In a world where so many have so little, why should so few have so much? And vice versa.
Peace on Earth, Good Will towards all others of Good Will.
In a world where so many have so little, why should so few have so much?
In a world where so many suffer so little, why should so many others suffer so much?
The whole capital punishment debate has got my steam blowing and I need to vent. So forgive me, but here goes. First a quick disclaimer, which is to say that it is not my intention to sound smart; it is, however, my intention to sound off.
For those who care about this issue, here is one person's opinion, take it or leave it. This particular subject is a good example of where opinion overlaps precariously close to becoming a belief. I discuss the differences between the two in a separate essay. Suffice it to say that opinions are still negotiable whereas beliefs are no longer up for debate.
My inspiration for this specific essay was mostly derived from the comments by relatives of victims, many of whom are widely quoted as saying how they often wait for decades anticipating the execution of those who murdered their loved ones. Only to be frustrated by frequent, maddening delays, which deny them the justice and closure possible only via the state-sanctioned death of those responsible.
For the purposes of this essay, the oft-used word, "closure" refers to a general reconciling of the untimely death of a loved one. Where the survivors move on with their lives, never forgetting, but once having grieved and somewhat healed, moved past the pain and no longer define their lives according to the loss both they and the victim have suffered.
In a perfect world, the following thoughts might be conveyed to survivors who could consider each and take them all to heart.
A hierarchy of Justice appears to exist; some forms of it being superior to others, especially with respect to that granted (or denied) to friends and family of both the victim and the criminal. The least amount of justice for the victim is, of course, when no one is held accountable. The least amount of justice for a perpetrator is to be denied what is called "due process" such as a mob lynching, whether or not the person hanged was guilty or innocent.
All of this is never more true than in a case of premeditated murder. Using only this specific type of crime as an example, where justice is available in several different forms, we can make a list that reflects both the quality of closure for the victim's surviving family and friends, and the levels of punishment meted out to the murderer.
The list is hierarchical because it is conditional and qualitative. It contains optimal results and also indicates minimal outcomes. In the real world, such matters translate to varying degrees of satisfaction felt by family and friends of the victim when the killer is punished, versus the endless grief and anxiety when the victim's death goes unresolved, unsolved, and unpunished. While this is all very vague at the moment, the list that follows will quickly bring the situation into crystal clear focus.
01. The least amount of justice (closure) for friends, family, and society, is when a victim remains missing, is presumed dead, the killer or killers unknown. Forever. A worst case scenario that creates multiple victims from a single crime.
02. A next level of justice is when a body is recovered, but the circumstances surrounding the death are unclear, muddled, and an obvious murder remains unsolved. A so-called "cold case". Usually a suspect exists who may or may not be arrested, or despite a conviction, whose guilt still remains in doubt.
03. A level of improved justice that reveals how the murder took place, where, and what was done to the victim. At this level, a known suspect is not necessarily arrested or imprisoned. A motive for the crime or other details may remain forever unknown. Some closure results, more or less, for survivors.
04. The level where a suspect possesses clearly defined motives. Where the why of the crime, why the murder was committed, is largely understood. This in combination with the known how, where, and what of the act. Again the perpetrator is not necessarily convicted or imprisoned. Ever. This represents an enhanced state of closure for survivors, but healing retains some anger and frustration.
05. The superior level at which a murderer is caught, convicted, and imprisoned. But also where the punishment may not fit the crime. Where the victim's relatives and friends feel the sentence was too lenient. The minimum level of true closure for many but not all. A level at which friends and family of the criminal will suffer some minor form of mutual torment with the killer. At this stage, not a relevant issue, but a factor nonetheless.
06. An optimal level of justice. The killer is found, convicted, and imprisoned for life, usually without the possibility of parole. A high level of closure for most relatives and friends. The level at which friends and family of the criminal endure a significant impact on their own lives. Such concerns still remain irrelevant to all but those directly affected.
07. The Death Penalty. Unambiguous, maximized justice for the victim. Alleged maximum closure for the victim's family and friends. The ultimate extension of the "social contract" between citizens and government. The rationalization that government kills instead of, for the sake of, the wronged but unruly mob. And in so doing, circumvents chaos and anarchy. Life-changing effect on friends and family of the murderer, many of whom will suffer equal or greater torment to that of the perpetrator him or herself. The level at which the degree of injury and serious impact on a murderer's relatives and friends become important to society. Where such concerns are major, relevant, and worthy of consideration, especially in very colloquial terms of peripheral or collateral damage. Similar, in many ways, to the same anguish suffered by the victim's family and friends.
It is a fact that most murders go unsolved. Exact figures vary widely and are influenced by an emotional investment, one way or the other, on the part of the one touting the numbers. Some say as many as 50% of all murderers get away with their crimes, while others argue that as few as 10% of all the premeditated murders committed, are ever solved, if that many. Such low figures are particularly true with respect to "stranger" killings, where the victim and their killer did not personally know one another.
Most young people under a certain age have never been fingerprinted, nor a sample of their DNA officially recorded. A number of adults for one reason or another, also fall into this same category. With this in mind, it is easy to see how many if not most of the murders of these persons, both young and old, are never satisfactorily resolved. Nor are the criminals responsible ever caught. Add to this mix the large number of murders that for one reason or another, go unsolved despite the known identification of everyone involved, and one begins to see how relatively little justice is dispensed to everyone concerned.
A vast and staggering number of children and adults go missing every day of every year, most of whom are never found or heard from again. Many are kidnappings of children by their own estranged mother or father, who succeed in disappearing without a trace. A lot of others are the result of foul play in which the victims are either enslaved in a foreign country, suffer an accidental, undisclosed death, or are murdered outright by either a serial or onetime killer.
Regardless of the exact albeit unknown circumstances involved, the families and friends of these victims are never granted the gift of closure. Are never allowed the mere and minimal satisfaction of at least knowing what happened to their loved ones. And are never permitted the solace of their loss having been meaningful in any way whatsoever.
A legitimate question is perhaps raised by the foregoing list. How much justice is a victim entitled to, in a world where so little exists for so many? How much justice should be demanded by the family and friends of one victim, when the relatives and friends of another receive none? And never will. Do citizens possess an inalienable "right" to demand the organized and costly death of a murderer? Or is such a high level of justice only a privilege, a luxury denied to most? And one that ought resort solely to an infallible process where no room for error exists. These are important questions for which the answers are increasingly less clear, more vague, and riddled with bizarre incongruities.
One father in particular waited 25 years for justice, only to be thwarted at the last moment. The intense anger heard in his voice, in subsequent interviews, only hints at the tragic absence of closure, the unresolved grief that had languished, had persisted undiminished for a quarter century, for this one individual. And such is the legacy of capital punishment not just for this person, but for society as a whole.
It would be redundant almost, to now list the numerous other arguments that rebut all the other rationales for why our society needs a Death Penalty. It seems foolish somehow to delineate, point for counterpoint, all the claims and counter-claims that pit proponents against opponents of capital punishment.
I think there is some justice, both for father and deceased child. Justice comes in the form of their death having been meaningful. A historic turn of events in which the Death Penalty will be reexamined, revisited, and finally revealed as the disguised misnomer it truly is. For so long as capital punishment is retained, the death toll, both symbolic and real, is spread evenly among victims, murderers, families and friends alike.
That having been said, I, for one -- and with legal permission -- would be willing to play the role of executioner in any case where I was personally convinced of the other person's guilt. Even then, however, questions of sanity versus insanity (both mine and the perpetrator's) might still inhibit my final decision -- were it up to me.