BEDIO: Breaking Down The Argument of “The Paradox of Innocence” by Garret Merriam

Hello everyone!

This post is a bit different from my previous posts as I’m breaking down an article that discusses the death penalty. A bit heavier of a topic than what I usually cover on this blog, but I think that the topic, and the arguments he discusses in the article are interesting and can be applied to a variety of issues outside the death penalty.

So, why did I read this article? Basically, it’s something my partner assigns to his students, as it makes them think about the death penalty differently and the structure of the argument in a paper.

To read the full article, you can follow this link!

In case you don’t want to read the whole paper, here is Merriam’s central argument, from the third sentence of the paper’s abstract:

I argue that, paradoxically, if we do abolish the death penalty more innocent people may be punished for crimes they did not commit.


What I find most interesting about this article is that it’s not actually arguing for or against the death penalty; what it’s arguing is that there is a paradox within the argument to abolish the death penalty, and for the “argument of innocence” to be stronger, it needs to address this issue.

The argument from innocence may lead to something of a paradox: by avoiding the major miscarriages we increase the minor ones to such a degree that the end result is a greater overall justice.

II. The Argument From Innocence

Another point that I think is necessary to consider is that when it comes to any sort of social justice issue, if you are not a part of the group that is directly impacted by the problem, you need to spend more time considering the consequences of the solutions you support.

Anyone advocating for abolition on the basis of the argument from innocence must do so in a way that takes the trade-off posed by the paradox of innocence seriously. And abolitionists who base their position on arguments other than the argument from innocence need to consider the unintended side-effects that getting what they want might have on other prisoners.

Section VIII. Conclusion: Is the Trade-off

Overall, what I find most interesting about the paper isn’t that it’s arguing for or against the death penalty but rather the strength of the argument. Merriam points out a significant flaw of people arguing to abolish the death penalty because they don’t consider the long-term consequences of its abolition. At no point is Merriam stating which side he is on. Instead, if the anti-death penalty side wants to help prisoners, they need to counter-balance the fact that fewer resources will most likely be put towards freeing wrongly imprisoned prisoners. It not only gets the reader to think about the death penalty differently but also consider possible solutions to the issue.

Thanks for reading and stopping by, I hope you found this post interesting! Also, sorry for not actually finishing the post before it got out, the week was a little hectic and I forgot to come back to this and finish it πŸ˜‚

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

On that note, I will see you tomorrow with another new post

-Erin πŸŽƒ


Published by enordhof

Hello! I love writing about a variety of topics, such as books and music, and have my own blog, I also do freelance work, which you can see more of on my portfolio website,

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