Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Case For the Death Penalty

The Mumia case has reopened debate about the death penalty and its merits (or lack thereof). For all the rhetoric being thrown around, the issue really isn't that complicated. It boils down to what we should do with those people who have been convicted of willingly taking a life.

The anti-death penalty people say leaving a convicted murderer in prison is more humane because we don't stoop to the killer's level. Sorry, but that's bogus. By putting a murderer like Mumia to death, we're not doing what the murderer did. The murderer acted as judge, jury, and executioner, giving no consideration to any pleas for mercy or evidence that would exonerate the victim. The state allowed the alleged murderer to get a lawyer, have a trial, have a sentencing hearing, and stay in prison while the trial and wait for the final outcome. And the murderer can file appeal after appeal to try to overturn the conviction.

Did I mention the murderer gets to do all of this on our dime while he or she is still living?

Maybe it's me, but I don't see life in prison for someone who took a life to be an acceptable punishment. You can talk about how life in prison is more humane and elevates us as a society all you want, but the fact remains that a murderer given life in prison beats the rap.

And what of the victims' families? Every anti-death penalty advocate out there should take a look at what Maureen Faulkner has endured for over a quarter century. The emotional pain of losing her husband, the anger at the lies being told to save Mumia, the psychological impact of having to relive her husband's death with every new hearing and the lack of closure, the sheer frustration at having to try to educate people about the facts of the Mumia case over and over again. Putting Maureen Faulkner through that is humane?

In a recent discussion, someone told me that getting rid of the death penalty in favor of life in prison elevates our society. I asked how, and I'm still waiting for an answer. What does leaving someone like Mumia alive do to make our society better? I've looked at it from every angle I can find, but I keep coming up with the same answer: it doesn't.

But it does elevate the egos of those who think keeping murderers alive behind bars keeps us more civilized. Make no mistake, the anti-death penalty side is motivated by selfishness, by and large. Because they don't want to kill the murderer, they think no one should, and it makes them feel better (or even morally superior) for taking the stance they do.

Does it? Not from where I sit. In essence, they want to give the guilty a level of mercy the murderers failed to give their victims, all to "prove" that we're more civilized than the murderers are. It's a noble sentiment, but one based in fantasy. All we're doing by keeping murderers in jail is keeping them out of sight without doing anything to really address the problem. What happens if a murderer escapes and kills again? You already have him or her on one life sentence, so another one would be pointless.

And let's face it, the people on death row more often than not aren't peaceful people who just got a bad break or framed for a crime they didn't commit. Many are unrepentant and do not have a high regard for the lives of others. What socially elevating reason is there to keep these people alive? There is none.

Case closed.

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