March 02, 2005

The Death Penalty

The Misanthrope at Toner Mishap deserves credit for making me think about this one. I'll pick out one segment of what he said and riff about it.
"I would not only want the death penalty for someone who harmed a member of my family or a friend, I would want to torture them and rip their heart out and stomp on it.

I have pondered from time to time, how I would handle such a situation, but because I have a superstition I’m not going into any detail, yet, I wonder if I would say who cares and take justice into my own hands.
On an intellectual level, I know that my act of vengeance would not replace the lost and the revenge would make me not much better than the killer. I might even hate myself for stooping so low."

I highlighted the second section because to me that really is one of the grand questions that I cannot answer about myself and am afraid of. If someone G-d forbid hurt my family and I was given the opportunity to seek retribution in a larger sense of the word, that is, if I was given the opportunity to exact justice with my own hands I wonder if I would really want to do it.

If I had lost a family member to the BTK and had the chance to execute him myself, could I do it, should I do it. Would I want to torture him and make him feel powerless, helpless and hopeless as he had done. Would it make me feel better.

Sure, it wouldn't replace my loss, but is there more justice in literal justice, that is, is it better to impose the same punishment upon those who have engaged in these acts of monstrosity, is an eye for an eye justice.

In regard to the larger issue of my feelings on the death penalty I am torn between approval and ambivalence. I don't see it as being a real deterrent. If people are willing to engage in crimes that will result in the death penalty I don't think that fear of death will prevent them. It is almost something that you can say is only in place to pacify the families of the victims.

The appeals process is so long that I do not see it as offering a savings over being incarcerated for life. And for that matter, in some respects I almost prefer life imprisonment because to me that seems worse than death. But that assumes that they are doing hard time and not ensconced in some country club enviroment with cable television and an exercise room.

So in effect I haven't taken a position here, but I can't say that I am totally against it. I suppose that I would say that I think that it should be available as an option, but understood as something that should not be used just because it can be.

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