Jonathan Zimmerman: Death Penalty Morally Wrong
Terrance Williams was sexually abused by the two men he killed, according to his lawyers. He was poorly represented at his trial, where jurors never heard about these circumstances. And the widow of one of his victims wants Williams' death sentence commuted.
But those aren't the strongest arguments for sparing the life of Terrance Williams, who is scheduled to be executed on Oct. 3. The best reason is the simplest: Capital punishment is inherently wrong, no matter the circumstances. And Philadelphians should understand that better than anybody else.
That's because the movement to abolish the death penalty in America began right here, in the City of Brotherly Love. On March 9, 1787 - just a few months before the drafting of the Constitution - Philadelphia physician and patriot Benjamin Rush delivered a stinging rebuke to capital punishment at a lecture in the home of another famous local patriot, Benjamin Franklin.
Part of Rush's argument would be familiar to us today: The death penalty won't deter the most vicious criminals. But his real concern - repeated until his own death in 1813 - was the effect of capital punishment on the rest of us....
comments powered by Disqus
- What countries teach children about the Holocaust varies hugely
- Civics Instruction Moves Up in Class
- New York's 1888 blizzard had smallpox, bonfires, and rubber boot shortages
- Professor says right to vote in U.S. ‘has never been intrinsically tied to citizenship’
- For Auschwitz Museum, a Time of Great Change
- From his perch in Saudi Arabia, Princeton’s Mark Cohen says Jews and Muslims should remember they used to get along
- Duke honors historian John Hope Franklin with year-long series of events
- What New Left History Gave Us
- Marcus Borg, Liberal Christian Scholar, Dies at 72
- Richard Hofstadter’s insights into the "paranoid style in American politics” lauded in the NYT