Why the Death Penalty Is Fair

Wall Street Journal, January 9, 1998.


The death penalty is much in the news. With jurors failing to agree on a sentence for Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, he will escape the maximum legal punishment for his part in the deaths of eight federal agents (though an Oklahoma jury may eventually sentence him to die if he is convicted of murdering the 160 other victims). Meanwhile, Theodore Kaczynski’s Unabomber prosecution continues its halting pace toward what all must now assume will be his execution–after, of course, excruciating delays while the case is appealed to various courts. The U.S. Supreme Court has already refused the last challenge to the execution of spree killer Karla Faye Tucker, who on Feb. 3 will become the first woman to receive Texas’s lethal injection–unless, that is, Gov. George W. Bush decides not to sign her death warrant.

Gov. Bush faces an enormously weighty decision, and so may take some comfort in the knowledge that signing a death warrant was a problem, too, for Abraham Lincoln. “You do not know how hard it is to let a human being die,” he said, “when you feel that a stroke of your pen will save him.”

American Enterprise Institute