Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Justice and The Death Penalty
Societies have the obligation to establish rules governing conduct. The conduct that a given society determines is unacceptable reflects that society’s standards, its morals, and its humanity. Without rules and penalties for breaking them, you cannot have a civil society. In order to make it clear to its members that certain behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated, a society determines punishment for those behaviors to discipline those who ignore the rules and to deter its members from indulging in them. The punishment must fit the crime; it must be strong enough and unpleasant enough that members of the society will refrain from those offensive acts, and the process that determines guilt must be fair and swift, or else the concept of crime and punishment—of justice—becomes a mere pretense.
I favor the death penalty for some crimes that are so horrendous, so contrary to our moral sensibilities, so offensive to our sense of decency and so anti-social that the most appropriate punishment is death. Those crimes are cold-blooded murder of innocent victims, clear cases of rape, the sexual assault of a child and treason. Any person whose absolute guilt in any of those crimes has been determined through a fair and thorough process has earned the death penalty, and ought to die as soon after committing the crime as possible.
I further believe the method of ending such a miscreant’s life should not be subject to approval using our ever-broadening, soft-hearted concept of “cruel and unusual punishment,” a concept that is today so unfair to victims, so heavily weighted to the benefit of the killer/rapist/child abuser/traitor, and so contrary to common sense that it would be laughable if it were not such a travesty. What fallacy of reasoning can produce in otherwise sensible people the idea that someone who has committed a brutal, horrible act should be granted exemption from experiencing the horror and pain that he or she has caused to an innocent victim? Why should the society—whose rules against anti-social behavior a killer/rapist/child abuser/traitor so blatantly ignored when he or she imposed cruel and unusual punishment upon the victim—protect that degenerate from experiencing equal misery and pain? That defies reason. It is softheaded. It is anathema to justice.
I believe the perpetrator ought to suffer a horrible, painful death, and I believe that society ought to know just how horrible and painful execution for one of those crimes is. I believe that the fair trial and swift execution of these dregs of humanity would deter a good many potential perpetrators, but even if it did not deter similar crimes it would send a strong signal that such behavior will be met with swift, certain justice resulting in an unpleasant end.
I also believe that however brutal and painful the miscreant’s death may be, it is the easy way out. It may take a couple of years to complete the process of determining and assuring absolute guilt, the last days might be terrifying, and the final minutes should be pure hell, but that does not balance the harm the crime has caused to the victim and to society.
So, to mollify those who oppose the death penalty, I would be willing to substitute for this well-deserved end a long, horrible life in confinement at hard labor, under austere conditions where every day the murderer/rapist/child abuser/traitor would be so uncomfortable and miserable that they would beg to die, and truly rue what they had done.
That’s a fair trade: You get to live, but you’re not going to like it.
Crime and Punishment