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Innocent fatalities are a concern of all social activity with a capacity to kill. This is especially true when the social activity is the death penalty since an innocent person's execution is not simply a tragic collateral consequence of activity with a non-fatal objective. Instead, the taking of life is the goal of the enterprise, and the killing is the intended act of the state.

There is another difference between accidental fatalities in other social activities and those that occur when the capital system miscarries. Typically, the former fatalities are easy to spot and quantify; the latter are not. Precisely because operating a railroad is not designed to kill, the fact that passengers died when a train went off the rails is conclusive proof that a serious mistake occurred. When the number of victims is determined – usually without too much difficulty – the extent of the tragedy is clear. All that remains is to figure out what went wrong, to compensate the victims' families, and to take steps to keep the fatal error from occurring again.


Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Criminology and Criminal Justice | Law