Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Death Penalty issues

I don't believe in the death penalty. As a law student studying Criminology, I learned that since most crimes are either pre-meditated or crimes of passion, nothing works as a deterrent. Pre-meditated murder denotes a screw loose so not easily deterred by anything. Having visited many prisons and talked to scores of convicted felons, I know that most felons don't weight up the sentence they are likely to get; they weigh up whether or not they are going to get caught and take the risk accordingly.
Crimes of passion are spur of the moment crimes and again, rarely deterred by a sentence of any kind.

And then there are the countless individuals who are sitting on death row as we speak, who didn't commit the crime for which they were convicted. Inmates spend a long time on death row because of their automatic right to appeals. Fortunately, some of the innocent ones find champions on the outside who fight for re-investigations using modern DNA sampling techniques. In Illinois alone in the last decade, there were so many death row inmates found to have been incorrectly convicted that the then Governor put a stay on all executions.

And then there's the whole moral issue, which I won't go into.

I'm feeling slightly different about the whole thing at the moment though.

You may be familiar with the Petit Family murders, which were committed in 2007 in Connecticut.  It was one of the most brutal stories I've heard in a long time, and the details haunted me for days after reading about them. Two ex-cons out on parole had apparently planned a house robbery, which very quickly turned into a bloody massacre with the mother and two daughters (17 and 11) being cruelly assaulted/raped and tortured before being murdered. The daughters had gasoline poured over them and were burnt alive. The father had been savagely beaten with a baseball bat, tied up and left for dead. He is the sole survivor and has just sat through the entire trial, hearing evidence that no husband and parent should ever have to.

Yesterday the first of the two perpertrators was sentenced to death. Given what he did, I have to say, I don't really care.....


  1. That sort of violent crime makes you feel sick just reading about it. How awful for the husband to have to sit through such a trial, to survive such an ordeal. I'm with you.

  2. Once again, you have written a post that I could have written - well, minus the bit about having been a law student. Yes, I don't 'believe' in the death in penalty, but sometimes . . .

  3. Usually these are the types of criminal sentenced to death. It's hard to feel compassionate towards them, or to think the state owes them food and shelter for the rest of their days! I can't say I'm against it.

  4. I have the same mixed feelings normally Toni but like you, I can't wait for this man to get his due. Absolutely horrific what he's done.

  5. It's such a complex issue. About 10 years ago I interviewed a woman from Huntsville, Texas, who watched the execution of her children's murderer by lethal injection. I don't think she'd got any closure from it, really, but I can understand the desire for some sort of retribution, particularly when the crime involves the death of a child (however old). Morally, as an educated left-of-centre person, I'm against the death penalty. But there are some crimes I find so repugnant - the Tate murders, the Moors murders, for example - it's difficult to understand how life imprisonment can ever be enough; and I'm really not sure what the solution is for terrorists.

  6. I don't believe in the death penalty at all but this story and others like it, where there is no doubt of guilt make you think differently.
    Although it's hard to say whether a nice quiet, painless death for him is letting this animal off (apparently he wanted the death penalty). I hope he gets a few years of beatings in prison first.

  7. I still can't get my head around the idea of the death penalty, just feels so wrong on so many levels.

    But I agree with you, having read the most minor details of this case (couldn't stand to read it all) I can't shed even crocodile tears over the death penalty as an outcome.

    Still think it is far too flawed a concept to have it part of any justice system though.

  8. I kind of agree with Beckie - letting him die almost seems like the easy option for him, and apparently he had already attempted suicide. Whereas that poor husband is going to live with the knowledge of what happened to his family for the rest of his life.

  9. The husband gave a lengthy interview immedaitely after the trial and this is the outcome he wanted because he sees it as justice. He did not come across as a vindictive person however, because he says he has no closure and nothing will make up for his loss.
    The murderer will probably spend quite a while in prison if a group on the outside decides to take up his cause and appeal on his behalf. Not quite sure what will happen to him in the prison population. They have their own code of conduct and, like Jeffrey Dahmer, someone might be allowed to get to him and finish him off.

    I think on the whole, I have a hard time with the "revenge" aspect of capital punishment here. It's clearly not even pretending to be a deterrant, and the fact that the victim's family can watch the entire thing as if it's a spectator sport is all wrong.

  10. It's a very difficult topic in light of the horrendous crimes that they commited but I am inspired by Sr. Helen Prejean who wrote Dead Man Walking. The death penalty doesn't solve anything and hasn't deterred others from commiting terrible murders. I cannot begin to understand how terrible a death those people suffered or what would make someone do such evil things. I never will. I don't believe killing someone else is the answer. It's just not that easy.

  11. I must admit I felt a bit the same. So ghastly. I don't agree with capital punishment either but sometimes you just wish some people were no longer on the earth

  12. Your response is an unsurprising, thought when hearing / reading about a horrific crime that involved the rape and murder of two children and their daughters. Any empathetic person would have the same response.

    That noted, it alarms me to see a judicial system that operates on such primal thoughts of retribution. For me, the death penalty represents an aspect of America that I do not understand - nor do I wish to understand it. Life imprisonment is not a show of weakness or a flaw in the system, it is a strong and appropriate response of a civilized nation. In having the death penalty and regularly making use of it, America is in a select group of nations that includes: China, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen. When you keep company with that band of brothers rather than the rest of the developed world that should worry you.

    I keep hearing about American Exceptionalism. Well, America should be better than its death penalty - it certainly appears to think it is.

  13. how do I get the new version of blogger you referred to?

  14. This is a tough one. I agree with you and like you I have no problem with the sentence for this person. So horrific. I don't know that one violent early death makes up for another, but I can't imagine how it feels to be the surviving victim of such a crime.

  15. I agree 100%. The Petit murders have really bothered me and i can't stop thinking about what those poor girls went through. Hopefully the second guy (the leader by all accounts) will get justice.


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