryland Reporter article (which was that the study deceptively included opportunity costs in its calculations).

Sharp indicts the same study for comparing death penalty cases to anything other life-without-parole cases.He goes on to list other factors that weren’t calculated in the study that should have been.

And this is why O’Malley should not be betting on a disinterested, economic argument: because it forfeits the ethical argument. It implies we have the moral authority to kill these people in the first place. And as soon as somebody comes along who can prove that we save money putting people to death, it’s over.

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  1. Robert:

    The moral foundation for imposing the death penalty is the same as for all sanctions, that they are proportional and just for the crime committed.


    1) Immanuel Kant: “If an offender has committed murder, he must die. In this case, no possible substitute can satisfy justice. For there is no parallel between death and even the most miserable life, so that there is no equality of crime and retribution unless the perpetrator is judicially put to death.”. “A society that is not willing to demand a life of somebody who has taken somebody else’s life is simply immoral.”

    2) Pope Pius XII; “When it is a question of the execution of a man condemned to death it is then reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned of the benefit of life, in expiation of his fault, when already, by his fault, he has dispossessed himself of the right to live.” 9/14/52.

    3) Theodore Roosevelt: ” . . . among the very rare occasions when anything governmental or official caused me to lose sleep were times when I had to listen to some poor mother making a plea for a criminal so wicked, so utterly brutal and depraved, that it would have been a crime on my part to remit his punishment.”.

    4) John Murray: “Nothing shows the moral bankruptcy of a people or of a generation more than disregard for the sanctity of human life.” “… it is this same atrophy of moral fiber that appears in the plea for the abolition of the death penalty.” “It is the sanctity of life that validates the death penalty for the crime of murder. It is the sense of this sanctity that constrains the demand for the infliction of this penalty. The deeper our regard for life the firmer will be our hold upon the penal sanction which the violation of that sanctity merit.” (Page 122 of Principles of Conduct).

    5) John Locke: “A criminal who, having renounced reason… hath, by the unjust violence and slaughter he hath committed upon one, declared war against all mankind, and therefore may be destroyed as a lion or tyger, one of those wild savage beasts with whom men can have no society nor security.” And upon this is grounded the great law of Nature, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” Second Treatise of Civil Government.

    6) Billy Graham: “God will not tolerate sin. He condemns it and demands payment for it. God could not remain a righteous God and compromise with sin. His holiness and His justice demand the death penalty.” ( “The Power of the Cross,” published in the Apr. 2007 issue of Decision magazine ).

    7) Jean-Jacques Rousseau: “In killing the criminal, we destroy not so much a citizen as an enemy. The trial and judgments are proofs that he has broken the Social Contract, and so is no longer a member of the State.” (The Social Contract).

    8) Saint (& Pope) Pius V: “The just use of (executions), far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this (Fifth) Commandment which prohibits murder.” “The Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent” (1566).

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