This is not a post about the death penalty. It's about the circumstances under which we are allowed to use lethal violence to right a wrong.
Paul Hill, convicted of murdering an abortion clinic doctor and his security guard in Pensacola in 1994, was executed today in Starke, Florida, a few hours up the road from here. I think they used lethal injection rather than Old Sparky, Florida's famous electric chair which, on at least one occasion, really did put on a disturbing display of fireworks. Mr. Hill went to his death unrepentant, believing that a great reward in heaven was laid up for him. The local news coverage was sparse. At the moment of execution, 6 P.M., most stations were giving the weather forecast. (And this struck me as very odd, to tell the truth.) I got more from MSNBC, where Pat Buchanan was interviewing Pat Robertson, who condemned outright the actions of Mr. Hill. Rev. Robertson thought it contradictory to kill in the name of life. But of course that's exactly what we did in Iraq, and what the state did to Mr. Hill. Robertson also rejected the commonly raised analogy that draws a parallel between an abortion clinic doctor and a Mengele in a Nazi death camp, although the principle behind his rejection was not clear to me.
We know certain things to be true: That we may sometimes use lethal force to defend ourselves or others; that murder is a crime, and that murder was taking place in that clinic, and that the doctor was therefore committing it; that Mr. Hill perceived himself as acting in the self-defense of an innocent other possessing no means of defending himself.
I know other bloggers have chewed this over before, but I wouldn't mind hearing the answers of readers to the following question:
Was Mr. Hill, in your opinion, justified or not? And why. I'd like to know the core moral principle on which you base your support or lack of it.