Dennis Prager

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, in explaining his state's abolition of the death penalty, announced that he knew "from my heart and from my soul" that no murderer should be put to death.

As it happens, I know from my heart and from my soul that not putting any murderer to death is a cosmic injustice; it cheapens the worth of human life and greatly diminishes the revulsion society feels toward murder.

So, what does this mean? Does it mean two intelligent and decent people have very different hearts and souls? (This question assumes that pro-capital punishment readers will acknowledge Gov. Corzine's decency and that anti-capital punishment readers will acknowledge my decency.)

Here are possible explanations:

One is that our hearts are either not the same or operate differently.

I am mystified by the hearts of those who wish to keep all murderers alive. While I disagree with those whose values (as opposed to hearts) argue against the death penalty for murder, I can at least understand them. But I have no clue as to what type of human heart wants to keep all murderers alive. What type of human heart knows the pain and horror of murder and doesn't want the murderer to give up his life? It is a heart so different from mine that I admit a complete inability to relate to it.

Conversely, I presume that those whose hearts move them to spare all murderers' lives can't understand my heart. That is why I am convinced that regarding capital punishment for murder there is a gulf more unbridgeable than on almost any other issue. I understand the hearts of those who want the state to take over medical care, even though I oppose it -- my heart feels the same as theirs for those who cannot afford health care. I understand the hearts of those who want race-based affirmative action -- my heart feels the same pain over the historical injustices inflicted on black Americans.

But when it comes to murder, my heart is entirely preoccupied with the terror and loss experienced by the murdered and the endless pain of those who loved them. I therefore find incomprehensible the compassion for murderers, as expressed, for example, by anti-death penalty activists, when they have candlelight vigils at prisons but not at the homes of the families of those murdered.

Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”

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