It's just my month to be a contrarian I guess.
So the death penalty is on the minds of many bloggers at the moment. Dave Trowbridge (aka Redwood Dragon) has an articulate and heartfelt argument against it, and the comments in Patrick's post on Making Light are the intelligent pro and con you'll usually find there.
I myself support the death penalty as an option for punishment of violent crime, and violent crime only.
Potheads, crackheads, Enron-like evil CEO bastards, and theft where no one was threatened do not merit the taking of a life.
Some warriors of the drug war have tried to drag the death penalty into drug dealing cases, which to me is unconscionable, and there will be a special circle of hell for anyone who succeeds at this endeavor. If we kill people for selling a bag of pot, or even crack, then we are truly lost.
My reason for supporting the death penalty is this: Some crimes are so heinous as to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the irrevocable damage the perpetrator must have to their mind or soul, therefore it is only for society's best good that they are dispatched into the void. I no longer care about their fate as they have effectively rendered themselves toxic to the human race, so my primary concern is the society's safety.
To be crude and inappropriately flip: Buh bye. Thanks for playing.
Mr. Trowbridge has a good point in that if our means of putting these criminals to death is cruel, and that seems to be the case since we won't even use those means to put animals to death, we should correct that situation and make sure our means are as humane as possible. We cannot correct the torture brought upon the criminal knowing they are facing death and when, but the means of death itself should be painless and swift.