Recently, Roger Ebert posted an article about the death penalty in America on his blog. It appears to have been inspired in part by two things: Into the Abyss, the new documentary by Werner Herzog about death row and the death penalty, and an article in the British Guardian about the racial disparity of death row. The name of Mr. Ebert’s post is “Nobody has the right to take another life”, and it is no surprise that the general attitude of the article toward the death penalty is negative.
There are many who oppose the death penalty, and I generally agree that no one has a right to take another life. But is that really the question at hand? Is it not more a question of duty, justice, and obligation?
On November 16th, 2011, Guadalupe Esparza was executed in Huntsville by lethal injection. He was convicted for the abduction, rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl. DNA evidence from both Garza and the child conclusively identified Garza as the perpetrator. Garza had a long history of violent attacks, including attempted murder, but had been paroled repeatedly to alleviate overcrowding. The last time he was paroled was 1996. The girl was murdered in 1999.
Guadalupe Esparza did not have the right to kidnap, rape, and murder that little girl. Her rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were forever extinguished by his actions. Once his guilt was firmly established beyond a shadow of a doubt, there was no longer a question of his rights. The government had an obligation to see that justice was satisfied by punishing Esparza. In spite of how some may feel, there are crimes that are so terrible that the only appropriate punishment is execution. But let’s set aside the death penalty for a moment and examine the question from a different perspective.
Would Mr. Ebert agree with assisted suicide? Dr. Kervorkian “assisted” others by administering lethal injections to them. If no one has a right to administer a lethal injection for the purpose of executing a criminal, did Dr. Kervorkian have a right to administer a lethal injection for the purpose of assisting Thomas Youk’s suicide?
Does Mr. Ebert agree that physicians have a right to kill an unborn baby? In his blog, he states that he believes a woman has a right to choose abortion. But isn’t a woman’s right to choose to abort and kill her child the same as a right to take another life? No one could be more innocent than an unborn baby, yet the abortion procedure is far more gruesome and painful to a baby than a lethal injection to a criminal. If Mr. Ebert objects to the execution of a proven, violent criminal, how can he support a woman’s right to dismember or burn a baby to death in her womb?
At the beginning of his post, Mr. Ebert cites the article from the British Guardian which states that there is a disparity between the number of African-Americans and whites on death row. Mr. Ebert, whose wife is African-American, has repeatedly shown an understandable sensitivity toward racial issues in America. But he seems to be overlooking one of the most important racial disparities. The number one cause of death among African-Americans is abortion. 1/3 of all abortions in America are performed on African-American women. Stated another way, the number of African-American children killed by abortion is three times that of white children. Three out of every five African-American women abort their children. Around 50% of all African-American babies are killed by abortion every day. To the best of my knowledge, he has never posted an article to his blog that focuses on that particular disparity. If he is truly concerned with racial parity, why has he never spoken out on the genocide of African-American babies?
I admire Roger Ebert and enjoy his movie reviews. I have learned much from him and I don’t know that there is a better film critic writing today. He is intelligent and articulate, his writing style is lucid and engaging, and his knowledge of film is encyclopedic. Few things would give me more pleasure than taking classes from him on film-making and criticism. But when it comes to social issues, his liberalism frequently gets in the way of rational thought. The position he holds on the death penalty is inconsistent with his position on abortion. The two cannot be reconciled.
By now, my own position should be perfectly clear. Punish the guilty, protect the innocent.
PS: Mr. Esparza’s case is not unique among Texas death row inmates. All are guilty of similarly violent crimes and have had multiple opportunities to prove their innocence through the appeals process.
PPS: The abortion statistics come from blackgenocide.org
PPPS: Duane Buck was convicted on the evidence of eyewitnesses and has never denied his guilt.