Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Crime and Punishment, Part 4

"Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent."
Adam Smith

In Part 3 I discussed punishment for property crimes involving violence. Here I'm concerned with crimes whose goal is violence committed on an innocent person: rape, aggravated assault, murder, terrorism and other political/ideological violence, murder for profit, any crime in which people are injured due to "depraved indifference", and domestic violence in which the stronger preys upon the weaker. Child abuse, not discipline such as spanking but actual, injurious violence, sexual or not, is also included.

How would I punish these people? I'd kill them. Note I did not say "execute," "terminate," or any other euphemism. Kill. Take their lives so that they cannot prey on anyone else, whether in or out of prison.

"But," some might say, "what about rehabilitation? Surely some of these people, by virtue of our common humanity, deserve the opportunity to become decent members of society after they have paid their debt." Horse manure. Show me any credible evidence that such rehabilitation ever occurs and I'll consider it. So far I haven't seen any.

"But," they'll say again, "some of these people are mentally ill! Some are retarded!!! You can't want to kill people who are not responsible for their own behavior!" Yes, I do. I'm not proposing the death penalty as a morally equivalent punishment for their crimes, some sort of divinely ordained retribution. It's pest control, of the same moral status as killing a rabid coyote. It is purely and simply about removing a danger to innocent people, or even those not so innocent. Note I wrote "people," not "society." Society is by and for the individual.

I don't wish to make these convicts suffer gratuitously. That's evil, and while Quentin Tarantino may enjoy purposeless violence, I don't. That's why I don't favor publicly killing the guilty. It's not entertainment. Given that, how should the killing be done? Not with lethal injection, which is theater designed to allow the queasy to convince themselves that we're being gentle and humane to those we kill. Not with the electric chair, or the noose, or the guillotine, either. These are props in a theater of revenge. I think the Communist Chinese have the method right, if nothing else: One round to the back of the head. If the brain is destroyed the capacity for suffering is, too. If you want to be sure one shot is effective, use a shotgun. Yes, it's messy, but it's as quick and painless as death ever gets, and it's honest.

There is one final but very important issue to be addressed: How do we know who to kill? Jury decisions are wrong often enough to make anyone with a sense of decency apprehensive about the death penalty. Eyewitnesses are often in error, and their judgments can be manipulated. Only fools believe that juries are unbiased, or that police and prosecutors always care about justice rather than case clearing and conviction rates. Lab results can be sloppy or faked.* "Reasonable doubt" is too low a hurdle when anyone's life is at stake. I want a more stringent standard: certainty. If there is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but short of certainty, a sentence of life at hard labor at least provides the chance for a mistake (or a malicious prosecution) to be rectified. Where guilt is certain, as in the cases of Loughner,  Holmes, Hassan, and Hill, the sentence should be simple, quick and certain: kill them.

* Shockingly and sadly, today there's even more evidence of prosecutorial fraud. See:

My feeling is that anyone who perpetrates this kind of shameful injustice should face the same sentence the wrongfully convicted defendant got, up to and including death.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with the extermination concept. And it should be quick after the determination of guilt. Also those that are imprisoned it should be a the hard labor, not time spent in reading, weight lifting or other innocuous pastimes that will prolong there existence. But that may just be my jaded view of being responsible for your personal actions.


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