CAPITAL PUNISHMENT CALLS FOR A BIBLICAL STANDARD
Courthouse News Service is reporting that Larry Ray Swearingen who is convicted of murdering Montgomery County 19 year old Melissa Trotter eighteen years ago is suing the 9 judges on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for denying him the possibility of presenting exonerating evidence via DNA testing.
Swearingen’s recent writ before SCOTUS was also recently denied.
This is the Montgomery County case where DA Brett Ligon famously offered to do the additional DNA testing since 2013 – if Swearingen’s attorneys’ would agree the findings would not alter the outcome of the case.
Here is a problem, there are a growing number of capital murder cases being overturned thanks to DNA evidence. In Texas alone the number reported by one source has climbed to 41 since the advent of DNA testing in 1989.
Christian thinkers and leaders in Montgomery County are apparently mute on this important issue. How can we have justice in this county unless we call for justice to take its full course?
The recent emergence of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty is helpful but at the same time disappointing when preeminent legal personalities like Jay Sekulow have sadly stated the belief that “the taking of life is not the way to handle even the most significant of crimes…”.
Of course Christians must uphold to the contrary that it indeed is the only way. But that measure of final justice must be administered based on an absolute standard that can only be found in Holy Scripture.
Economics, demographics, changing social values , lack of deterrent effect are all offered in opposition to the the death penalty are humanistic imposters to justice.
The Christian Research Institute is good on this point –
Contrary to modern abolitionist arguments, the inherent morality of the death penalty does not stand or fall on the fallibility of judges, jurors, and lawyers, or the government’s ability to administer justice “fairly.” Neither is it predicated on the use or abuse of Eighth Amendment provisions, the possibility of mistaken executions, or vengeance for the aggrieved. All these factors, powerful and volatile as they are in informing debate over capital punishment, are insufficient in explaining a moral standard of justice by which to measure and respond to violent criminal acts. Most notably, all are susceptible to excessive human manipulation.
CRI appeals for an abiding moral standard.
A framework for criminal justice can in fact administer justice only to the extent that a consistent, unchanging canon of justice is adhered to and advanced. The failings of the system lie not in the fallibility of the instruments who execute justice, but rather in our failure to acknowledge and implement an abiding moral standard.
But even that writer appears to fall short by barely mentioning the ancient and ultimate standard for justice, two or three eye witnesses. In The Ethics of Capital Punishment author Scott Rae discusses the high degree of certainty required in administering the death penalty justly citing Numbers 35:30 notes
the judicial system must have a high degree of certainty about the guilt of a murderer….Circumstantial evidence and single eyewitnesses are insufficient by themselves. … No one could be put to death on the basis of one eyewitness who might have ulterior motives…in fact perjury in a capital case was itself a capital crime. Circumstantial evidence leaves room for doubt and two eyewitnesses were necessary… Thus the degree of certainty required for the use of the death penalty seem to be higher than that of the “reasonable doubt” standard that is used through out the Western legal system today.
We need to reform capital punishment in Texas, not by eliminating it, but rather by implementing ancient safeguards against abuse. That would include denying use of plea bargain corruption of testimony, re institution of capital perjury and requirement for dual eyewitness testimony.
Until then Swearingen should be allowed his final offer of proof of innocence.