Randolf Richardson (Zhang Wen Dao)

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Capital Punishment - an ethical approach
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Sunday, April 19th, 2020

I have concerns about Capital Punishment, and I also have an idea for an ethical approach to it.  I live in Canada, where Capital Punishment is not practiced in our legal system, and I believe this is consistent with fair justice and protecting human rights (particularly the right to Personal Liberty, which necessarily includes the right to Bodily Autonomy).

One of the immediately obvious problems with Capital Punishment is that a wrongfully convicted person becomes a victim of the system in such an extreme manner that their human rights are permanently disgregarded by way of execution (the termination of their life).  Although this isn't the only reason for governments favouring Capital Punishment to consider improving how their justice systems select consequences (preferred) or punishments (less desireable) for people judged as guilty by their courts, it certainly is a relevant and compelling reason for them to have awareness of as it is certainly a far less than ideal scenario that can (and does) occur, and often for a myriad of reasons.

Particularly for wrongfully convicted persons, Capital Punishment effectively imposes time-limits (a.k.a., expiry dates) which effectively impedes the avenues available to them for rectifying their situation (often with a combination of outside help, and their own research), or missing a future opportunity that arises with the discovery of newer evidence.

"Murder is not justice.  There is no solace in revenge."
-- Admiral Jean-Luc Picard, Retired, at Stardust City on Freecloud (March 20, 2020)


My solution is to change the way Capital Punishment works.  Instead of imposing execution (terminating the convicted person's life), I recommend the following:

  1. The Judge determines minimum time to serve in prison before Capital Punishment becomes available as an option
  2. The convicted person, at any time after the minimum sentence has been served, then has the option to approve Capital Punishment
    • approval may optionally include a list of one or more methods of Capital Punishment that the convicted person considers acceptable
    • approval may optionally include an indication of expediency (e.g., immediate, or a specific date)
    • approval may optionally include donating their corpse (and medical history) to science
  3. The approval must be submitted in a formal hearing in front of a Judge who asks appropriate questions to ensure that the convicted person's approval satisfies the criteria of possessing all three characteristics of free, willful, and informed consent
  4. If the Judge accepts the convicted person's approval, then Capital Punishment may proceed accordingly, or as the case may be

Consent is of paramount importance here because it means that the justice system is exhaustively protecting human rights.  Without approval, the convicted person effectively serves a life sentence, which I believe, at least from both an ethical and human rights standpoint, really should be their choice.  In the case of a wrongfully convicted person, this approach is certainly fair as it eliminates mandatory execution by default.

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