30
Apr
14

On the death penalty

2000-03-01

****

I will start by saying this.

There are times I read or hear about a case. Someone who, for example, rapes and murders a child. And my gut reaction is to say, “Kill him”. He doesn’t merely deserve to be removed from society, but to be denied of life for his abomination. It is a gut reaction, a cry of the heart, a revulsion at a crime so heinous that it defies understanding. And as humans, often what we don’t understand must be excised, like a cancer. I know if someone murdered a person I loved, my thirst for vengeance would be nigh unquenchable, sated only by the ending of his or her own life.

In Iran a few weeks ago, a young life was about to be extinguished in punishment for murder. The noose was around his neck. He was begging and pleading for his life. Then, the mother of the boy he killed ascended to the hangman’s platform. She slapped the convicted’s face. And then she told the executioner to remove the noose.

This happened in what many Americans consider to be a barbaric, retrograde state, a terrorist state, opposed to all we hold dear. A mother climbed onto the platform where her son’s murderer was about to be executed, and forgave him. No more blood would be spilled. The cycle would end then and there.

Yesterday, an execution in Oklahoma was botched due to an incorrect mixing of the lethal cocktail. This was an execution pushed for by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin. She suspended the second—SECOND—execution scheduled for that day “pending further review”.

But we have much to learn from that courageous Iranian mother.

She chose not to use her son’s murder as an excuse for judicial murder.

She chose to end the cycle of death. She allowed her son to die, and took the justice she needed from his murderer. She confronted him, and he will live the rest of his life knowing that his life was spared by the mother of the boy he killed.

****

****

I’m not making excuses for Iran. It still has its fair share of executions. So do China. And Saudi Arabia. And North Korea. And Pakistan.

And the US.

That is the company we keep. No other Western nation condones state execution. We are forced to cavil that “we don’t execute as much as China does”.

Is that the company we wish to keep? Do we wish to make the excuse that “we’re not as bad as them”?

As I said, I read about cases, and my soul thirsts for vengeance. Only the ultimate penalty will suffice to punish the crime.

But, I’m not a barbarian. I do not—or at least, should not—live in a barbaric nation.

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A government excoriated for its inability to meet basic needs is somehow entrusted with the power of life and death over its citizens. The percentage of Americans who believe in the death penalty has steadily declined, but it’s still a majority. The same electorate which looks askance at the government’s ability to provide healthcare for its citizens has faith in its ability to execute only the guilty.

Too many Americans believe that the death penalty is a deterrent, when it is anything but. It is expensive. It adds costs to the upkeep of the deathrow inmate. And as stories for the past decade have highlighted, it is in many instances wrong. Innocent men and women sit on death row, staring at the ultimate penalty for a crime which they did not commit. And our very own Supreme Court has ruled that new evidence is not sufficient reason to stop an execution.

Yes, there are many times when I say “let him hang”. But then I catch myself.

I do not oppose the death penalty only out of concern for the condemned. I also oppose it out of concern for myself, and my country.

The one surety of life is death. Prolonging its arrival might be the reason why societies organize. Allowing the state to take life, however well deserved, upends that reason.

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I don’t oppose the death penalty because I believe everyone on death row is innocent. Some are as guilty as the devil.

But do we pay death with death? Do we call some death unrighteous and some righteous? And how do we draw the line? Terrorists believe in their righteousness, as much as the the people. And if we execute the innocent, as we have? How is that ever made right? An innocent man or woman on death row can be exonerated. The dead are dead.

And it’s the mark of a strong civilization to say: “No, we won’t kill you. We will let you live out the rest of your days removed from society, caged, to dwell on your crimes.” Not able to enjoy the summer breeze, or to sit with loved ones in restaurants would be more of a punishment for me than to be killed. Death would be a release. Imprisonment would be the real death, prolonged for years.

I struggle to allow my better angels to lead me on this. But, as usual, they’re right.

The death penalty is no comment on the condemned. It is a comment on us.


73 Responses to “On the death penalty”


  1. 1 Nena20409
    April 30, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    <3 TOD ;)

    • 2 africa
      April 30, 2014 at 5:41 pm

      Hi Nena!!

      Congrats on 1sr.

      Now, I am off to read what I am sure is a riveting piece by LL.

      • 3 Nena20409
        April 30, 2014 at 5:47 pm

        Thanks. Africa.

        Your post on the 234 missing girls…..pardon me, Kidnapped girls was truly sad.

  2. 4 Nena20409
    April 30, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    LL You are on Fire.

    <-I
    -I

  3. April 30, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    I wrote the words, Nerdy provided the awesome images.

    Afternoon, everyone.

    • 7 Nerdy Wonka
      April 30, 2014 at 5:55 pm

      Thank you for the shout-out, kind sir.

      The words are very important.

      Another great article, LL. This line resonated with me: “The death penalty is no comment on the condemned. It is a comment on us.”

      So hauntingly true.

      After observing the work that the Innocence Project does, it once again reaffirmed my stance against the death penalty. Death is indeed final and to take that life away without erring on the side of caution, of no-DNA testing, of wrongful testimonies, is just too topsy-turvy. Let the convict spend the rest of their days behind bars without the freedoms everyone else gets to enjoy. That to me, seems like the worse punishment.

      • April 30, 2014 at 6:00 pm

        Every time the majority thinks that an act is a comment on The Other, it is in fact a comment on themselves.

        Oklahoma voters who keep sending “string em up” governors and legislators to the capital have to look at themselves. Their actions led to a man being killed in a tortured way. How can we say we’re better than the criminal in that case?

        A society has to be better than its worst elements. Otherwise it becomes just like them.

        • 9 SUE DUVALL SMITH
          April 30, 2014 at 6:38 pm

          EXCELLENT ARTICLE LL….OKLAHOMA IS A REPEAT OF THESE HORRIFIC DEATH SENTENCE INCIDENTS…AS SEVERE AS HIS CRIME WAS…OUR BEHAVIOR IN THE NAME OF VENGEANCE IS EVEN MORE DEPLORABLE. THIS REMINDS ME OF THE ARENA AND THE ROMANS AND BTW…MAKE SURE EVERYONE IS INVITED. WHAT PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW IS THAT VENGEANCE…AKA..JUSTICE OR WHATEVER LID YOU WANT TO PUT ON IT…IS GOD’S. THE WORST PUNISHMENT IS SPENDING THE REST OF YOUR LIFE BEHIND BARS…AND YES WE ARE STOOPING TO THE LEVEL OF THE DAMNED!

        • 10 Judith Fardig
          April 30, 2014 at 9:05 pm

          LL + NW = great blog post!

        • 11 nathkatun7
          April 30, 2014 at 10:02 pm

          “A society has to be better than its worst elements. Otherwise it becomes just like them.”

          LL, Thank you for posting some of the most thoughtful and insightful pieces; I wish all Americans had access to all of your wonderful posts! A great many of us in this country still need thoughtful teachers like you.

    • April 30, 2014 at 5:56 pm

      Another beautiful piece LL, thank you so much. I almost cried when I read about the Iranian mother the other day, the whole situation was just unimaginable.

      “The death penalty is no comment on the condemned. It is a comment on us.”

      You said it all.

      • April 30, 2014 at 6:02 pm

        And like I said, there are times when “string ‘em up” is my first reaction. But that attitude is what leads to the barbarism we see in our country, everyone armed, ready to shoot at the slightest provocation. If you’re okay with killing a prisoner, it’s not many steps to being okay with shooting dead your neighbor over loud music.

        • April 30, 2014 at 6:11 pm

          And it’s the sheer process of it all, state employees strapping a human being to a chair, gurney, whatever and actually killing them. I just can’t. When I read what the two Oklahoma guys did, I had a brief moment too of ‘**** them’, but all the death penalty is, is descending to that barbaric level.

  4. 15 isonprize
    April 30, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    LL!!! on a roll!!

  5. 16 hopefruit2
    April 30, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Thanks for his thoughtful post LL! Is OK Gov Mary Fallin still MIA on this issue? That half-arsed statement she released yesterday ticked off a lot of folks. I know she is scrambling…

    • April 30, 2014 at 6:44 pm

      This is from last night.

      I perused the headlines on tulsaworld.com just now and didn’t see an update.

      They have articles now posted on the technical aspect of the drugs involved and international reaction to this miscarriage of justice.

      Hopefully this will be the wakeup call to sane Oklahomans to say goodbye to “Mattress Mary” as Carolyn says she was called before she became Governor.

  6. 18 Dakota
    April 30, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    Well done L.L!

  7. April 30, 2014 at 6:14 pm

  8. 20 JER
    April 30, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    • 21 99ts
      April 30, 2014 at 7:16 pm

      I am always a little wary of the share market highs on the last few days of the month – payday for the fund managers.

  9. 22 JER
    April 30, 2014 at 6:27 pm

  10. 23 carolyn
    April 30, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    LL…….as you know I am a resident of the benighted state in which this happened. I have written the governor already, as have many others, I know. In fact, when I read the comments on Charles Pierce’s column today, several said they had forwarded his editorial to Gov Death Panel Fallin. If you would feel so moved, could you send this to her office? Her web page has an easy email link, for anyone, not just state residents. This event is surely a comment on her and the entire state administration, not on the condemned.

    The local NBC affiliate sent a young female reporter to observe yesterday. Her report last night was detailed and horrifying. She was obviously shaken by the awful experience, and gave a timeline much like the woman who tweeted the event. And these people will go to church Sunday and wave their arms and talk about how much they LOVE Jesus! Stomach churning.

  11. April 30, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Well stated, as always, LL. Thank you.

  12. April 30, 2014 at 6:44 pm

  13. April 30, 2014 at 6:45 pm

  14. April 30, 2014 at 6:47 pm

  15. 29 dotster3
    April 30, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    These Bundy militia types are about as crazy as crazy gets——wild eyed, stirring up the mentally challenged…….

    • 30 hopefruit2
      April 30, 2014 at 7:11 pm

      Crickets from the MSM on this. Meanwhile, back in 2012, and one month prior to the election, ABC had no problems bringing a rabid Klansman unchallenged, to tell paranoid white people that PBO, if re-elected would put all whites in a concentration camp.

  16. 31 Nena20409
    April 30, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Jay’s Presser at the WH on 4-30-14

    CAUTION:

    @JonKarl is the DC/ABC Village robot Idiot

  17. April 30, 2014 at 7:24 pm

  18. April 30, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Sorry about the duplicate post. I had submitted the comment and nothing appeared even after refreshing. So, thinking I deleted instead of posting, repeated and then they both appeared!! Oh my ….

  19. April 30, 2014 at 7:27 pm

  20. April 30, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    Oh dear…….. can’t wait for the RW push back of St. Ronnie to commence:

    In the early 1980s, senior members of the British foreign service were appalled by what they saw as the American president’s bumbling ignorance and lack of interest in world affairs. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were often portrayed as geo-political soul mates, but government files declassified in London on Wednesday expose a deep British disdain for the president who was described in official papers as homophobic, uninformed, disinterested and, not to put too fine a point on it, “a Bozo.”

    The British Foreign Office files seen by The Daily Beast show that Prime Minister Thatcher was warned President Reagan had little interest in world affairs and was unable to sustain a serious conversation about contemporary politics. The damning critiques, which expressed sheer incredulity that this man could occupy the White House, were shared at the highest levels of government before and after Reagan’s first State Visit to Britain in 1982.

    Despite the hostility of her advisors, Thatcher appeared to strike up a close relationship with Reagan based on their shared values. They loudly battled Communism together and were determined to vanquish the post-war economic consensus, which had been based on the work of John Maynard Keynes, in favor of trickle-down economics and low taxes.

    • 38 99ts
      April 30, 2014 at 9:38 pm

      Will be wonderful when the “Obama documents” are reclassified in 30 years – shame I won’t be around to see them.

      Every time I see talk of Thatcher and trickle down I think of the harm this did to the world – terrible people and Reagan just added in the dumb.

  21. 39 Nena20409
    April 30, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    Guess what put a FLOOR under the GDP 1st Qtr from a Negative report?

    OBAMA! ObamaCare!

    1st Qtr 2014 was 0.01%

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/30/us-usa-economy-healthcare-idUSBREA3T13120140430

    (Reuters) – As the U.S. economy teetered on the brink of contraction in the first quarter, one thing stood out. Healthcare spending increased at its fastest pace in more than three decades.

    That surge is attributed to the implementation of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Because of Obamacare, the nation narrowly avoided its first decline in output in three years.

    “GDP growth would have … been negative were it not for healthcare spending,” said Harm Bandholz, chief economist at UniCredit Research in New York.

    Healthcare spending increased at a 9.9 percent annual rate, the quickest since the third quarter of 1980, and it contributed 1.1 percentage points to GDP growth.

  22. 40 jacquelineoboomer
    April 30, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    On campaigning …

    Some of us have been commenting on the negative, “DOOMED” solicitation emails from the DCCC – the email titles that group thought up were appalling and defeatist. A few days ago, I decided to sign up for emails from Charlie Crist (after signing a petition he and Gov. O’Malley were promoting), to follow his campaign for Governor in FL – to oust alien-seed Rick Scott.

    Here are some of the titles of Charlie’s solicitations:

    Incredible day – let’s bring it home
    Drinks on me
    Place a buck on the table
    $100 million vs $1

    To whom would you rather donate? (I mean, come on, Drinks on me, who wouldn’t fall for that one? :) )

    • April 30, 2014 at 8:41 pm

      Very interesting. I just unsubscribed with a note about their doomsday scenarios. Getting an email about the Clintons put me over the top.

      • 42 jacquelineoboomer
        April 30, 2014 at 9:00 pm

        I unsubscribed last night. Looks as though I missed the dreaded Clinton email, PTL ~ although I was never sucked into opening any of them, so it’s hard to tell.

        Watched my DVRd Rev. Al show tonight, and saw that Charlie’s polling about 10 percentage points above freaky Rick. How cool is that?

        Charlie will have fully turned around his (1) warmly greeting PBO at the airport, when FL Rs started hating him, and (2) standing by Florida teachers ~ WHEN he regains the Governor’s mansion, and I cannot wait.

        • April 30, 2014 at 9:34 pm

          Nice to see Floridians waking up to their nightmare and pushing Charlie way ahead. I hope it all works out. We could sure use another Dem Governor.

          • 44 jacquelineoboomer
            April 30, 2014 at 9:43 pm

            Especially in Florida. Even if the last time Charlie was FL Governor, he was a Republican. In name only, turns out!

  23. April 30, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Poor Toronto……..as if Mayor Rob Ford wasn’t bad enough….. Toronto born Drake, ladies & gentlemen!

  24. 46 Nerdy Wonka
    April 30, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Dudette? This is for you too.

    OMG…YES! YES! YES! Universe, make this happen.

  25. 47 hopefruit2
    April 30, 2014 at 7:47 pm

  26. 48 jacquelineoboomer
    April 30, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    LL – So moving and on point. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, as I’m thinking most of us agree. With every word.

    Just today I got to reminding myself that I’ve always told others, “Well, I’m against the death penalty, but I could see myself going for it, if a loved one of mine were killed.” And just today I realized that I do not feel that same way any longer. If someone kills one of my loved ones, I will not seek or want the death penalty for them. I will try my best to forgive them.

  27. 49 globalcitizenlinda
    April 30, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    Once NPR had an interview with a man whose responsibility was to prepare for and implement executions on as head of a state’s prison system & its death row;

    his descriptions of the emotions he and his team went through were at a such a graphic level;

    one of the questions he asked is: why should a government ask another human being to stand in execution chamber and take the life of another;

    he said he was traumatized by the responsibilities that had been placed on his shoulders and on the shoulders of the people involved throughout the process

  28. April 30, 2014 at 7:53 pm

  29. 52 japa21
    April 30, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    LL, a superb presentation.

    Like you, I often see the description of a crime and have an immediate visceral, fry the bastard, reaction. I definitely did when I read what the man whose execution was botched had done. As the saying goes, “If anyone deserved to receive the death penalty” he did.

    But I also believe that a society should represent the stronger ideals of the people living within that society, and represent what we should all hope to attain. The society, and the social ties we have with each other, is there to prevent the baser elements of a person’s character from running rampant.

    This is something that PBO fully believes in and something most Republicans don’t believe in. For PBO and most Democrats, society is there to help, guide and protect the members of the society. For the GOP, society is composed of individuals whose wants and needs override those of the society as a whole.

    The death penalty is probably the most vivid example of that divide. Yes, many Democrats also support the death penalty, but many, probably most, do not. I would imagine it is a very small percent of the GOP who would favor its abolition. For all his other faults, including those which landed him in jail, former Governor Ryan of my home state was one of those.

    But it goes farther than that. Much of the opposition to the death penalty lies in the reality that close to 5% of those on death row are likely to be innocent. My opposition lies in my belief it is just plain wrong. It isn’t based upon a religious belief, although my Catholic religion does oppose it. Rather it comes from my moral fiber which developed before my religious beliefs became solidified.

    Anyway, again, well said.

    • April 30, 2014 at 8:03 pm

      “My opposition lies in my belief it is just plain wrong.”

      Same for me, John.

      • 54 carolyn
        April 30, 2014 at 8:21 pm

        I’m with you two. It is just plain wrong. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

        • 55 99ts
          April 30, 2014 at 9:44 pm

          I’m with you three – I cannot see past how there can ever be “legal murder” – we prosecute and condemn people for murder – and then repeat what they have done. The logic of the death penalty is awesome in its stupid.

    • April 30, 2014 at 8:22 pm

      Japa21,

      I posted this for you yesterday re: Ukraine tourism. Tweeter is a correspondent for ITV Britain.

      • 57 japa21
        April 30, 2014 at 8:27 pm

        Thanks. The vise is closing on Putin in so many ways. Before you know it the people in Crimea will be clamoring to be allowed back into Ukraine. Bob, thanks to you as well for all the keeping us up to date.

        • April 30, 2014 at 8:52 pm

          From last week:

          The Crimeans cannot be happy with conditions as they were under Soviet Russia (bare shelves, small business owners unable to obtain inventory, etc.).

          From the article:
          Citing logistical problems, McDonald’s closed. Metro, a giant German supermarket chain, also shut down. Most multinational businesses want to avoid possible sanctions elsewhere for operating in Crimea.

          Flight connections have been severed except to Russia. Crimea officially moved an hour ahead to Moscow time, but cellphones automatically revert to Ukrainian time.

          In Dzhankoy, about 55 miles north of this capital city, Edward A. Fyodorov, 37, has been selling ice cream since he was 9 years old. Those sales eventually led to a fleet of 20 refrigerated trucks. He used to import all manner of food from Ukraine, including frozen buns and salad fixings for McDonald’s, plus various goods for Metro supermarkets and 300 smaller grocery stores.

          Business is off 90 percent, he said. Five to seven truckloads a day have diminished to about one a week. He has been looking for Russian suppliers, but products cost about 70 percent more and transportation issues are thorny.

  30. April 30, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    I signed up 18 kids for a five-week arts workshop. 8 showed up. Victory is mine!

  31. April 30, 2014 at 8:11 pm

  32. April 30, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Dotster posted a link to the Daily Banter upthread about a Bundy Ranch militiaman threatened Harry Reid with bodily harm.

    While this is extreme terrorist ranting, it’s most likely hyperbole and an empty, showboating threat.

    However, the article at TPM that the Banter linked to was more alarming to me, and cannot be confused with freedom of speech:

    From the article:
    Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), who represents the area, sent the letter Sunday to Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie, asking him to investigate.

    “I am writing to bring your attention to the ongoing situation in northeastern Clark County which has caused many of my constituents to fear for their safety,” Horsford wrote. Residents in the area “have expressed concern over the continual presence of multiple out-of-state, armed militia groups that have remained in the community” since Bundy’s dispute with the Bureau of Land Management came to a boil.

    The militia, as reported by Horsford’s constituents, “have set up checkpoints where residents are required to prove they live in the area before being allowed to pass,” the letter said.

    They have also maintained a presence, sometimes armed, along highways and roads, as well as community sites like churches and schools, the letter asserted.

    You can view Congressman Horsford’s letter in the article linked to in the tweet. Thankfully this CD had the sense to elect a Democratic representative, or the general public would have no idea this is happening.

  33. 63 vcprezofan2
    April 30, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    Some of the responses are funny.

  34. April 30, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    “But one Tea Party governor hasn’t gotten much attention—Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett. He’s more reserved than his counterparts, avoiding political theater and national ambitions alike. But his cuts to state services have been comparatively ideological. All of his budgets have been austere, with cuts and no new revenue sources, even though the state has experienced an explosion of natural-gas extraction. The concerned companies enjoy one of the lowest taxes on production in the nation. But while tax breaks for a variety of industries are easily attained, state services have been repeatedly slashed”

    • 65 jackiegrumbacher
      April 30, 2014 at 10:00 pm

      Pf, thank you for this. So many people forget about this incompetent because, as you say, he isn’t as noisy. But he is a 100 percent disaster for the state and must, must, must be replaced.

  35. 67 hopefruit2
    April 30, 2014 at 8:50 pm

  36. 70 vcprezofan2
    April 30, 2014 at 8:53 pm

  37. 71 vcprezofan2
    April 30, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    “Today’s final approval for the $17 billion IMF program marks a crucial milestone for Ukraine. The IMF program, in conjunction with bilateral assistance from the United States and other nations, will enable Ukraine to build on the progress already achieved to overcome deep-seated economic challenges and help the country return to a path of economic stability and growth. From my recent conversations with Ukrainian officials, including Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, Finance Minister Shlapak, and central bank Governor Kubiv, it is clear that Ukraine is committed to implementing the reforms included in the IMF program, and these reforms are critical to limiting continued vulnerability to regional pressures.

    “With the IMF’s strong backing, the United States will continue its effort to support Ukraine throughout its economic transition, including through our financial support and technical assistance. Additionally, we have been clear that we will continue to impose increasing costs on Russia if it persists in its efforts to destabilize Ukraine.
    ………………….//

  38. April 30, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    Have we heard from CEB? I think she lives in the northeast part of Florida (in the Jacksonville area, not the Tallahassee area), but this is rain of truly biblical proportions.

    “As much as 5 inches may have fallen in a single hour, from 9 to 10 p.m., NBC News reports. That’s more than the entirety of 2004’s Hurricane Ivan…”


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