Tuesday, January 05, 2010
The Death Penalty
I had good intentions of doing Ruby Tuesday this week, but I stayed up too late, got up too late and am preoccupied waiting for the Schwan's truck this morning... and then there was an itme in the news this morning that caught my attention. The American Law Institute - the group which originally were the strong advocates who rationalized the use of the death penalty - have announced that they are dropping their support for it. They have not been brave enough to come right out and denounce it, but they have admitted that it isn't effective and won't support it any more. Yippee, I say! Hopefully this will be the start of something good like the revoking of capital punishment. I know, I'm a dreamer. Still, this offers hope. This announcement is apparently a big deal since they were sort of the literati of the "kill the bastards" set.
I've never understood the concept of the death penalty. I don't get what another killing fixes. I was so grateful that my sister's murder took place at a time when New York State didn't have the death penalty. Killing her killer - a 16-year-old boy - would have made it worse for me, not better. She would still have been dead and more blood would have been added to the horror of what happened. Another family - albeit a pretty broken one - would have mourned its dead. For what? Revenge, I think, is seldom as satisfying as people expect it to be. It doesn't undo the loss or take away the pain. One of the best movies ever on this subject is Dead Man Walking. It starred Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon and is based on fictionalized true life experiences of the nun played by Ms. Sarandon. Though it tilts to the anti-death penalty side of the equation, it is very fair to those who are pro death penalty, very respectful and cognizant of the pain of losing someone to violence.
I find the idea that the existence of a death penalty is any kind of deterrent to murder to be either delusional thinking or sophistry, but certainly absurdly illogical. Most murder is spontaneous and unplanned and I doubt anyone in the heat of such a moment is going to say ... "oops... I forgot this state has a death penalty, better not kill anyone." By the same token, those who plan their murders usually think they are too clever to be caught and again are not likely to be put off by the possibility of execution. Anyway... I ramble mindlessly here. Sorry.
I know today's news doesn't end the death penalty. The state of Texas seems to revel in killing people, even when they know they aren't guilty. Prosecutors are notoriously loathe to admit to their mistakes. An organization called The Innocence Project works tirelessly to clear those wrongly convicted of both death penalty and other crimes. Since 1973 close to 200 innocent people have been released from death row sentences based on DNA testing and other efforts.
I think it's murder when we as a society kill a guilty man, but what about the innocents we have unquestionably put to death over the years? Aren't we morally accountable for these deaths?
But anyway... I got delayed and side-tracked after I started this post, so I'm a bit fragmented and very late in the day posting it. Still the news this morning made me feel a bit better about the world. The death penalty may not be dead, but some of its strongest proponents are quietly sneaking out of the room and hoping nobody remembers they were there. That, at least is cause to smile.
Hope you all had a happy day. We had a bit more snow and more cold, cold weather. I guess we are not alone.
Some more winter pictures...