Pin the Tail on the Death Penalty


Justice is blind,” or so the saying goes.  If justice were blind in the United States of America, why are blacks who kill whites twenty-two times more likely to face execution than blacks who kill blacks?[1]  Why does the jury selection process often succeed in selecting all white panels in areas where the majority of the population is African American?[2]  Why aren’t the affluent ever executed in our society?[3]  Why is it always the poor who face capital punishment?  I’ll tell you why; because Justice is a liar.  Her blindfolded act is a sham.  She clearly sees in terms of race and economic status.So our justice system is flawed! This is hardly surprising.  I don’t know of anyone who would argue this point, but should we, as some have suggested, respond to racist/classist tendencies in the system by abolishing the death penalty altogether?


Any justice system so subject to institutionalized imbalances of power must be regarded with fierce skepticism, especially when its decisions involve the taking of human lives.  There simply isn’t room for any sort of subjectivity in the application of the death penalty. Our society would do well to recognize the worth of human life, even when people forfeit their right to function in society, and consider existence too important to force a system fraught with inconsistency to execute humans.

Maintaining capital punishment as usual only serves to validate racial and economic margins in our society and degrade our appreciation for humanity in general.

Time would fail me if I attempted to write about the death penalty and the execution of innocents, the imago Dei within all people (even the guilty), the countries that consider it barbaric, Jesus’ actions against it, the failure of deterrence, the “peace” that many prosecuting families never find, and the many other things that render it powerless.  There is a place to address all of this, but I have a final in the morning.  Cheers.

[1]De La Torre, Miguel A. Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins. Orbis, 2004. ISBN: 1570755515, 187.
[2]Stassen, Glen & David Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. IVP, 2002. ISBN: 0830826688, 211.
[3] De La Torre, Miguel A. Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins. Orbis, 2004. ISBN: 1570755515, 188.

Allen Marshall O'Brien

Allen Marshall O’Brien is the pastor of a UCC church in Northern California and co-host of the Irenicast. He believes in the importance of education, peace, and ecology, throws things to his border collie Sonata, and writes for multiple platforms.

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