Whenever commenting on sensitive issues such as the death penalty it is important to walk the proverbial line of reason. Occasionally emotions get dragged into these quarrels and debates, leaving both sides even more adversarial than before. Exercising the death penalty is a very serious matter for a judge to decide; however, there are only certain situations in which it is justifiable to issue such an extreme decree.
The death penalty should only be used in cases in which the defendant presents a great danger to society by staying alive in prison. The obvious substitute for the death penalty is life in prison, which implies that any use of the death penalty only applies to those that pose a great danger by staying alive in prison. In the case of Steve Smith from Ohio, it is clear that if he stayed alive in prison for the rest of his life, he would almost certainly not have posed a danger to the community.
In cases such as Smith's, where his crime was limited to victimizing one person and did not exhibit repeated criminal behavior, the death penalty should not be applied. Although the crime he comitted — the murder of a six-year-old — was heinous and horrific, he does not constitute someone that would be a threat to the society at large if he were to remain incarcerated. Cases that justifiably use the death penalty would include the Oklahoma City bomber, someone who posed a threat as a high-profile terrorist while still incarcerated. Members of drug cartels who have connections inside prison and who commit crimes worth of the death penalty from within their walls could also reasonably be executed. But when examining the crime committed by Smith, it is hard to argue that he posed a threat if he served life in prison.
Although it might seem insensitive and harsh to argue this point, it is reasonable. The death penalty should not be taken lightly. Furthermore, it should not be used as a tool to exact revenge on criminals who pose no threat while incarcerated for life. Some might argue that if any person deserves it, it's Smith. However, that belief is charged with emotion and revenge not reason and justice.