Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Death Penalty

I had a discussion with my far-left leaning boss the other day about the death penalty. As a matter of policy, I have always felt it is a necessary policy. But my convictions were never very strong. As a lib, my boss is adamantly opposed in all instances. Of course, you don't have to be a liberal to oppose it. However, he was clear that his opposition is consistent with his liberal views.

It was a good discussion, unlike many of our disagreements because it brought to light many of the pros and cons of the subject. For instance, while the Torah allows it, a Jewish court that utilized it (at the time of the Holy Temple) was considered a "murderous court."

One of his biggest issues with the death penalty is the fact that it really isn't a deterrent. I mean, if someone is hell-bent on killing another person, it's unlikely that the threat of execution is going to stop it. Although, I suppose it has caused some to reconsider. Furthermore - and this may have been his biggest complaint - is that the possibility exist that we may execute the wrong person (the person may have been wrongly accused). It isn't THAT rare when the courts make a mistake.

After all, once a person is executed, realizing an error was made is not something we can correct. Not with that guy, anyway.

These are all valid concerns and there are no easy answers to them. On the other hand, there are also valid reasons to allow the death penalty as well. But we must be very certain that there is not a shadow of a doubt of guilt, before taking the life of someone.

Obviously, the most recognized reason - as morally unfortunate as it may be - is the revenge factor. You killed someone's loved one and now you will pay with your own blood. An eye-for-an-eye, so to speak. Another consideration is executing someone who is exceptionally dangerous, even in incarceration. Furthermore, there must be values to the people who have fallen victims. For instance, assassinating the President, or a policeman, should carry with it a more stern punishment.

What about child molesters? Well, if their victim survived, the animal should not be executed. But if in the act of the molestation he kills the child? This man has no right to occupy the air we all share. Someone who is capable of murdering children is beyond rehabilitation.

The reason I vacillate between being pro and con on this issue is because as someone who faced death, I know how scary and lonely it is. The idea that there is no more...anything is frightening beyond words. However, as I healed, I began to understand that while life on earth does end, we do not just "end." Call it heaven, call it a weigh-station or call it Montana, whatever it is, it is. I know it and because I know it, I know longer fear the day I will discover it first hand.

With this knowledge, I no longer feel sorry for the execution of certain people. John Allen Muhammad murdered 11 people in the Washington, D.C. area in the fall of 2002. With his rampage, he scared hundreds of thousands of people who feared they would be next. He had no rhyme or reason to kill these particular 10 people. The legal reason for the execution was because of his shooting Dean Harold Meyers, 53, who was shot and killed while pumping gas at a Sunoco station in Manassas, VA.

It could have been anyone. I fill up my tank with gas every other week. Another of those killed Oct. 3 was Lori Lewis Rivera, a 25-year-old nanny and mother. She was vacuuming her employer's minivan at a Shell station at Connecticut and Knowles avenues when she was shot in the back. The bullet fragmented inside, destroying her left lung.

Conrad Johnson was standing on the top step of Ride On Bus number 5705, when a bullet pierced through the abdomen of the 35-year-old driver. At the time of the murder, Johnson and his wife had two sons, ages 13 and 21.

Imagine what it's like for a 14-year-old boy to lose his dad because some arrogant, unstable SOB decides it's open season on everyday Americans.

Where is the justice for him and his brother?

The stories are heart wrenching. Yes, I know that prison is not something any sane person would want. But just like what my boss said - that execution is final - the other sode of the coin is the possibility that this monster can be set free one day. Whether it be through the appeal process, jailbreak or an ACLU lawyer discovering that page 265 of the conviction is unvalid because they only made 4 copies, and not the required 5. So they throw out the conviction.

Do you doubt something like this happens?

And what about Nidal Malik Hasan?

If this is a case of homegrown terrorism, will he be charged with Treason? That's an executable offense. I love all of these talking heads on the left who are ignored Hasan's religious doctrine and instead focusing on how an Army Major could have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Speaking as someone who was diagnosed with the disorder, following my transplant, I can tell you it did not make me feel homicidal. If anything, it made me very sad, and at times suicidal. But how do you contract PTSD when you didn't have any trauma? Fail.

But this is not about why Hasan did what he did. The question is, should he be put to death for his crimes? How about Osama Bin Ladin, assuming we ever capture him? Had we caught Hitler alive, would we have spared his life? I'm sure there are many on the left who would say "yes."

After all, by executing someone - whether they deserve it or not - we are playing G-d. It's interesting to hear that from Atheists, though. So here is what I'm thinking...

The death penalty is needed perhaps not as a real deterrent to stop someone of committing a crime, but as a consequence. Obviously, the death sentence should 0nly be used where the evidence is so overwhelming and doubt is not in doubt (i.e. Major Hasan - there is no doubt of his guilt. The only question some have is his motivation).

My feeling is this - if you take someone else's life on purpose, you lose your right to live. Even though death comes relatively quickly in an execution, for that brief moment when the lethal injection is put in, he will then know and see what his victims knew and saw. He will feel the same horrific fear that they feared. It isn't perfect, but it is justice.

When I had my heart attack, I was rushed into the hospital and I recall a female doctor who was there from Los Angeles. After asking her if she were an angel, she responded that I was still alive, but barely and they must get me into the OR immediately. G-d showed tremendous grace on me by making me forget the next 4 days. But what I do remember was the feeling that my heart was a ticking bomb and the only way I can get better was through a bypass. However, I was still way too sick to survive the surgery. I was constantly reminded by the machine that was pumping my heart, that any number of things can go wrong between then and four days later.

I had to make my peace and it was a good thing i did. What I mean is, I remember the feeling of preparing for death in your mind. In some of these cases, they were lucky enough to die instantaneously, instead of suffered and dying slowly. Cruel and Humane punishment laws are in affect so we don't torture the murderer. But I honestly believe that should someone kill another human being in cold blood (pre-meditated), he should learn first-hand what it is to die.


Ethan said...

I had supported the death penalty in the past, but in the recent advance of DNA testing which freed several people on death row, shows that our judicial system can make mistakes, many mistakes. Life without parole is a pretty harsh sentence and as a firm believer that mankind gets punished meda c'neged meda, measure for measure by God, that God will suitably punish the guilty.

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