Pros and Cons of Executing Mass Murderers
Stanley “Tookie” Williams, the convicted mass murderer in California, was front page news across the country in December 2005 prior to his execution, with people who are adamantly opposed to the death penalty campaigning to have his death sentence commuted to life in prison, for they claimed he had turned his life around during the 16 years he existed on Death Row after murdering four people in two separate robberies.
Now there never has been even the slightest suggestion that the man was not guilty. Death penalty detractors couldn’t claim that the public defender poorly represented him or he was convicted because he was black. As evidence of how distorted political thinking (read liberal) has become, after he was declared dead, a number of supporters shouted in unison: "The state of California just killed an innocent man," as they walked out of the death chamber. These same supporters announced that they would give him a funeral “befitting a statesman” and 2,000 people showed up for his funeral. Why not petition the Vatican for sainthood while you’re at it? Wake up and smell the roses, you pathetic losers. What happened to common sense? It’s time to re-examine your deranged thinking so hopefully you can still get a life! If you need a cause in which to channel your distorted sensibilities, why not devote your energies and monies to find some way to help the 8,000 people who die every day in third world countries of AIDS (Acquired Immune-Deficiency Syndrome). According to UNICEF, one child dies of AIDS every 15 minutes in Zimbabwe. Doesn’t the appeal of winning a Nobel Prize by finding a cure for AIDS seem much more worthy than infuriating rational Americans?
The case became the state's highest-profile execution in decades. Hollywood stars and capital punishment foes argued that Williams' sentence should be commuted to life in prison because he had made amends by writing children's books about the dangers of gangs and violence, ignoring the first 8 to 9 years of his incarceration in which he caused innumerable problems for his jailers. He likely finally straightened out his act when his lawyers told him his appeals were running out.
In the days leading up to the execution, state and federal courts refused to reopen his case. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger denied Williams' request for clemency, suggesting that his supposed change of heart was not genuine because he had not shown any real remorse for the killings committed by the Crips gang. One way he could have shown remorse is just say, “I am so sorry I killed those people.” And don’t waste my time with stories about how the murderer is not responsible for his or her actions because he or she was deprived of potty training in his or her youth. We are all responsible for our actions as adults.
One voice of reason who managed to muffle the ravings of the anti-capital punishment zealots was Jonah Goldberg of the Los Angeles Times, who said: “So here is what I think could be the foundation of a true teaching moment for the anti-death penalty community. One of the main reasons its sermons don't resonate beyond the choir isn't that Americans are consumed with racist bloodlust or yearnings for vengeance. It isn't even because all death penalty supporters are unshakably convinced of the rightness of their position. It's because the anti-capital punishment crowd has lost all credibility.”
One significant element in this debate is that the people of California spoke as a majority when they reinstated the death penalty primarily to execute “animals” who commit heinous crimes. But more importantly, the fundamental problem that seems to escape the mainstream press’s attention is how did our disingenuous legal system let this man exist for 16 years on death row at great taxpayer expense, which permitted him ample time to find (at least cosmetically) a new personality? Let’s keep things in perspective.
While hundreds of millions of dollars are wasted (yes, wasted) on trivial and often absurd legal issues to make absolutely, finitely sure that an innocent inmate is not executed by the bloodthirsty state, we couldn’t afford flak jackets or armor for Humvees for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, or how about the fact that medical errors are the eighth leading cause of death in the United States with 50,000+ deaths annually. Why don’t you focus on correcting those problems?
Does Leaving Killers on Death Row Endanger Anyone Else?
The anti-death penalty advocates claim that killing someone lowers our own morality, and that we should be above that inhumanity. They point to the fact that the European Union banned capital punishment years ago. But do these same people ever recognize how many killers are released or pardoned by liberal Parole Boards after 10, 20 or even 30 years of incarceration to kill again, even though these same inmates were supposedly incarcerated for life? The news is filled with numerous incidents of this brutality. One murderer who was pardoned killed two people within days of his release.
But does sentencing a killer to the death sentence really mean that? Even though California has woeful statistics on murders that occur by condemned prisoners, lets look at a smaller state, New Jersey for some “real world” statistics.
· New Jersey is one of 37 states that have a capital punishment law.
· Since 1976, when the U. S. Supreme Court upheld capital punishment, 1,057 inmates have been executed by all states.
· The state has 9 men on death row. The last execution in New Jersey was in 1963 because liberal judges keep postponing their execution.
· Of the 9 men on death row, 2 of these men killed 4 other inmates during their incarceration.
So 4 more lives were taken by these men who just as easily could have been executed with one year saving 4 lives.
The Ten Commandments and Hammurabi’s Law
In line with the position taken by anti-death penalty advocates we can refer to the Ten Commandments (even if it is politically incorrect) that states, “Thou shalt not kill” or “You shall not murder” (Hebrew Bible). Many religious people interpret that commandment to mean that even the state cannot take a life as justification for murder, no matter how gruesome the act may have been. People of deep religious convictions or people of the liberal persuasion point to the fact that the European Union and many other countries around the world outlawed the death penalty many years ago.
On the opposite side of the issue, many Americans believe there is a strong deterrent in Hammurabi’s Law, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” (it actually states, “If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.”) These laws were the first written code of laws in human history and a precursor to Jewish law; however, these laws could be rather extreme at times as exemplified in, “If any one steal the property of a temple or of the court, he shall be put to death, and also the one who receives the stolen thing from him shall be put to death” or “If any one is committing a robbery and is caught, then he shall be put to death.” The punishment for breaking a majority of these laws was, in fact, death, so it can be argued that perhaps Hammurabi was a bit over zealous in stamping out crime.
Why Do We Punish Criminals?
Very strong opinions co-exist as to the merits of capital punishment, with many people fanatically opposed to any form of capital punishment. Even the Supreme Court ruled that it was in direct violation of the Constitution, supporting the argument that it was “cruel and unusual punishment.” However, since capital punishment was abolished in the 1970’s by this court action, many states have rejected that argument and reinstated capital punishment by the will of the people.
You can have great debate about the end goals of the judicial/punishment system. The question must be asked, “By punishing an individual, what message are we attempting to send to the populace?” Is the purpose of punishment to exact retribution from the accused, or is the purpose to act as a deterrent to other individuals who may be considering a similar crime? Criminologists have argued that very point for hundreds of years.
The anti-capital punishment advocates argue that especially heinous murderers should be locked up with no chance of parole. But how many times have we witnessed errors within the prison system where these very people have been released on parole after serving 10 to 20 years, whether by error or by the oft quoted “bleeding heart liberals” stating that he or she is a changed person? And there is ample documented evidence that these same people have murdered again – let us hope it is not your child. Many people want to know why their tax dollars should be used to provide housing, food and medical care (including heart transplants) for convicted murderers at an average cost of between $50 and $100 per day. If these people are executed within let’s say one year after their conviction, which should be ample time to hear any appeals especially now with DNA evidence so critical in any conviction, would not the people save the expense of their incarceration, instead of the 10 to 15 years it takes now to finally put the prisoner to death because of very expensive and laborious (and mostly empty) appeals year after year? The anti-capital punishment folks have a gem of an answer for that one, too. According to most prison system authorities, it costs more than $1 million to execute a prisoner. Hence, it’s cheaper to keep the sorry excuse for a human being alive. Therein lies one of the many problems within the judicial system. How can it possibly cost $1 million? Something is terribly wrong with this picture.
Suppose we took an extreme view of capital punishment and adopted the method of capital punishment used in a number of Asian countries wherein the prisoner is shot in the back of the head days after conviction. China, which executes more criminals than the rest of the world combined, has recently experimented with lethal injections no doubt to court world opinion. The precise number of people executed in China is not reported. Estimates range from 5,000 to 10,000 a year, many for murder, but they have also been killed for corruption and crimes as minor as pinching women.
Does Capital Punishment Act As a Deterrent?
Capital punishment detractors claim that capital punishment does not act as a deterrent, as interviews with many prisoners on death row have substantiated their claims that the penalty of death would not have stopped many murderers from perpetrating their acts of violence. In the last 20 years, there have been over 450,000 homicides in this country with about 750 inmate executions. With this insignificant statistical data, how can anyone make a profound statement as to the ineffectiveness of the death penalty?
Since the death penalty was restored in California in 1978, death row has held 641 condemned inmates, with a miniscule total of 10 executions. During that period, 12 committed suicide, 3 were killed by other inmates, and 38 have died of other causes. The average length of time inmates are on death row is 16 years, 1 month, which suggests that many inmates simply die of old age. How can this possibly be construed as a deterrent? Something is drastically wrong with the entire legal mechanism. Let’s stop screwing around. Either execute these beasts within one year or commute their sentences to mandatory life terms so we can focus on important issues such as corruption and waste in government or buying more flak jackets for our troops in the field.
The Apathetic Voter often wonders, however, how many people who might have considered murdering another human being changed their mind after recognizing what their own fate would be if they were caught and convicted, resulting in death by lethal injection? I can assure you no one has statistics on that possibility, and it may be significant. Maybe I’ll ask my grandmother if she ever considered bumping off my boozing, philandering grandfather for an answer?