Making Murder Normal

Gerald Dworkin and Justin E. H. Smith debate the death penalty. Smith is against it:

I think some people almost certainly do deserve to die, but for better or for worse there simply is no person or body that can be entrusted with the grave responsibility of killing them. For me, one of the strongest arguments against [capital punishment] has not to do with what it does to the criminal who is punished, but what it does to those involved in the application of the punishment. It makes it possible for killing to be the normal carrying out of a bureaucratic procedure, rather than a transgression or a suspension of our ordinary commitments. That to me is more terrifying than the murder to which the punishment is a response: the murder was plainly a transgression, whereas the compensatory execution is allowed for in our books of law. This means that to uphold [capital punishment] is to make killing normal, something that it is not even for the great majority of murderers.