LC's Take: A death for a death? Yes.

Posted Wednesday, March 12, 2014 in Opinion

LC's Take: A death for a death? Yes.

The electric chair at Sing Sing.

by LC Van Savage

It's chancy, speaking out on this issue.  It's a lose-lose situation and one may not realize much support or popularity by writing about it.  I know I won’t be making a lot of new friends around this issue and I’ll have to take the heat, but I can and will do that. It’s all part of the deal.

Therefore, to avoid being indicted for making incontrovertible statements, I shall offer much of my treatise while hiding shamelessly behind the wimp form of the question.  My subject?  Here goes;  It's the death penalty.

Are you becoming increasingly enraged at the curious, tender compassion our judiciary offers certain members of the citizenry who are hell-bent on destroying lives?  Does it bother you that specific elements of our wonderful country can casually commit unspeakable misdeeds against men, women and children, only to have their wrists slapped gently minutes before they're shown the wide-thrown door to unchaperoned freedom? 

Are you bothered that a human can kill and therefore rob another of an entire future and then trade just a few years of his own life for doing that?  Are you annoyed when you think about his victim's family also having their lives irrevocably destroyed because of this villainy? That they are left with insurmountable legal bills to pay because of that person’s few moments of letting go? To say nothing of leaving them with torturous memories.  Do your eyebrows knit quizzically when you hear the words "life sentence" but that seems to translate to "eight years"?  Or sometimes less.

And how do you feel about the casual sanction of repeat- offenders?  Does it bother you just a little that they commit something so terrible and are able to trade that action for a few years in jail where they can quietly plan doing the same thing again, quite soon after getting out?  And does it worry you that this is what often happens?

 I'm occasionally disturbed that this vermin can conduct malfeasance when the mood suits for whatever reason, and if caught can go to a nice warm jail, maybe get a college education, ingest all the medication needed to maintain good health, learn a trade, wear clean clothes, get dental work done at our expense, watch TV, spend time in a well-equipped work-out room, and read magazines and books, while the grieving, shattered family of his victim can never enjoy any of these perks. (But he does thoughtfully leave them with at least one thing—those aforementioned warm, vivid memories.)

 I'm disturbed that a measure of the money I get for things I write about will help pay for a portion of this creep's evening dinner. Maybe the salad.  Perhaps a muffin. Or the cake for his dessert. Does it all taste good to him?  Does he ruminate on his crime as he swallows? Does he feel remorse as he remembers his crimes while dining on his warm, pleasant macaroni and cheese?

 It seems to me that when a bad guy kills someone and is found guilty by a jury of his peers, and  he then goes to the slammer for a couple of quick years  penance, he has made me, us, you, his victim. And his accomplice. 

Yes. Think about it.  You see, if he kills someone and is allowed to live and eventually go free, by our having to financially contribute to his upkeep, we have become the killer too. (I call it "coddle money.") And because we are obliged to pay for this guy's enforced vacation, he has made us also his victim.  I think that supporting him makes us guilty of both things, whether we like it or not, and the worst of it is that we have no choice. We must give sanction to his living a long, healthy life, which then makes us part of his crime. We become the killer and the killed.   I wonder if he knows of his power. I suspect he does.

 I dislike all this. Do you?  It's true that the death penalty can mistakenly kill a person who did in fact not commit the crime.  It happens.  That's ghastly and I can't begin to think how to resolve this.  Can you? Can we all take heart that with video cameras everywhere recording everything and DNA testing, and witnesses who come forward that the chances of an innocent person’s being executed  have become slim to none? We can only hope the answer is yes.

We will all recall the recent horrific story about a man being executed by some new and not very well researched method---was it injection?  (He’d murdered a woman a few years back.)  He took too long to die and apparently it wasn’t terribly “humane” or pleasant.  He suffered badly.  People were screaming in outrage.  They wrote.  They called.  Yes, there was an upsurge of rage about how horribly this man died. He’d been in the slammer for brutally beating a woman nearly to death, raping her repeatedly and then just to put a nice finish on it, he slashed her throat so violently the knife cut into her spinal column.  Yes it took this man seven or so minutes to die, unpleasantly.  Tell me please, how long did it take his victim, that innocent woman to die? Obviously I will not be signing any protest petitions so do not send them to me.

Is the death penalty a deterrent?  Hardly. (Well, actually it’s a deterrent to the murderer who gets the death penalty---he surely won’t be doing that anymore.)  We cannot count on any gentleman or woman firmly determined to slash out the lights of another (and usually innocent) human will scarcely stop, look contemplatively at his victim and think, "If I actually go ahead and do this thing, well golly, they might fry me. Perhaps I should reconsider."

 No. Nothing will stop him. Or her. No musings of public flogging. No threats of death by electricity or rope or injection. Or tongue hacked out or hands hacked off.  If he's gonna, he's gonna, and that, irrevocably, is that. And yes, I know what you’re thinking; there is such a thing as self-defense and that must be respected and considered. Sometimes we humans are forced to end another’s life before they end ours. Or the life of someone we love. Simple. 

 But if the perp is tried, found guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt, and is then officially offed by a hired executioner, we are not therefore forced to shell out portions from our hard earned coffers for his jailside upkeep.  We don't insult the grieving family or the memory of the dead by feeding and nurturing this sub-human.  If he's executed, we are not forced to be in cahoots.

Are we.

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