November 25, 2003

Eye For An Eye?

You've probably heard the news by now. John Allen Muhammad has been nominted by a jury of his peers to receive the most special award the judicial system can hand out - the death penalty. Despite living in the area and being a news junkie, I heard the news from fellow bleeding-heart liberal (her description, and one that applies to me as well)Jewdez.

Now, don't get me wrong - I think this guy deserves to be punished. As I've written previously, I was one of the people running through parking lots into grocery stores, avoiding taking the trash out at night, and filling up on gas in out-of-the-way gas stations. Everyone who lived in the area was terrified. It was not a good time to be a Washington DC resident. But that said, I'm not sure I get what's accomplished by killing him. I'm not sure that I don't see more actual punishment in letting this guy rot in a cell for the rest of his natural life. And I just don't agree with the death penalty. There's something about hearing jury members saying "he deserves to die" that doesn't sit well with me. Regardless of the horrible things this guy did, its still a life.

Posted by Chris at November 25, 2003 7:03 AM

I agree with you. It always makes me angry when someone equates a position on the death penalty with caring whether or not someone should be punished. Hell, put the screws to his thumbs for all I care. Rip out his fingernails. Bash him in the head with a frying pan every day of his life. But death, I won't agree with. Hey, it's just me.

Chris, It's been my opinion that until opponents of the death penalty give up the old "life in prison is worse than death" argument, the message will never be taken seriously. I have always used that until I realized one day, nope. Death is worse. Suffering is terrible, but it's life. And when you realize that truth, then the argument becomes one solely of morals.

The answer is, the death penalty is just plain wrong. Morally wrong. The end. And there's no arguing against that. I've been ridiculed for it but you can't prove that I'm wrong.

I like that :-)

Posted by: Rob at November 25, 2003 8:28 AM

Regardless of the horrible things this guy did, its still a life.


Posted by: Marie at November 25, 2003 10:38 AM

it doesn't sound humane to kill him or to let him "rot in a cell for the rest of his natural life". but i know if he had killed somebody in my family, i'd want him dead ... and i'd want to be the one to do it. in fact, i say set him free and give all the family members of his victims sniper rifles and tell them to "go get him". let HIM run in fear.

i'm all for killing him, and i think that lethal injection is too good for him. just my opinion, and thank goodness i live in a state that uses the death penalty. :-)

Posted by: tj at November 25, 2003 11:41 AM

I know I won’t be able to change your mind if you’re against the death penalty but I feel that I need to comment on why I feel that its justified in this instance. His actions, in my opinion, of brainwashing his accomplice and the verbal threat to his ex wife were actions of a malicious heart. His total disregard for human life, from the time he left his home until the time he was arrested, shows that he doesn’t care one way or another for anyone other than himself. Does that constitute giving him the death penalty? Perhaps not, but the fact that he took multiple lives, in multiple states and created a state of terror (domestic terrorism) for the states of Maryland, Virginia and the DC area gives me reason to agree with the verdict of death. If for no other reason than to perhaps make someone contemplating doing something similar think twice. Do I think that will work? Maybe….maybe not ~ but I do know that I don’t want to have his care for the rest of his life added to my taxes. Now, in the case of his teen-age accomplice, no I don’t feel the death penalty would serve any purpose. In his case, I wouldn’t mind footing the bill for his incarceration/rehabilitation. However, your belief on “its still a life” does make one think, especially since I try to live by the rule "harm none do what ye will".

Posted by: chaos at November 25, 2003 12:31 PM

My sister's murderer was given the death penalty and the execution has occurred. It was 7 years from the time of her murder to his execution. I was an active participant in a group that was responsible for getting laws passed that shortened the length of the death penalty process. (The Habeous Corpus Reform Act) Before these laws were passed, people sat on death row for a minimum of 17 years sometimes. During the whole seven years while I watched him in prison, making news, headlines, and in court my heart had a dark shadow that stayed there. I thought for the longest that the reason I never felt that 'spring-time joyful elation' that I used to have was because I had passed the age where that was possible. The day he was executed something lifted in my heart. I was elated and cried tears of joy. Not because he was gone, but because I felt I could finally tell my sister, 'Ok, I have done what I could.' You really can't say that you don't agree with the death penalty until someone has taken the life of someone you love. Timothy McVeigh deserved death. So does anyone that takes the life of another. Why should they be allowed to see their families, write letters, be prison educated, fed, clothed, medically attended etc... when their actions took away the ability for me to give my sister a hug, or a phone call or just be sitting next to me?

Posted by: wlfldyz at November 25, 2003 12:50 PM

I think when a person kills another human being in pure, premeditated malice, that person has essentially given away their humanity and it serves no purpose whatsoever to let them "rot" in prison at the expense of law-abiding citizens. It's that kind of thinking that allows a death-row inmate to receive life-saving dialysis, (yes, this really did happen) while a person who has never hurt anyone goes without and possibly dies because they are broke or uninsured. That's not right.

When I think about how some of these animals tortured/raped/killed and showed no mercy to their victims, I simply just can't care about them. Almost everyone knows right from wrong, and the majority of these people made the wrong decisions, and now they have to pay the price.

Posted by: Jane at November 25, 2003 2:28 PM

You really can't say that you don't agree with the death penalty until someone has taken the life of someone you love.

By that reasoning, I can't say I don't agree with pro or anti-abortion policies, since I will never be pregnant. The fact is, the death penalty is being paid for by me, performed in my name, and therefore I can say I don't agree with it and work against it without having had a loved one murdered. Just as I can work against severe sentencing penalties without having had a loved one sent to prison for fifteen years for a dime bag worth of pot, or I can support chemical castration for repeat sex offenders without having been raped or having had a loved one raped or molested. We're expected to take part in the process and have opinions on the issues without necessarily having experienced every possible use of state power.

The day he was executed something lifted in my heart. I was elated and cried tears of joy. Not because he was gone, but because I felt I could finally tell my sister, 'Ok, I have done what I could.'

I don't really know how to react to that. At the risk of being seen as insensitive to what must have been a horrible seven year period that I wouldn't want anyone to have to experience, I don't necessarily think that we should have the death penalty just so that the survivors of victims can feel better. The death penalty, if it's going to exist, should exist to prevent future deaths, not to serve as state sponsored revenge. Enough people have been released from death row despite having had the loved ones of their supposed victims swear up and down that they were guilty that it seems to me that if we confine them and new evidence comes forth, we can free them and while they've suffered, at least they aren't dead. And if they are guilty and spend their lives on death row, they've been kept from harming others and have in effect lost their lives, without the irrevocable step of having them put to death, which can never be undone. As I've read someone else say, the government often can't be trusted to deliver your mail directly to your house, but we're going to trust them to never execute an innocent man? This is not to imply that the person in your example wasn't guilty, since there's no way I could possibly know that.

Ultimately, considering I live in a nation that allowed its own citizens to die of untreated syphilis to study the effects of the disease because they were black, a nation that has tested LSD on its own citizens, a nation that has even sprayed doses of toxic chemicals on suburban neighborhoods without telling the people who lived in those neighborhoods, I don't trust them with the power to execute criminals. It's too easy to abuse it, and too often argued as a monetary necessity in times when prisons are increasingly privatized. I do understand the desire to repay what has been done to you, but I don't agree with granting this kind of power to any state or nation, and I don't think I need to wait until someone I love has been killed to make that decision, since any person put to death in a state I live in is being put to death, in part, by me.

Posted by: ezrael at November 30, 2003 10:27 AM