Son:
The death penalty, also known as capital punishment, is not a pretty subject whichever way you go at it. When a jury imposes the death penalty, or prosecutors seek it out, there has already been a heinous crime. The death penalty is reserved for crimes that fall into a certain category. And it is used more often than it has been in the recent past. I have to admit that I don’t feel comfortable arguing this one. It isn’t an issue I can approach passionately. I do not condemn those who support the death penalty. In fact I make myself look at my daughter sitting in her chair eating and smiling at me. And I try to think, what if someone killed her? What if someone tortured her and did horrible things, which knowing myself, would make me not only want vengeance, but seek it out with my own hands? I know, if I stood before a mother, father, brother or sister who had lost a child or loved one to any murderer, and I held the keys to his or her cell, I would hand them the keys and a knife. But in that act of compassion for the rage and need of the family, I would be creating more victims. Under our current system, and any system that could reasonably defend the rights of the accused, it just isn’t a good choice. The appeals process turns it into a game, and the families of both the victims and the accused suffer more through the process. We must remember that killing is the behavior we are condemning. Methodical killing by the state is done by hands that should maintain reason and dignity. We do not need to become what we hate. We should not develop a rape machine to torture convicted rapists. Should we burn down the house of an arsonist? I know there are people who view all of this with an angry eye, who see the world spinning out of control, and just want a simple answer. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. But as a parent, especially, I want to see my daughter grow up in a safer world. And capital punishment does not make things better. In my research for this month’s Family Feud I’ve come across many different sad and terrible stories. And I’ve tried very hard to identify with all of them to the best of my ability. I’m sure the families of these victims hope I never can. Making the outside world less violent is the best place to start. I wish letting base rage and anger control our behavior would lead to this goal. It’s easier to take the road of least resistance. And we could allow for “satisfaction.” But that doesn’t work. There is no satisfaction in killing, unless the murderer has so damaged the hearts of the family that they want to mete out death. We should not pretend that this is the answer. The loss of a loved one to murder is a horrible event. The family will suffer this loss whether or not the guilty die. Our goal as a society devoted to good should be to heal and prevent. I can understand the desire to kill those who kill. I can understand that I would seek out the death of anyone who harmed any of my family. And my empathy for the families of the victims makes my heart actually hurt and my teeth clench. After reading some of the stories of crimes which I couldn’t even imagine before, I feel compelled to find the murderers myself and throttle them. But to achieve any goal requires self-control. The goal is a better, safer, less violent and less hate-filled world.

Uncle Tex:
I suppose some of these other countries we read about just go kill thousands in fratricide and be done with the idea of incarceration at the outset of forming their governments. It's probably cheaper that way, but it does not solve the crimes committed by men against men. So you ask, where do you stand Tex? PRO or CON? I just don't know. I don't like murdering or raping or pillaging or dogfights, but I can't decide if I have the heart to put one of the perpetrators to death or not. You'd think I'd have it figured out being from Texas and all, but when I know innocents have been put to death by our government, all in the name of justice, I just have a hard time filtering out the dregs and drinking in the warmth of new spilt blood. Love that daughter dearly, she is only yours for as long as she'll let you be her Daddy. After all, she'll have a mind of her own one day and she'll probably debate her Daddy the way you debate yours, poor old fool that he is. AND A TEXAS SIZED HUG TO ALL.

Father:
Eye for an Eye, Tooth for a Tooth, I realize that this Biblical quote is taken out of context and upon study does not necessarily preach capital punishment. I quote the phrase to point out that the philosophy of punishment meeting the crime has been around as a societal creed for a few thousand years. It is now accepted in most cultures and is the result of the attitudes of the people in those cultures. The longevity of the idea does not in itself make it right, but it surely does add a great deal of credence. That is important to understand because the opponents always refer to the "State" killing some unprotected human. Well, the "State" only represents the will of the people and the people have for hundreds of recorded years insisted on the seriousness of the punishment meeting the seriousness of the crime against those same people: Eye for an Eye. I believe that the proponents of capital punishment make a big mistake by referring to deterrence as a reason for capital punishment. In my professional life I have been involved with more murder cases than I could possibly count and I am convinced that not one of the killers thought about his dying when he pulled the trigger or plunged the knife. One can always argue that we have no way of knowing how many really did think of the consequences and did NOT act, but that is really weak. The ones who are not deterred prove the point. The answer is in the phrase itself: Capital PUNISHMENT.   We execute to punish. We execute for revenge. We execute to carry out the will of the people to exact that degree of punishment equaling the crime.   Son says he wonders what he would do if his baby girl were heinously killed. Well, I know what he would do. I am sure. If he had the opportunity before the State became involved he would handle the punishment and get our revenge. There are very few who could sit back in that circumstance, intellectually analyze and decide that the cruel, inhumane killer should live. Legal killing puts a degree of safety in the process to avoid anarchy and only one person (Son or Paw Paw) deciding what is in fact the proper degree of punishment. Especially in Alabama, our society has developed only a very few exceptional cases which warrant the most severe punishment. That is the will of the people of Alabama and should be upheld. So that you don't think I am hiding behind some vague "pass the buck" reasoning, let me end by saying that if someone were to kill one of mine, I would pull the switch.

Brer Red:
Even a staunch pro-death penalty right wing wack job has to be aware that due to the appeals process it costs more to execute someone than to lock them up for life.  I have no new ideas as to what might be done with the capital offender, but either we are a state of killers or we are not. Each time Alabama executes someone, we its citizens are responsible for allowing it to go on. I will at least express my opposition. Does it even work? Does killing the killer stop murder? Backward-looking justice tells us that it certainly stops one of them from killing anyone else. It also ends any possibility that they might become a better person. Under our current legal system people tend to become even worse criminals while serving time, but thanks to ideals born of the French Revolution, we have a department of CORRECTIONS where people are supposed to be REFORMED. Why don't we just call it the Department of Punishment?  Forward-looking justice might suggest that capital punishment serves as a deterrent, but as Uncle Tex pointed out, them Texans just keep on a-killin' each other don't they.

Son:
Note to my kinfolk: Boys, sometimes we can’t say everything we want to in public. I know you’ll be upset when you see what I’ve edited out. But some of that talk was over the top. And even though we like to argue, and figure we’re getting stuff done, I couldn’t really put some of that stuff in. Some of it was lewd, crude, rude and indecent. So I put it where it belongs: on the Internet. Anyone wanting to pipe in can go to Birminghamfreepress.com, or send e-mail to: Feud@birminghamfreepress.com But beware: any opinions sent in are subject to reprint in the paper and on our website. Tune in next month when we’ll be arguing about whatever new topic we’re already