A basic reason for opposing the death penalty is its denial of human redemption. Instead of allowing an individual to live and possibly make amends for his or her crime, the lethal injection becomes the state's (and maybe even the condemned person's) easy way out.
These points were crystallized in the case of Karla Faye Tucker, the woman executed by Texas authorities on Tuesday. Ms. Tucker committed a grisly murder and spent 15 years on death row. During that time, she experienced a religious conversion that, according to people who knew her, redirected her life toward service to God and helping others. This after an early life shattered by addiction, violence, and prostitution.
What was the greater value to society - Tucker's removal in the death chamber, or her presence as a reminder that even the most damaged lives can be redeemed and turned toward usefulness?
The death penalty precludes the latter. It's an unevenly applied, often revenge-driven option that makes no allowance for judges and juries to build in some form of moral responsibility, including lifetime repayment to families of victims - and to society.
Some might ask how anyone can know if Tucker's religious experience (or that of any other inmate) is genuine, or a ploy for leniency? There is no sure test. But the prospect of genuine moral change shouldn't be foreclosed for anyone.
Tucker's gender was much publicized but essentially irrelevant. What matters is equal justice that recognizes redemption's reality.