Wednesday, March 02, 2005

5-4 Supreme Court Abolishes Juvenile Executions

For centuries the death penalty, often accompanied by barbarous refinements, has been trying to hold crime in check; yet crime persists. Why? Because the instincts that are warring in man are not, as the law claims, constant forces in a state of equilibrium.
Albert Camus (1913–60), French-Algerian philosopher, author

The New York Times article on the Supreme Court’s Death Penalty decision was very curious: …people who had faced capital prosecutions for crimes they committed as juveniles can now be sentenced, at worst, only to life terms. Only? Living in a cage for the rest of one’s natural life does not seem to me a picnic.

I don’t favor the death penalty, but I have moments when I think someone should received it. Unlike Michael Dukakis, who ran for president in 1988 against W’s father, 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 ripe 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 glad I don't live in a state that finds killing teenagers acceptable.

The Washington Post pointed out that the states most affected by the ruling are Texas, where 29 juvenile offenders were awaiting execution and Alabama, where there are 14. No other state has more than five. There have been 22 executions of juveniles since 1976, 13 of them in Texas, and George W. Bush was governor during a number of those -- our conservative passionate president.

A key part of the decision was that the court's considered of the role of international law in their interpretation. Many will criticize our basing laws on anything other than our system such as Justice Antonin Scalia did, but how can we judge other countries when we practice such barbaric practices? But, it is apparently okay for us to enforce our laws on other countries, oh say, Iraq.

I would be interested in your thoughts on the death penalty.


Jack Steiner said...

Hi M.,

I have always had mixed emotions about the death penalty. I used to be much more liberal and against it because of the fear of what could happen if an innocent person was executed.

In recent years I have become less concerned about that because of the appeals, no one is executed overnight.

However I am not convinced that the Death Penalty serves as a real deterrent either. Perhpas I'll blog about this myself.

Chandira said...

I've got mixed feelings too. Being a taxpayer, I hate that to keep people in jail for the rest of their long lives is costing us so much money, but hey, I really would rather they didn't die.
I am not a person for whom it all comes down to money.
I'd rather see a more liberal approach to it all, than to stick people in jail needlessly, on the lower end of things. You know, smoking weed, minor things, not paying tv license fees (in England)etc.. I would like to see a complete reform of the ENTIRE system.
I applied for a job once in a prison, which I didn't get. I don't think really I'd be tough enough to deal with it, but it was an interesting thought.

B2 said...

From the seat of my pants, and the top of my mind:

I would not hesitate to kill to protect or defend my wife and children. I can imagine that, in the heat of the moment, many would also kill those who perpetrated acts of violence against wife and kids. The fact guilt and remorse might later come to the avenger do not enter the mind in times of great emotional distress; you can't always use logic to chosse your actions. Is the death penalty a deterrent? I don't think so. Does it make relatives of victims feel better? Probably not as much as killing the sons-of-bitches by hand would. But neither vigilantism nor the state acting on our behalf will lead to real evolution in our world.

If it would cost nothing to our pocketbooks and moral consciences to keep evil people locked away with only the minimum necessary to sustain their lives (and without any priveleges), I think that would be preferable to killing them. Is it a "money thing" that leads us to accept capital punishment; is that really a good reason to kill someone? Because it's cheaper?

I, too, find I have mixed thoughts on this topic.

Attila said...

I was opposed to capital punishment until I moved to New York City in the early 80s. It's funny when I think back on it, but what changed my mind was the casual attitude toward killing, the sheer pleasure in it, shown by teenaged thugs. Teenagers. The same thugs that are mature enough to be punished for murder but not mature enough to be executed.

The death penalty for murder may or may not serve the purpose of general deterrence -- of deterring others. But it sure as hell deters the murderer from ever murdering again.

More important, to me the death penalty is the only way that society can collectively show that it values life -- not the life of the murderer but the life of his victim. Call it retribution or whatever you like. A society that spends its time worrying about whether it's treating murderers too harshly does not value life.

As for the legal issues, read Scalia's dissent. This decision (whatever your views on capital punishment) is a disgrace.

Sorry for being so irritable. I like the blog.

The Misanthrope said...

Attila, keep ranting we appreciate it and your thoughts interesting and valid. I am just not sure the death penalty is not an easy way out. I would rather them live life in a cage.