The true significance of the death penalty is as a symbol of man's inability to create a completely peaceful and civilised society. We can blame violent video games and television programmes for the violent crimes that appear in the news every month, but until we abolish a punishment that legally acknowledges violence as a viable means of justice, problems will continue to persist.
Politicised show trials, error-strewn and near-racist courtrooms, mistakes corrected decades after the fact, ethically indefensible overlaps between judicial and medical protocols, ghoulishly botched attempted executions... all these and more are actually fairly typical of the 21st-century death penalty, not rare aberrations.
It's a loose comparison, but sometimes I think that people who get executed these days are like those killed right at the end of a war. Another day, another month ... and they might survived. I say this because when you look at the figures for capital punishment around the world, you can see there's a strong trend toward abolition.
When the new e-petitions system went live all the talk was of the return of the death penalty. Those of us of a more liberal mindset braced ourselves for an outpouring of the most reactionary, kneejerk populism imaginable.
The Italian murder case that has gripped media in the UK, US and Italy for nearly half a decade took an incredible turn this week as Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, found guilty alongside Rudy Guede of killing Briton Meredith Kercher in 2007, had their convictions overturned. While the surreal scenes in and around the Perugia courthouse after the appeal decision resembled something out of a TV legal drama, replete with crowds hurling insults at lawyers and the stunned defendants being led through packs of suited men by the police, the chaotic case highlights again that miscarriages of justice do happen in the west, and that the lobby pressing for the resurrection of capital punishment in European nations should be held at bay.