Now I’ve waxed lyrical about many topics and have at times offered a somewhat biased opinion of my own based on common sense, personal experience or that old dog ‘gut feeling’. This time it’s not so simple, you see I awoke this morning knowing I should write something about Capital punishment but not knowing why or what to say. Most mornings I awake to the feelings of dread and loathing complicated somewhat with the predictable erection. My thoughts turn to the day ahead, work, chores, sex, breakfast and the occasional flight of fancy such as staying in bed all day! But this morning was different, even before I opened my eyes I had a clear and perfectly formed idea sitting like a wizened old man in the vast, somewhat chaotic chasm, I call my brain. Capital Punishment, said the wise old man, it’s a potential firecracker, emotive, a rollercoaster of passions, ideas and juxtapositions fraught with opinions. My hard on slunk off like a scolded puppy.
Here what I know 1-10 in no particular order
1/The ‘capital’ in capital punishment is from the Latin ‘capitalis’ meaning ‘regarding the head’, as in behead.
2/ Beheading is just one of many methods used historically by state or church to punish a person for a multitude of sins or wrongdoings. These sins or wrongdoings range from petty crimes such as stealing bread and heresy to that of murder, rape and treason. These punishments have been historically varied and torturous; such as boiling to death, disembowelment, crushing by elephant, burning, stoning and being strapped naked to a boat, fed some sort of laxative and eaten alive by ravenous insects.
3/ Contemporary forms of execution are far more humane, like Electrocution, gassing, stoning, whipping, firing squad or death by lethal injection, so that’s alright then.
4/Sixty percent of the world’s population live in a country where execution by law is practised, mainly China, India and the good old United States of America!
5/ In Japan execution is legal but only a few are condemned, it’s to reinforce the idea that if you do good things then good things will happen to you but if you’re naughty then……….Also in Japan those lucky few on death row are seldom if ever told when they are to be exterminated, could be in a year’s time, could be tomorrow, could be now. This psychological torture leads to depression and possible psychosis; some say that that is not one sentence but two. A sadistic prison guard’s dream isn’t it?
6/In America people can spend years on death row, the average time spent on death row is ten years, it allows time for appeal. The average time for an appeal to go through is eleven years, hang on, I’m no mathematician but that doesn’t add up!
7/ While convicted murderers, rapist, child molesters wait out their fate they make friends with Jesus. Jesus is a lifer who claims to be able to offer redemption and forgiveness to the stoniest, most hateful, sick and perverse individuals! Thank God he’s inside; imagine the damage someone like that could do on the outside!
8/The European Union don’t do capital punishment; it states reasons of a philosophical, religious, political and ethical nature. In its memorandum it argues that the death penalty undermines human rights, is not supported by scientific evidence to suggest that it deters criminal activity and, should not be used as vengeance for the victim’s family.
9/ One rule for one, one rule for all. I have read that of the 22000 homicides in the states every year only 150 perpetrators receive the death penalty. The decision to destroy a life, however unredeemable or worthless it may be, depends on where the trial is held, who the judge is and what colour the murderer’s skin might be! Sounds like a bit of a lottery to me, that’s a less than one percent chance of feeling the noose tighten around your neck.
10/There is no ten there never was.
On February 17th 2004 Todd Willingham was executed by lethal injection by the state of Texas for the killing of his three young daughters. He spent 13 years on death row and maintained his innocence throughout. Leading up to his execution documents were submitted by his defence team that showed without a shadow of a doubt that the original arson report was severely flawed. The court ignored these reports. His family are fighting for post humus exoneration.
The list of wrongly accused and executed men in America alone begs several questions, the first and most obvious of which is whether the death sentence should be legal and if so…why? Also is the state ethically right to, on the one hand tell its citizens it’s wrong to take another’s life, and then impose state sanctioned murder as a punishment for those that do.
One of the greatest arguments against the death penalty is ‘wrongful execution’, if the state wrongfully murders an innocent person for an alleged crime then who’s to blame? You can’t give that life back, not only is an innocent person incarcerated for years, locked up with evil doers and horney bull queers but at the end of it you take his life and ruin the lives of his family. Something needs to change way before the chair’s plugged in, something way down the line. For example, is it fair that all American jury members at a murder trial have to be comfortable with passing the death sentence? If you’re comfortable with condemning, then it stands to reason that you comply comfortably; surely? Hmmm oh look a kangaroo! So is it acceptable to execute a minority of innocent people by mistake if the majority were asking for it, to make what equates to a human sacrifice?
What of rehabilitation or the search for spiritual healing, forgiveness and personal development? Is it possible over time to take a violent and disturbed individual and through various means transform him into an honest, positive force in the world? I suspect that this idea is abhorrent to the victim’s family; it must be easier to have the perpetrator as a constant rather than accept that he has made peace with his past and moved on in a positive fashion. Do we as a society desire our most dangerous criminals to walk the path of righteousness? If a young man with no real moral compass commits a heinous crime, shows no remorse at trial and is banged up indefinitely, can he be slowly made whole? Does society owe him the chance to become a descent person or was this forfeited at birth, at home, at the point the crime was committed? Should the tax payer have to fit the bill for this long shot, this Coup de Grâce? Besides as the Ancient Greeks were known to say ‘you can’t polish a turd!’
It’s baffling isn’t it? I’m exhausted just thinking about it, on the one hand how can you teach people that murder is wrong or sinful when the punishment is just that, murder. However if someone touched a hair on my child’s head I’d rip his nuts off and impale him on the railings out front, as a warning to others. I wouldn’t give a fuck if, had he lived, he’d found a cure for cancer, fuck him, I’d want vengeance.
Vengeance though is not always just, not to some, not when perpetrated by a vigilante or angry mob. There are the obvious cases where an innocent is attacked and it transpires that the attacker was either misinformed or couldn’t read. But more worryingly is the belief, by some, in the justifications of honour killings. The concept that any female in your family is a commodity that can be traded or disposed of at will is barbaric. Worse still there are many governments in the world today who have written into their constitution the ‘right’ for a male family member to kill a female should he ‘catch her in the act! But it doesn’t stop at red handed adultery, girls can be buried alive, shot or set fire to by brothers, fathers, uncles or cousins for refusing to marry their choice of a mate, or fraternising with a member of the opposite sex on social networking sites such as Facebook. If a man rapes a woman, unless there were several male witnesses to the act, it’s the woman that will be punished, often death by stoning is utilised. Although the woman has no legal trial, she is at the mercy of the men in her family, the state turns a blind eye or even goes as far as publicly condoning Crimes of passion. Wrong, wrong, and wrong.
It’s obvious to me that an individual or group should not be able to take the law into their own hands, whoever they are or whatever cultural or religious background they come from. As for state sponsored execution my gut feeling is that no one has the right to take another person’s life, and as it is often more expensive to kill than it is to keep we should keep. If nothing else it gives the perpetrator the rest of his/her life to consider their crime, to live with what they have done rather than take the easy way out. I hope that I’m never in a position to decide, to hate that much, to want what some would term as ‘the ultimate vengeance’. After all forgiveness is, without a doubt, the hardest undertaking of all.
Not a conclusive essay I know, but at least tomorrow I can awake to the normal feelings of dread and despair and, with a little luck, an erection to be proud of.