A blog produced by the Oregon Justice Resource Center discussing the death penalty (capital punishment) in Oregon and in the Ninth Circuit.
Originally posted on Abolition of the Death Penalty: The Time is Now
Hugo Bedau died today. Bedau, a philosopher, was best known for his work on capital punishment. He was once quoted as saying “I’ll let the criminal justice system execute all the McVeighs they can capture, provided they’d sentence to prison all the people who are not like McVeigh.” Bedau knew, of course, that the criminal justice system could never achieve even that small measure of equal justice.
Bedau watched and worked on the successful Oregon abolition campaign in 1964. He writes about that experience in “Death is Different,” a collection of essays from the 1980′s that is still invaluable today.
In that book, Bedau wrote that a “life in prison” punishment “is free of the worst defect to which the death penalty is liable: execution of the innocent. It tacitly acknowledges that there is no way for a criminal, alive or dead, to make complete amends for murder…The death penalty, more than any other kind of killing, is done by officials in the name of society and on its behalf. Yet each of us has a hand in such killings. Unless they are absolutely necessary they cannot be justified.”
Bedau argued that life in prison was “one way of admitting that we must abandon the folly and pretense of attempting to secure perfect justice for an in imperfect world.”