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Let 'Em Hang, er, Fry, er Lie Quietly on the Table and Wait..., February 1, 1998 :: Ben Turner's Soapbox

 

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archived soapbox: February 1, 1998
"Let 'Em Hang, er, Fry, er Lie Quietly on the Table and Wait..." [permalink]
    keywords: Texas, capital punishment, execution, justice, law
    soapbox #: 122
    written: February 1, 1998
    words: 2256

"Let 'Em Hang, er, Fry, er Lie Quietly on the Table and Wait...", an Essay

In the Injection Scar State, otherwise known as the Lone Star State, Texas, it's big news that yet another criminal has been killed as punished by the pristine legal system we have implemented for ourselves.

About the only good news to report here is that not much of a fuss was made over the fact that the criminal in this case was a woman. Isn't it nice to know that finally we've gotten past gender and have gotten to the real meat of the matter?

<ahem>

I have a couple things to clear up before I continue. First of all, I'm writing this in one setting so don't look at it like some sort of violence in contemporary society dissertation (I'm sure these things exist in some universities...). If it makes you feel better, you can just close that new e-mail you're about to start and remember that I'm only twenty and I don't know what I'm talking about. Luckily, you're older, more experienced, and you've dealt with convicted murderers and rapists so you have room to talk.

The other thing which may not be obvious is that I'm not really intending to make a clearcut stance on my views of the death penalty. I can understand other viewpoints and there is by no means an easy answer to this. I'll express my views on the issues and you may get upset, but my interest goes more into how about people are focusing on the wrong parts of the issue.

Okay, so this woman killed someone else with a pickaxe. I don't know much more about the case than that. But it sounds pretty...gruesome, doesn't it? I mean, it takes a lot to drive you from downing a Starbuck's to mutilating someone with a pickaxe. It's not exactly something you aspire to do when you wake up. Okay okay, besides doing it to an employer or whatever... I mean actually going through with it.

There's a lot of talk about how no one deserves to die as punishment for killing others. Seems kind of hypocritical to condemn someone by sentencing them to death for killing someone, right? Have we forgotten Hammurabi's Law? An eye for an eye? This system is about as truly just as you're going to get, because whatever crime you commit will be performed on you in an equal (or slightly more harsh) fashion. Granted, the victims are still traumatized, but what can you do about that?

This isn't an easy solution.

In this whole case with the Death Row woman, everyone knows even less about the victim, the person who was bludgeoned and stabbed to death with a pickaxe. What is the victim's family supposed to do about this? Be satisfied with knowing the murderer is sitting in a cage watching tax-funded cable TV and visiting my web site with their pants around their ankles? I don't think so. The victim is presumably innocent and did not deserve such a fate -- how do you warrant murder of an innocent? By letting criminals live or by giving them ridiculous 2+ lifetime terms (what kind of system punishes you to not just one, but two or five lifetimes in jail?)? No.

No one will agree that murdering any old person (let's leave out political madmen and bad actors), particularly an innocent, is behavior that is acceptable and legitimate. If murder of an inmate is such a horrible crime, why isn't the murder of a normal citizen more severe? Why doesn't a criminal who makes that journey from "normal" human being to murderer deserve to die?

I'd like to believe in rehabilitation. I think in some cases, it actually works. But come on. Why do people become rapists, murderers, and thieves? It's because of the environment they live in, the world they grew up in. God, if I were poor enough, I'd consider stealing from someone who wouldn't miss that boxed stereo if I could feed my family or get what I needed. Hell, no one else would be helping me or giving me a chance to get back on my feet. Why should the more fortunate refuse me aid out of the goodness of their hearts? Then you have the people who literally go crazy and decide to mow down a bank full of customers with a machine gun they acquired just outside. Do you think these people came from nurturing families with plenty of money and plenty of opportunities to succeed?

For the most part, I don't think people change. Yes, it happens, but it's a fine line. No one can tell for sure if someone will never commit a crime again. But if we're going to have this institution called rehabilitation, someone has to decide.

That's very important to think about. The death penalty and rehabilitation are necessities in the world we live in. We can't just sweep them under the carpet and hope our social deviants find God and become contributing sheep of the flock.

The world isn't fair and it can't be fair. Innocents will be convicted and criminals will be set free. The blame is placed on arbitrary, textual laws which sit in capital buildings. Some people think the death penalty is terrible, some think it's the only way. Get rid of the trash of the world. What do I care? No, no, who are we to decide who lives and dies? That's not the important thing.

The important thing is that our legal and justice systems work and are free enough of corruption that they actually work and lessen the chance of people receiving the wrong punishment sentence. Bribery is probably rampant in the courts, and most definitely lawyer manipulation is. Lawyers basically pick the most ignorant people (the people who have no idea how to feel about a case) in order to help them win their cases. Our laws are constantly being edited in order to accommodate exceptions to the rule, which in turn produce precedents which are hard to counter in a court of law. A good percentage of the time, the right person is convicted. But with all the wheeling and dealing going on in the courts every day, the people who are guilty are getting off on exceptions to the rule, set by actual innocent people.

Look, it doesn't matter if you're into religion or you're family to someone who got slain by a criminal who broke parole. What matters is that we find a system that minimizes wrongful deaths. It's going to happen, injustice, but it happens more because of our social systems and justice systems. We can improve those areas, believe it or not.

As you can gather, I support the death penalty, but not 100%. I think some people do rehabilitate successfully and from an economic standpoint, I think that all the reprieves granted cost us a fortune. I also believe in choice for abortion, another related issue. How can I justify killing criminals as well as innocent babies?

Because I live in the real world. Look, you probably don't run into people who have multiple convictions. Neither do I. But I sure wouldn't want to. Criminals DO exist. Pure carelessness for human life is prevalent in society. Some people don't exist to help out others or to make a life for themselves. They live to kill. I'm not referring to the people who were driven to commit crimes -- it's slightly different. Anyway, teen pregnancy and unwanted pregnancy occurs as well. Have you had a baby? Was it expected? I can only imagine how I'd feel.

But goddamn, the world we live in doesn't always allow for us to have a baby in a barn and raise it into a beautiful, intelligent, healthy son or daughter. Sometimes people have one-night flings and end up getting pregnant by accident. Maybe they can't support their child so it'll grow up to be malnourished, uneducated, and deformed. It costs a fortune to raise a child successfully these days. If the parents of a baby have split up and the parents don't want the baby, then how well do you think the child will grow up?

I've been keeping up with the reader feedback section of the school paper, the Daily Texan. Several people, including Saikat Guhu, a genius (I should know -- he lives in the dorm I lived in last year) have found this section to be their only channel to the real world. Keep in mind, this prodigy is the same person who decided he would talk very loudly while a good number of people were trying to watch the X-Files in the TV area in the dorm. When I told him, "You're attending the university with the greatest number of students in the country and you can't find a place suitable and appropriate to discuss things? Shut up and let us watch the show," he pulled me over afterwards and told me to tell him next time in a nicer manner. (I'll never understand that) This is the same person who responded about the destruction of the delicate balance of civility of mankind after someone wrote a letter, as a joke, about how everyone should have sex if they're consenting, because, Hell, it's what we were born to do. Same person who contends that willfully killing a human being is just another generic crime. I have seen this person and he has no connection with anything less pretty than the cafeteria slop on his plate (not like I'm the grand shaman who's lived on the streets before attaining enlightenment, but at least I've opened up to the idea of wondering what it would be like for me). To him, there is one tax bracket, one way people should act, and one way people do act. Scary stuff. I love ya, Saikat! Thanks for overflowing your shower and toilet down onto our floor several times last year! Seems to mirror your writing style and lack of humor!

This isn't an easy solution.

Supporters of pro-life and no death penalty smack of idealism. Granted, some sects of the pro-life movement agree that instances such as rapes and severe genetic deformation in the baby warrant an abortion. But we can't live our lives imagining that everyone else feels remorse or pain or is perfectly well-adjusted. Do you think some of the most well-known serial killers felt sorry for what they did? Hell no! They got off on the excitement of the hunt. They didn't feel bad about what they had done. Do you think people like that are going to rehabilitate well? And what of abortion? We're not all middle-income families or higher.

On the other hand, if you consider it morally and religiously wrong to kill a criminal, yes, I understand that. If you feel it is wrong to interrupt with the process of pregnancy and marriage and fidelity, yes, such issues are going to weigh heavily on your mind. But it is the same for me. I don't want people to die (to clarify, I just want people to get the fuck out of my face and not communicate to me). I don't want babies killed, pulled out of the womb. But it's still there and it happens every day. People can't support their children. Some murderers stay on this earth for the sole purpose of money and killing. Instead of ignoring the problem, I need to deal with it. I think everyone could benefit from spending time with the less fortunate to get an opinion of how it is for, well, how it is for the people I've been referring to in this whole essay.

We do not live in a utopia. The bad is going to happen. Life cannot be perfect. Our task is to create a clean, noncorrupted system which minimizes injustice and protects the people who do not deserve to be harmed.

Hell, why don't we go even further? Stop the problem at the source! Why don't we concentrate on social reforms and make lives better for the people who weren't fortunate enough to have gold cards as soon as they passed the rite of the cutting of the umbilical cord?

If you really want to help, don't sit around outside a prison with picketing signs, okay? It's lame and you make us miss important things with special updates on CNN on the protesting outside the execution, like the endings of Simpsons episodes. I've only seen those episodes eight times each, man! If you really want to help, get off your ass and contribute to the less fortunate with donations of food, clothing, and money. Volunteer at youth clubs or something. If you're the wannabe champion of humanity, help the people who still have a chance, not the veterans of the prison programs.

We're going to have to work together on this one, folks. We're going to have to find the way with the fewest flaws, and it's going to take all opinions to find that most optimum decision. Stop fighting -- we're on the same fucking astrological rock and we haven't figured out how to shuttle ourselves off to our own religious/political planets yet.

This isn't an easy solution.


 
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