Right to death?

The killer of Dr. George Tiller is subject to the death penalty under federal law, both for killing to prevent the delivery of reproductive health services and for killing in a church. Let’s not go there.

A reader points out that the law making it a federal crime to interfere with reproductive health services has what seems be a “balancing” provision extending the same protection to places of worship. In each case, the crime becomes a capital one the sentance can be life in prison if death results from a violation.

Thus the assassin of Dr. George Tiller potentially faces not one, but two, capital charges life sentences under Federal law: once for killing an abortion provider and again for doing so in a church.

Under state law, he’d face the death penalty.

Personally, though I have no strong principled objection to capital punishment, in this case I’d be against it. As William III said about one of the non-juring bishops (I’m paraphrasing from memory here; Macaulay tells the story) “He is determined to become a martyr, and I am determined to frustrate him.”* A life sentence will do just fine, thanks.

Footnote And not in the cell next to Ted Kaczyinsi’s, either: “super-max” incarceration is torture. An “ordinary” Level V prison is plenty hard time.

* I think this was about Bishop Ken; if any reader has the quotation handy, please send me an email.

[Updated to correct an error due to hasty reading &#8212 by me, I hasten to add, not by my reader, who caught the mistake.]

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com