Another aspect of the death penalty debate is the extent to which justice should be tempered by mercy in the case of killers. After all, abolitionists argue, is it not the duty of Christians to forgive those who trespass against them? In Biblical terms, the most responsible sources to extend mercy and forgiveness are (1) God, and (2) the victim of the injustice. In the case of murder, so far as this world is concerned, the victim is no longer here to extend mercy and forgiveness. Does the state or any other earthly party have the right or authority to intervene and show tender mercy on behalf of a murder victim? In the anthology Essays on the Death Penalty, the Reverend E.L.H. Taylor clarifies the answer this way: "Now it is quite natural and proper for a man to forgive something you do to him. Thus if somebody cheats me out of $20.00 it is quite possible and reasonable for me to say, 'Well, I forgive him, we will say no more about it.' But what would you say if somebody had done you out of $20.00 and I said, 'That's all right. I forgive him on your behalf'?"
That translation work led to a series of essays on the death penalty, inspired by a seminar that Derrida taught, that Wills is currently working on.
essay on The Death Penalty: A Controversial Issue; Dead Man Walking
Again, Quaker biblical scholar Dr. Gervas A. Carey agrees with Saints Augustine and Aquinas, that executions represent mercy to the wrongdoer: ". . . a secondary measure of the love of God may be said to appear. For capital punishment provides the murderer with incentive to repentance which the ordinary man does not have, that is a definite date on which he is to meet his God. It is as if God thus providentially granted him a special inducement to repentance out of consideration of the enormity of his crime . . . the law grants to the condemned an opportunity which he did not grant to his victim, the opportunity to prepare to meet his God. Even divine justice here may be said to be tempered with mercy." (p. 116). "A Bible Study" (p. 111-113) Essays on the Death Penalty, T. Robert Ingram, ed., St. Thomas Press, Houston, 1963, 1992.