Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Burn her anyway!!!"

1:30 for the line that inspired the title.

I used to be pretty set on how I thought about the death penalty.  My world-view was never really simplistic enough to believe that “eye for an eye,” was morally right, but I always thought that if the crime was horrific enough then the person who committed it deserved to die if that was his or her sentence.
Albert Camus . . . he love me,
he loves me not . . .
Thanks to author Albert Camus, and more recently death row inmate Troy Davis, I now have a shitty crisis of conscience over the whole damn issue.  I know, I know, I’m not as “progressive,” as perhaps I should be.  My heart doesn’t bleed blue donkeys, nor have I never been intimate with a tree.  But for anyone who actually gives this issue some thought, it’s not so easy to take a logical stand on it without looking at least a little stupid.

So here’s my problem: in my heart I believe that the most vicious murders deserve to die, but I can’t help but feel that logically, and morally, it’s wrong to condemn them to death.  Camus mentions that it’s pretty ridiculous that we flawed humans get to determine which other flawed humans get to live or die.

I mean if murder is premeditated and has some sort of passion behind it, then how is the death penalty not murder?  There’s a date set, the method is predetermined, and the target is specific; and although the people actually doing it might not have any passion behind it, the family of the killer’s victim certainly feel pretty strongly.  They might not be able to kill him themselves, but the state is doing it for them.  Camus acknowledged that there are some people who probably just shouldn’t be alive; that they are beyond rehabilitation and are more like animals than humans.  We all know, however, that that’s not the case for every guy on death row.
About to get fragged.

Take Troy Davis for example.  This poor bastard has been sitting on death row since ’91, and even now that 7 out of the 9 people who witnessed against him have since recanted their testimonies, his stay of execution is being denied.  What’s even better is that he was only convicted on those testimonies.  There was no physical evidence—no DNA, no finger prints, no weapon—to convict him, so they went solely on eye-witness accounts.

And to make this even more fucked up, the Supreme Court has apparently shit their principles all over the floor.  They overturned the appeal because Davis has not been able to provide enough evidence that proves his innocence.  I’m no damn legal expert or anything, but in America aren’t we all innocent until proven guilty?  Isn’t the burden of proof of guilt upon the state?  In this case it looks like as a majority of the state’s evidence that originally convicted him is now in serious question.  They said that only one of the recantations is really “meaningful,” but doesn’t this at least deserve a second look?

I’m not going to go as far as to say this is racially motivated, after all it is the liberal US Supreme Court that turned down the appeal.  What if he didn’t do it?  Should we really risk allowing a potentially innocent man to be put to death?  Is that justice?

The new Supreme Court.  Currently awaiting confirmation
from the Senate.

Please feel free to comment on this.  I realized yesterday that I had anonymous commenting turned off.  So if you want to comment but don’t want to set up a google account then go ahead.  You can now post comments as anonymous, and just leave your name or whatever if you want your identity to be recognized.

Discussion is always encouraged here.  Read my comment policy if you don’t believe me!  =D


Anonymous said...

Camus "stranger" (great book) Shows some flaws in the french justice system at the time. In this case it is obsienly stupid that the supreem court turnd down apeal given that 78% of the conviction evidence is now in dispute. If he was famous he would be out of jail and suing for defimation of charictor and wronfule imprisionment.

Sorry for the horrible spelling.

Jack Camwell said...

Yeah, the specific piece I got the inspiration from for this post was his essay titled "Reflections on the Gallows." It's particularly powerful and very well argued.

With the unevenness of the justice system, I don't doubt that if Davis were famous he'd at least be granted a stay of execution. Some people are saying that this is racially motivated, because a black man killed a white cop, but I'm always reluctant to throw out the R word.

I mean, the US Supreme Court denied the appeal, and with the likes of Sotmayor sitting in, I doubt she'd let that pass if she thought it was racially motivated.

Harrison said...

If anything, it's cheaper to keep 'em locked up for life. And, as a bonus, if they do turn out to be innocent well... you can always release them

Karen Howes said...

I support executing dangerous murderers, not for the sake of "punishment" or vengeance, but just ensuring that no one else dies at their hands.

The government does have a responsibility to keep society safe, and technically, the definition of murder is the killing of INNOCENT people. So executing a serial killer is not murder.

My only thing would be, make certain that the person you're executing is guilty first. If there's any doubt at all, they shouldn't be executed.

Jack Camwell said...

Good point Harrison. I've often heard that argument, that it's cheaper to keep them locked up rather than to execute them.

And Karen, the biggest problem I'm having right now is the war between how I feel about it and the logic of it. Logically, it seems wrong to kill someone, regardless of the reason. But my gut tells me that it's wrong.

I know that if someone murdered a person I loved, I'd want that guy dead. Like Camus said, there are some psychoes out there that will never be rehabilitated. They're no better than wild animals, and they're always a danger to society. So killing them seems to be more justifiable than, say, killing a guy that murdered someone in the passion of an altercation.

Davis' situation just seemes supremely jacked up because there's a HUGE question as to whether he is guilty, and the Supreme Court apparently doesn't care.

Harrison said...

I'd think having some guy sentanced to life without parole being someone's "boy" for the rest of their life would be decent punishment.

Jack Camwell said...

Haha, owned.