Last week Utah County Commission decided to use it's position to weigh in on capital punishment. This comes after the Utah County Attorney, David Leavitt, decided to publicly state he wasn't ever going to pursue capital punishment. They cite the rehashed arguments that have almost universally dominated op-ed boards, NGOs, university campuses and celebrity panels. I'm surprised they didn't quote the last moments of Bud Dyer or the alt rock hit he inspired. There's nothing new. They cite costs, pain to families who endure decades of appeals, power of government, it not being a deterrent, the risk of innocent people wrongly executed but what about justice. They have fundamentally abdicated the very premise of the existence of any government. They have violated their oaths to the Constitution and fundamentally betrayed the people of this nation. Who are they to do this and what does it mean for Utah County, the state, the country? I say nothing good. This is dangerous. It kills the pursuit of justice through official means and has unintended consequences I don't see anyone bringing up. We had two elected county officials speak up and not get behind this egregious leftist agenda being pushed on us. Utah County Commissioner Tom Sakievich and Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith. These men decided to stand up for demands of justice and their obligation to the people and oath to the Constitution. For that, I can't thank them enough. Sakievich and Smith are in an uphill battle to preserve one of the fundamental tenets of civilization.
The Government shouldn't have that power...
The fundamental existence of any government in history is based on this premise:
Kill those that kill its citizens. That is why we obey its laws and pay it's taxes. It's in the Constitution. The 5th (and the 14th) amendment state that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law” Statements made by people not wanting the government to have that power fail to recognize what the government is.
"Government is the official collective use of coercive force. It's nothing more than that and the Constitution consists of a set of rules about how official collective force may and may not be utilized." Senator Mike Lee
If you think the coercive force isn't lethal you're gravely mistaken. It is. The difference with capital punishment is it's done on behalf of victims of crimes rather than benefit of the state. The government can kill people with impunity and it does to benefit the state. Sometimes it’s more high profile than others such as, LaVoy Finicum , Ashli Babbitt, Samuel Weaver and Vicki Weaver.
The Railroad Retirement Board and Department of Education have swat teams. The Department of Fish and Wildlife has enough hollow point pistol ammunition to kill every man, woman, and child in the country. These are administrative entities that can make any rules they want and enforce them with lethal means. Capital punishment is the only time the state kills on behalf of it's citizens rather than itself. It's the only time it kills with any input or scrutiny from citizens. Whether they set up an agitator to be in a position to be killed , they covertly assassinate it's citizens, or they fund a bio weapons lab and arrange for the exposure of its citizens. The administrative state kills citizens frequently and with impunity. It's a constant in our modern life. No jury, no peers. The government will kill for its own purpose, but not for the benefit of its own citizens. Stopping the official pursuit of justice doesn't stop the government killing people. It only stops law abiding citizens from seeking a punishment that fits the crime.
The demands of justice are clear. Victims' families often speak of the lives of loved ones murdered in horrible ways in an effort to take the conversation from a hypothetical to real life consequence. I'm hesitant to cite those because often the worst crimes are committed against those victims with no families. With no one to speak for them except only the law enforcement officer on the scene to try and articulate what they found, and the persecutor trying to afford the deceased what justice the state can provide.
Costs and risks of not having the death penalty are far worse
The pursuit of justice doesn't stop simply because the state has abdicated its responsibility for doing so. People will seek justice. It's human nature. If the crimes currently being pursued for capital punishment don't fill you with murderous rage something is seriously wrong with you. Justice will be pursued but it won't be through official means. This is what scares me most. Either they will pursue it themselves, with a mob or with a clandestine organization. The world isn't a well protected upper middle class suburb or an ivy league college campus where these can be safely debated with billionaire panelists that have private security. Over time the injustice in communities will lead to mobs, endless vendetta cycles and gangs that will leverage justice for favors. Failed states in Africa often have something referred to as necklacing. It’s awful.
Here's a couple of examples of where citizens don't trust their government for justice. You can find thousands more. Mexico https://youtu.be/PLxxPt3ScPg
But what about Europe? If sliding scale justice and no go zones are what you want in America then you should be advocating to abolish the death penalty. What would be death sentences are life sentences. What would be life sentences are ten and twenty year sentences. The Lockerbie Bomber was released. Anders Breivik who murdered 77 people was noted for complaining about his cell he didn’t have access to a Playstation 3 only a Playstation 2. Anders Breivik sued in a Norwegian court that his human rights were being violated and won. There are countless examples of awful crimes getting a slap on the wrist if punished at all. No go zones are places the police don’t go. Think CHAZ but more permanent. They are a fixture in the UK, France, and Sweden. Entire communities are ruled by mob justice. These are little reported but awful. Victims denied justice and the innocent sentenced to die by a mob. This story from Spain
It’s not hard to find dozens of examples in minutes of cases like these.
Mob Justice can't happen here?
It can. It has. It will. It's more likely now than at any other time in our history. On June 29, 2020 a mob of organized communists blocked University Avenue in downtown Provo. I know it well. I take my family there to shop and eat. The events happened yards away from the very building the disgraceful resolution was passed. Yards away from the Holy Temple placed there. Make no mistake the horrors of mob justice can happen to you where you live and it's more likely than ever,
These people I know. These are good but misguided on one of the most important roles in government. These are officials I have supported in elections. I have defended each of them both publicly and privately (even Amelia Gardner). They will speak with you both on and off the record. They won't avoid being challenged as many elected officials are. I am as much to blame for this as anyone else. I assumed a position on capital punishment for a county attorney. I never expected county commissioners to use an official resolution to undermine our government and our Constitution. A new level of scrutiny must be placed on every elected official. Even if a candidate isn't being elected to a position that can decide whether a policy is implemented. They can use their position to advocate for radical and dangerous policy positions that harm you and your family. Pleasant Grove where myself and the two commissioners live that voted for this awful resolution reside, the mayor and two city council positions ran unopposed. For many offices there aren't deep candidate pools to choose from and competent people are hard to find. We need to expand our traditional candidate pools to more people that work specifically to make modern life possible, Retail workers, restaurant managers, nurses, truck drivers, welders, pharmacists, construction workers, carpet cleaners. The demands of running for office aren't something most people are in position to do, but where we can we need to recruit and support candidates who go on record about fundamental positions that inform their worldview. Too many policy experts have lost the forest through the trees and fundamentally lost sight of the authority in which the government is predicated.
I would like to live in a world where capital punishment wasn't needed. Where we don't have to have these conversations, but we do. Murder is way up in Utah. We can't afford to lose any ground needed to pursue justice. My contention isn’t that capital punishment is perfect or that innocent people don’t die. I’m saying the alternative is worse and not something we ever want to see in the United States. Capital punishment and the circumstances around it are uncomfortable. I hate talking about it. I would hate more when it's needed and not there. Could you or I be falsely accused and sentenced to die for a crime we didn't commit? Absolutely, but it's better to take our chances with a jury than to be surrounded by a mob and doused in lighter fluid.
It’s misguided and naïve to think the government doesn’t have the ability to kill it’s citizens without capital punishment. It’s a failure to uphold the Constitution these officials swore to. Worst of all, the alternative. The pursuit of justice doesn’t stop with the official means of doing so it goes on. For all the issues with the death penalty as bad as they are, it’s always preferable to the mob that will pursue its own justice. Don't deny this one and narrow avenue we as citizens have as recourse for crimes committed.