I want to comment on the subject of murder. I am not referring to the accidental or self-defense killing of another person, only about the cold-blooded killing that goes on in our country — willful or premeditated homicide.
Human life is sacrosanct because of its relationship to the divine, and human society must ensure by means of the severest punishment that this sanctity is respected.
The Bible also lays absolute claim to this respect for human life in the commandment that “thou shalt not kill.”
Only once does Old Testament law announce, without qualification, this is punishable by death (Lev 24:17).
Every other treatment of homicide in the law codes dwells particularly upon the talk of differentiating between intention and accident.
When can the death penalty be imposed?
It is necessary to establish premeditation by means of the criterion of preparation: if the offender ambushed the victim, premeditation could be assumed, or if a prior motive could be demonstrated.
The concern for clear criteria for distinguishing murder from manslaughter is evident. Only murder deserves capital punishment.
To apprehend and execute the murderer seems to emphasize the urgency of carrying out sentence in cases of capital homicide. It is too great an offense to be left unpunished. A killer who demonstrated intention is a murderer.
A killer who kills by mistake is innocent. A killer who uses a lethal weapon, lies in ambush, or acts on a standing quarrel, is a murderer.
The murderer who means to kill must be punished for an action that strikes at the very heart of human society and that destroys one made in the very image of God.
Modern states limit the death penalty primarily to acts of homicide, distinguishing between accidental or impulsive killings and premeditated murder.