The Rape Case

I forgot to say anything about the Court's ruling on the child rape case. My evolving view of the death penalty is that there are situations one could envision wherein punishment by execution would be a just outcome but given the realities of the world a "no executions" policy would be the best way to go. At the end of the day, to be haunted by a nagging fear that somewhere there lurks a criminal who deserves death but who is, instead, suffering a lifetime of imprisonment doesn't strike me as especially reasonable. So from that perspective, I both sympathize with any effort to limit the constitutional scope of the death penalty while also thinking that these efforts to draw distinctions -- to tinker with the machinery of death -- are fundamentally misguided.

In the specific case of people who rape children, it's worth saying that the death penalty is bad crime control policy. You want to make it the case that no matter what terrible things a criminal has done, he would get an even worse penalty if he killed the victim/witness. Getting bogged down into a debate over the relative heinousness of various crimes is a bit of a red herring -- there's an internal logic to the deterrent system that requires murder to carry a unique and maximally severe penalty.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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