Wednesday, March 15, 2006

killing criminals


I must be morbid because this is something like my third or fourth post on this topic.

1. Moussaoui is still facing the death penalty, according to a ruling by his judge, Leonie Brinkema. There were some questions about whether or not that would still be an option given the snafu of a particular FAA lawyer. The case is now much weaker without the testimonies of seven witnesses, but the death penalty is still on the table.

2. Even if his blackened heart had pumped a bit longer, Milosevic was not facing the death penalty for his war crimes, by rules of The Hague Tribunal. Where no justice appeared to be served, Lawrence Douglas has a decent editorial arguing that history will not deem the Milosevic trial a failure.

3. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit alleging the drugs used in lethal injections may only paralyze an inmate rather than guarantee his or her painlessness. This is fallout from the Michael Morales case last month, which by the way is still in limbo.

4. California has yet another high profile lawsuit in progress, that of convicting members of a white supremicist prison gang, the Aryan Brotherhood. At question are 32 murders and attempted murders arranged by prisoners from within the prison, acting on other prisoners and people outside the prison system. So much for rehabilitation.

Four distinct cases. Four very different defendants (or groups) charged with everything from mass genocide to conspiracy to racketeering.

I'm not an advocate of the death penalty, but I didn't lose sleep when Timothy McVeigh was put to death for the Oklahoma City bombing. If it is not the place of a government or an international tribunal to play god and end the life of a human being, maybe justice simply isn't possible. Even with the death penalty as an option, I wonder if justice is served.

The U.S. certainly wants vengeance on someone for September 11. With Osama bin Laden nowhere in sight, the case against Moussaoui becomes laden with symbolism. Putting a man to death for the sake of "sending a message" is on par with the insurgents who hanged four men in Sadr City and pinned a note to their chests branding them traitors.

I recently read that in 1793, the National Convention voted 361-360 to use the death penalty against the King of France, who was deemed a threat to the state. That single vote sanctioning the use of the guillotine had a profound impact on history. Then again, other sources say the vote was 387-334. Either way, majority rule isn't the answer.

6 Comments:

Blogger James said...

You're not morbid, you're just giving thought to what many people don't think about. I agree that it's hard to get worked up about the death penalty when I think about the likes of Moussaoui, McVeigh and Milosevic. It's a shame they only have one life to give for their crimes and putting them to sleep seems too easy. At the same time, I don't care for the death penalty, or perhaps I don't care for the way it primarily targets minorities and the poor. Of course I wonder if living a life behind bars without hope is any better. I guess my biggest concern is that you can't take it back if you're wrong.

1:33 PM  
Blogger James said...

I probably should have written 'we can't take it back if we're wrong.' :)

1:34 PM  
Blogger Notsocranky Yankee said...

I have a hard time thinking that Moussaoui should get the death penalty. His is the wrong case to try to "set an example".

Like you, I am not a death penalty fan, although I would flip the switch/administer the injection on people who molest and then kill children. Maybe it's the mother in me, but that crime really upsets me.

I agree with James that the death penalty is final and there can't be any mistakes! It's also difficult to think that the gov't has the right to take a life any more than an ordinary citizen. But as a taxpayer, I also dislike supporting any criminal who has committed a capital offense. (I know, I know, the death penalty is more expensive than incarceration I'm sure, with all the legal wranglings.)

It sure is a lot to think about!

4:35 PM  
Blogger Old Man Rich said...

killing people is wrong.
Unless its an in progress situation & its the only way to stop someone. But once they are behind bars & no longer a threat.
whoever they are, whatever they did. Wrong.

(Although I have no objection to attaching electrodes to the soft parts of sex offenders).

1:17 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

James--I respect the governor of Illinois for pardoning all those on death row for exactly that reason: you can't take it back if you're wrong. As for the disproportionate number of minorities and poor who are executed, it's sick. And a good indication that the system isn't working.

Notsocranky--I tend to agree with you in the Moussaoui case. The main argument against him seems to be "He never warned anyone about 9/11; he could have saved lives." For better or worse, the 5th amendment is part of our Bill of Rights, and a person's right to remain silent is still a fundamental right. That said, life in prison seems like a fair sentence to me for a terrorist.

OMR--The tricky part of your comment is the "no longer a threat." Leaders of the Aryan Brotherhood were reportedly locked in solitary confinement in high-security prisons and still able to manipulate the system so that they could put hits out on fellow prisoners. It's scary when the prison itself is the source of criminal activity. How, and at what point, will these guys be "no longer a threat"? The death penalty may not be the answer, but I'm not sure what is. Definitely prison reform needs to be part of the solution.

8:01 AM  
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