Hitchens writes, while discussing the difference in the manner in which the US differs from the West:
The point of the penalty was that it was death. It expressed righteous revulsion and symbolized rectitude and retribution. Voila tout! The reason why the United States is alone among comparable countries in its commitment to doing this is that it is the most religious of those countries. (Take away only China, which is run by a very nervous oligarchy, and the remaining death-penalty states in the world will generally be noticeable as theocratic ones.)
And he concludes thus:
In a primitive society or a theocratic state based on moral absolutism, there may be a certain “rough” justice in hauling the condemned man straight from his “trial” to the place of stoning, where at least the aggrieved relatives of his victim can have their moment of cruel catharsis. But in a modern state that allows for appeals, judicial review, and the admission of new evidence, the death sentence is only the beginning of a protracted and tortuous process to which we give—and I apologize for using the expression myself—the apotropaic name of “Death Row.” At once too random and too institutional and systematic, this dire business has now become an offense both to law and to justice.
Yes, an "offense both to law and justice."
Kathleen Parker, whose columns I usually do not care for, addresses the death sentence, and writes
I'm no wimp when it comes to justice and spent the first few decades of my life backstroking in the Old Testament. An eye-for-an-eye was fine by me.
But I have matured and these days wear glibness — and righteousness — like a hair shirt. Satisfaction can never come from the termination of a human life except to protect one's own and that of one's dependents. Thus, our barbaric practice of capital punishment, premeditated and coldblooded, is, since we're in a biblical mood, an abomination. That we grant the state the power to end a citizen's life is a harrowing-enough thought. That we do so even when we know with certainty that sometimes innocents are killed is beyond comprehension.
Dahlia Lithwick noted the unfortunate irony that most of the ardent supporters of the death sentence are simultaneously the same ones denouncing the role of government, and their primary reason is that the government can't get any damn thing right:
when you hear Republicans moan about the bureaucratic burdens and failures of government-run education, health care, and disaster-relief systems, doesn't any part of you wonder why they have such boundless confidence in the capital justice system
But, you can't argue with logic, can you, with these people! They are notoriously anti-logic, anti-intellectual arguments, and rely on their gut instincts :(