Deadly Justice – Part 2

In September 2008, I wrote Part -1 on my series on the Death Penalty. Events transpired – death of someone I cared about, Srilankan war, our trip to Singapore & Raju Garu (Sigh!). For an extremely focused person, I get extremely distracted. Since the series on Srilanka is more or less at its mid-point, I thought now is as good a time as any, to write my next post on the Death Penalty. A humble request – Please read the 1st part of the series before reading this post, to maintain continuity.

Let’s start off with why penal systems were adopted in the 1st place: Because it makes it easier to seek restitution. A Restorative System of justice can be used, when the crime is not a perfidy. Either through mediators or with their attorney’s assistance, the victim & the offender can debate what kind of compensation would set things right between them. In its simplest form, if an item has been wrongfully taken by the accused, s/he can restore it to the rightful owner. But this system of justice is unusable to resolve violent crimes.

Let me make a proposition to the opponents of Capital Punishment. What if we impose the death penalty only in the most extreme cases? Such as repeat offenders? Like serial killers?

Ted Bundy had the distinction of being one of the most notorious serial killers of all times. Handsome, suave & intelligent, Bundy had no problem in attracting the attention of women. Once they were alone with him though, he bludgeoned them with a crowbar & strangled them. When they were unconscious, he brutally raped them. He left their naked dead bodies in wooded areas. Sometimes he lay down next to their decomposing bodies for a day or 2. His last victim was a 12 year old girl. Her dead body was found, throat sliced. He confessed to killing 28 women, but it could be as many as 100.

Bundy’s attorneys tried in vain to stay his execution or to even commute it to a life sentence. They begged the families of his victims to write a letter to the Governor of Florida, seeking clemency for Bundy. Every single one of them refused. The law isn’t blind. Ted Bundy was executed on Jan 24th, 1989.

Which brings us to my #1 reason for supporting the Death Penalty – What about the victims? Or their families? In our zeal to protect the rights of  convicted criminals & to uphold the cause of humanity, aren’t we forgetting the justifiable emotions of the near & dear of the slain?

When someone you love has been murdered brutally, it is completely normal to seek revenge. Civilized countries adopt criminal laws & vest the power of sentencing with a handful of authorities – judges or regents. This prevents the society from devolving into an anarchy – otherwise people will attempt to settle scores through vendetta killings. Death penalty gives closure to the families & friends of the victims, thereby preempting vigilantism.

People that oppose the death penalty think imprisonment is punishment enough. “Let’s lock them up for the rest of their natural lives. We’ll deprive them of their freedom, plus they can’t kill anyone else, can they?” I think that’s rich – offering the perpetrators a chance to live to a ripe old age, with board & lodge provided by the state, learning useful crafts in jail, even attending community college, penning their memoirs. Chances that their victims will never get.

Some gentler souls may even opine that a life term could be commuted, to say 10 or 15 years behind bars. That should be enough punishment for a criminal to atone for his/her sins, right? They can return to the general population to lead a normal life, right? Wrong, Dead Wrong. When someone takes a human life in the absence of mitigating circumstances, they forfeit their rights to lead a normal life. The proverbial milk of human kindness is wasted on them.

It was the year 1985. Joe Atkins was on parole from the penitentiary, after serving 10 years for killing his half-brother Charles. Armed with a machete, a pistol & a gun, he broke into his neighbor’s residence. He cut the phone lines, then proceeded to kill 13 year old Karen Patterson, who was fast asleep in her bed. He chased Karen’s parents, who escaped fortuitously. When Karen’s mother took refuge in the Atkins home, Joe killed his own father Benjamin Atkins. It was his father that had pleaded with the parole board to release Joe ahead of schedule.

This time, Joe Atkins was not only convicted, but also executed.

But more importantly, this concept of “Imprisonment as a Punishment” is fairly new. Historically speaking, prisons & jails were holding areas for the prisoners. They were housed in dungeons or incarcerated otherwise, till the state’s penal system decided their fate. For the most part, jailing wasn’t considered a punishment in itself.

So if we kill repeat offenders, murderers for hire & cold-blooded murderers who kill for gain, how many of you would stand up to be counted in support of the death penalty? What if I say, we’ll pay heed to mitigating circumstances?

Let’s not kill 1st time offenders: If the crime is very brutal and/or involves multiple murders, let’s give them life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. We won’t kill the mentally ill, they need medical attention. So if a deranged woman heard St Stephen’s voice urging her to kill her neighbor – because he’s actually Beelzebub – we’ll institutionalize her, not fry her.

Now, let’s skate on thin ice. What about the mentally retarded, in other words, people of diminished culpability? The UN Commission for Human Rights adopted resolutions in 1999 & 2000, urging countries not to impose the Death Penalty on people suffering mental impairment – which includes retardation & illness. In recent years,only 3 countries executed the mentally retarded – Japan, United States & Kyrgyztan.

In 2002, US banned the execution of criminals with an IQ < 70. Border-line retardation isn’t considered a serious enough mitigating factor, an interpretation that I agree with. As long as the defendant understands cause & effect, as long as they knew they were taking a life, they are responsible for their actions.

Here is another case for your purview:

15 year old Valessa Robinson was a wild girl. She wanted to marry her 19 year old boyfriend Adam Davis. Adam had a mile-long rap sheet & he was fresh out of jail. Valessa was besotted with him & wanted to have his baby. She came from a respectable family & her mother Vicki Adams was deeply concerned. Valessa had repeatedly run away before & counseling had failed. Vicki planned to enroll her in Steppin’ Stone Farm, a boarding school for troubled girls.

So one day, Valessa killed her mother with Adam’s help. She held her mother down, while Adam injected laundry bleach into her veins. That did not kill Vicki. So, Adam stabbed her to death. They disposed of the body, stole Vicki’s credit cards & mini-van. They drove around aimlessly, using Vicki’s ATM card freely, getting tattoos, jewelery & drugs. 6 days after the murder, the police arrested them.

The law isn’t as trigger happy as people like to think. As heinous as her crime may be, as monstrous her behavior may seem to us – the law in most countries frowns on executing minors. Valessa was sentenced to 20 years in jail. Adam Davis was sentenced to death.

Unfortunately, cases like Valessa’s use escape routes provided by the law. Given a choice, I’d like to strap her to a gurney & administer a lethal injection. But, my moral indignation has to take a hike, since the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child expressly prohibits Capital Punishment for juveniles. Almost all countries – except Somalia & the United States – have ratified that article. But in reality, 5 countries executed juveniles in the past 4 years – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen & Sudan. The dubious distinction of being the biggest executioner of children belongs to Iran.

As I said, the death penalty isn’t given to everyone.

Summing Up

Why should we deny our negative feelings? Are anger, bitterness & fury always bad? They seem real enough to me. And it behooves on us to act on them in a just manner. Yes, Retributive justice promotes revenge. But, punishment is meted out by an unbiased group of judges & jury, after sifting through the evidence. The victim’s dear & near can’t circumvent due process. Isn’t that good enough?

Is the death penalty harsh? Should it be abolished under the 8th amendment of the US constitution – is it really a cruel & unusual punishment? What are the harsh realities of implementing capital punishment? And more to the point, what do the experts in criminal justice have to say? For lack of space, I’ll cover all that & then some in a subsequent post.


Comments

  1. Quote

    Nice post Priya. Personally i DO NOT think the death penalty is harsh. I remember writing about this on my blog three years back after the case of kenneth lee boyd (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Lee_Boyd).

    My blood boiled because there were people who were saying he didnt deserve capital punsihment because he had said “he was tired and deserved the death sentence” and his last words were “God bless everybody in here”, meaning he was actually very noble (forsooth!!) and that the doctor who had injected the lethal dose of medicines into him should probably die of the guilt of having killed a man whose only crime was to rape and murder a couple of women. I mean seriously. I would hate to be in the shoes of the victims relatives and i would want the perpetrator of the crime to be given a befitting punishment which should be nothing less than death.

    Arey, serenity and calm be damned i would most OBVIOUSLY be angry, furious if my near and dear ones were harmed for no fault of theirs. I am not God, neither am i an angel who will not give vent to my negative feelings and only pray for the “disturbed soul” who because he was possessed by the “devil” did “unspeakable” acts. Bull Shit i say!! I dont care if i sound ruthless and callous and cold blooded but i would enjoy nothing more than to see the person who cruelly snuffed out a life to be hanged or be injected with a lethal dose of medicines.

    About those who are mentally imbalanced I am not very sure. Maybe for them, if its a first time offence they oughta be institutionalised and given corrective therapy or whatever and after that if they are repeat offendors they oughta be on the death row.
    Waiting for the next part!!

  2. Quote

    Fair enough. Waiting for part III 🙂

  3. Quote

    Good post Priya,

    But i cannot agree with you at all on Death Punishment.Say for Ted Bundy ;He was not human(I wont mention animals as animals kill only for food and not for pleasure),but by killing him he wont regret his behaviour.

    I personally feel that for such insane souls we may need to have more Abu Gharib’s were they are humilated and chasitsed ,that he should regret that he was ever born….IF u kill him thenhe will never experience the suffering that he deserves.But at the same time he should not be put in state which is like an extended holiday for him…

  4. Quote

    Revs – Thanks for your comment.

    And thanks for the link – I’ll check out your blog post on Kenneth Lee Boyd.

    I believe that there are some sins that can’t be forgiven. If Adolf Hitler had shown repentance for his sins, should we forgive him? If Velupillai Prabhakaran shows remorse for assassinating Rajiv Gandhi, should we forgive him?

    The environment in the Death Row is such that, these criminals have to either deny what they did, embrace God to escape the sordidness of their life or do an about-face in their mental make-up – as in, I’m no longer the person that did all the horrible stuff, this is a new ME. Now, how long-standing such changes are – is debatable. Will it change the test of time & changes in environment? As in, outside the prison? I don’t know.

    All in all, I’m in agreement with you – except in the case of the mentally unstable. If someone is criminally insane, they can’t be easily cured & permitted to remain on the streets. They have to be on medication, pretty much all their lives. Or, be institutionalized, undergo radical, experimental surgery etc. They are really not responsible for their actions.

    What constitutes mental illness, that can be considered a mitigating circumstance in a murder trial – that’s a different story.

  5. Quote

    Jass – Thanks for your comment.

    The 3rd part is probably the most complex – Will try to finish that in a week’s time.

  6. Quote

    Karthik – Thanks for your comment.

    Ted Bundy wasn’t considered criminally insane enough to waive the death penalty. But, I think Capital Punishment’s main aim is not to infuse regret in criminals. If that’s all we need, killers for gain that exhibit sufficient remorse can be released from jail.

    Torturing people – even if they are serial killers – will certainly satisfy us, but won’t that coarsen us, corrupt our souls? The 8th amendment would frown on that 😉 Much as it appeals to me, I have to say – no, we can’t play cat & mouse with people like Bundy.

  7. Quote

    Priya/Sukumar,

    One suggestion I mean you guys are writing on diverse topics and some these post range over periods of months.Eventhough you attach the link as a continuation,but will it a better option to archive it based on Subjects ….It will be really useful as this community could be reference source.

  8. Quote

    Good one. But i personally disagree with capital punishment. In Bundy’s case what did law enforcement did when Bundy hunted and killed women. Why it took them 28 murders to catch him. Any ways, as per my view, we can execute one on some extraordinary situation,

    A. An influential leader, hater, mass murderer, if we allow him/her to live, he/she may influence others to carry out his/her mission. Those can be executed. Period. Example, Hitler, Saddam Hussein.

    B. Master brain of terrorism network or any mass killing organization can be executed. Again the same reason of his/her presence may endanger humankind. Even though he/she directly committed any murder.

    C. Drug dealers and mafia gang related, who ever has extraordinary money and political power can be executed because they may use the power to carry out murder and crime from jail.

    All others are “weak individuals who committed the crime for brain dysfunctional or situation” deserve to live and think about their crimes life long.

  9. Quote

    Karthik – Sounds like a good suggestion to me. Thanks.

  10. Quote

    Subba – Thanks for your comment.

    What did law enforcement do when Bundy went on a killing spree? Well, I’m sure they were trying their best. Bundy was a prolific killer – he killed many people in a short time. That plus, the massiveness of a country like the US makes slipping away easy.

    How did you come up with this list – Hitlers, Terrorists, Mafia & Drug Dealers? It is a good list to get going, I fully agree with you that those types can’t be tolerated. But – You’ll let serial killers go, because they don’t fit into this list? What about murders for gain, that aren’t related to any of the 4 categories above?

    You’ve missed out Evil Big Businesses, Cult Leaders, Religious Leaders that have gone astray & Wicked politicians (not mass murderers, but cool, calculating murderers) just to name a few. What are your thoughts on those categories?

    Not all murders are caused by brain dysfunction. Then, you would have to classify anger & hatred as dysfunctions. And that would be wrong. Anger & hatred are legitimate functions of the brain, its up to us to control them, as long we aren’t retarded or insane.

    I respect your opinion, but I slightly differ from your view. If a criminal has murdered multiple times, I’d rather kill them. They are wasting space & depleting the Ozone layer with their carbon dioxide emissions.

  11. Quote

    Priya.. i fully support your views.. only the victim has the right to decide whether to pardon the accused or not..

  12. Quote

    Senthil – Thanks for your comment.

    So, your view is, if the victim’s family pardons the accused, the death penalty need not be applied? That’s an interesting point of view. And there is precedence for what you say. There have been instances where the presiding District Attorney chose not to seek the death penalty for the defendant, when the victim’s family requested that the accused by given life in prison instead.

    http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/police-chief-given-life-after-victims-family-speaks-against-death-sentence-0

    While the victim’s family can’t decide the fate of the accused, certainly they can have a say. And if they choose to pardon the accused & the crime isn’t very heinous, the law enforcers can think about not seeking capital punishment.

  13. Quote

    Priya,

    You have tried to make a case for situations where capital punishment seems appropriate. As I said in the previous post on this topic, I do not think one individual has the right to take the life of another.

    Let us say that we have an insane individual (not clinically though) who goes about physically hurting others. And he is incarcerated and does the same even after being released. Should the next punishment for this person be to hurt him/her physically?

    Where do you start and stop this logic? When is acceptable to mete out same punishment to the offender and when is not?

    Ganesh

  14. Quote

    Capital Punishment is necessary. We cannot draw a line to demarcate it and definitely depends on the particular case.

    Judiciary is for the society and the objective should be to give justice to the victims and at the same time prevent similar crimes. Victims will not be in a state to determine the punishment and also may result in further victimization by the criminal. Also it may not be good for the society. So the punishment must be given by a Judge according to the Laws only.

    We cannot determine one way of punishment like the eye for eye or the prevention one. It depends on the type of crime. What if we really take up vivek’s comedy about a rape case in a panchayat , say the guy’s private parts are removed surgically so that he never commits it again.

    One interesting scenario (i read some time back) was the traffic fines in india. There was a discussion that if the fines are increased to thousands of rupees for traffic violations then we can control it. The counter argument was that it will increase the pockets of Traffic police as people will pay bribes in 100’s rather than fine in 1000’s. Now lets say we reduce the fines to avoid corruption then you have a chance of more traffic violations. This is just a deadlock. Any ideas ?

  15. Quote

    Ganesh – Thanks for your comment.

    I haven’t tried to make a case for capital punishment – I’m merely stating scenarios where it is necessary. And I have also stated cases where it can not be applied.

    BTW, In the Death Penalty its not the individual taking the life of the convict, its the state.

    “Let us say that we have an insane individual (not clinically though) who goes about physically hurting others. And he is incarcerated and does the same even after being released. Should the next punishment for this person be to hurt him/her physically?”

    Hurting others? Isn’t that too mild a phrase for “Murder”? If someone nicks another person with a pen knife or jilts her boy-friend, they’ve hurt others.And we are talking about someone deliberately killing another person.

    This post is only about the death penalty, not about lesser crimes. Murder can’t be treated on par with other crimes. Clearly, you consider human life precious & that it can’t be trivialized – otherwise you won’t take a strong stance against capital punishment. So, why should we trivialize murder by comparing it with lesser offenses? It just doesn’t go with the notion of sanctity of human life.

    And haven’t you picked a border-line case that will bolster your view point – Something that – in your view, I’ve done?

    To answer your question, if someone is insane – as in psychotic – s/he is legally unhinged. S/he can’t get the death penalty, but should be sent to an institution. If someone else has a milder problem which doesn’t prevent them from seeing right from wrong – I wouldn’t have any qualms in hanging them from a noose.

    For the law isn’t made of taffy. It can’t be pulled out of proportion. Exceptions can only be made for real mitigating factors. Otherwise, people with fake ailments and/or unproven syndromes will claim shelter under the insanity exception.

    I think I’ve made my case on when the death penalty can be applied & when it can’t be applied rather clearly. You don’t believe in the death penalty in toto & you are entitled to your opinion. I’m not in agreement with you, as I tend to think – It depends on the circumstances.

  16. Quote

    Priya,

    Fair enough. We can agree to disagree on death penalty.

    When I talked about someone “hurting” others, I certainly did not imply minor nicks/scratches. I did not want to go down the path of describing a scenario that I was thinking about. But here it is – Let us say a person who is clinically found to be sane, goes about cutting the arms and legs of innocent people and somehow is able to inflict this on a significant number of people, should this persons hands and legs be cut off too?

    And what if you released him after his incarceration and he does the same?

    I am not citing these examples to be argumentative or facetious, trying to see where the line is drawn?

    I understand that my example is considered to be less of a crime than murder and hence you think it is not relevant to this thread, but my point is that the people affected and their family do have to live with this pain throughout their life. Would they find it easier to deal with the pain, if the culprit is afforded the same punishment? If so, why not?

    Ganesh

  17. Quote

    May be brain dysfunctional is over simplification term, the right one would be “abnormal/faulty brain wiring”. I think whoever able to carry out mass murders even from isolation place can be prosecuted.

  18. Quote

    Ganesh – So you think murder is an “Eye for an Eye” mirror punishment. And you extend it to say, should we cut someone’s arm off if s/he cuts another person’s arm off?

    I knew this was your reasoning, which is why I stated in my earlier response – Murder is a different crime. When a human being kills repeatedly, without mitigating circumstances, s/he doesn’t deserve to be a member of the society anymore. S/he doesn’t even deserve to live in the fringes of the society – like in a penitentiary – anymore. There is a breaking point for everything. Deliberate Murder is a breaking point which simply can’t be tolerated. I don’t think I want to carry the dead-weight of twisted people.

    If someone causes harm of a slightly lesser kind repeatedly, there are other methods that we can use: Such as 3 strikes you are out, prolonging incarceration, institutionalization etc. Let’s not discuss those aspects in this post, since that’s beyond the scope of this series.

  19. Quote

    /** And if they choose to pardon the accused & the crime isn’t very heinous, the law enforcers can think about not seeking capital punishment. **/

    Priya.. i endorse your above view.. I do not mean to place the entire rights to the victim.. but the judge should decide on punishment based on law, even if it is death penalty..

    And if there is any talk of pardoning, its the victim who should have the say and not those human rights activists..

    Your post is similar to what vijaykanth say in ramana film.. “There is no word called Pardon in my dictionary ” 🙂 (“Those who did wrong should undergo punishment)..

  20. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said January 24, 2009, 8:31 pm:

    Good post Priya. You have made a strong case for the Death Penalty. In my view, while the need for the Death Penalty cannot really be questioned, the criminal justice system leaves a lot to be desired even in an advanced system like the USA. God only knows what happens in countries like India.

    Another thing that i wanted to point out is this – incarceration in the early days may not have been a real punishment. But today, when you lockup someone in a prison with all kinds of criminals, i think it is punishment enough (of course, not sufficient in certain egregious cases of murders that you point out in your post).

    Look forward to your next post.

  21. Quote

    Regarding punishment in india, i was surprised that cutting the nose is a frequent punishment prevalent as late as tippu sultan’s period.. the following book of dharampal describes about how the persons awarded nose-cut punishment restored their nose..

    http://www.samanvaya.com/dharampal/frames/downloads/vol2.pdf

  22. Quote

    Rajesh – Thanks for your comment.

    I do believe we can draw a line to demarcate Capital Punishment’s use to a great extent. The Criminal Procedure Code already does that. While interpreting the law is necessary – since every situation can’t be codified – awarding the Death Penalty (or any other punishment) can’t be left completely to the discretion of the judges & jury. The provisions & clauses provided in the CPC, guide how the law makers decide the merits & de-merits of a particular case.

    You make an interesting point. Should the family of the victims have any say in the punishment? I understand your perspective. Quiet a few people would share your opinion. It must seem unacceptable that lay people, with a vested interest, arbitrarily decide the punishment for the defendant. Plus, its not just the victim’s family – the whole society has an interest in punishing the perpetrator. Jurisprudence should never lose sight of that fact.

    Most countries don’t let the victim’s family have a formal say in deciding the punishment. They don’t have a legal standing. But, nothing prevents them from appealing to the prosecutor not to award the death penalty. The prosecutor is not bound to pay heed to the requests of the victim’s family.

    But, as you stated yourself, not everything is written down in black & white in the law books. When there is a wee bit of room for consideration in the defendant’s favor – some prosecutors may choose to pay heed to the request of the victim’s family & not seek the death penalty.

  23. Quote

    Good points. I agree.

  24. Quote

    Senthil – Yes, I understand what you mean.

    There are many well-meaning human rights activists. Some of them are immature & use controversial issues to get visibility, but most others are kind, earnest souls that are truly distressed by what they call “State Sponsored Murder”.

    The penal system of a country evolves over time, so I’m not surprised that severe corporal punishments were in use in Tipu Sultan’s era. Thanks for the link.

  25. Quote

    Sukumar – Thanks for your comment.

    Yes, the holes in jurisprudence – I plan to cover that in my next post.

    Don’t you think incarceration in the by-gone days would have been a bigger punishment? Unsanitary conditions, dank, dark cells, people were sometimes chained, rats, mice & roaches ruled roost – if your spirit isn’t killed, the food & water most probably would. But these days, prisons are cleaner, hygienic – and in the developed nations, looks spick & span. Inmates can watch TV, read magazines, use the library, learn crafts etc.

    I agree that prisons are dismal – modern or otherwise & that life without freedom isn’t a breeze. But, don’t you think it is less of a punishment these days?

  26. Quote

    April – Thanks for your comment.

  27. Quote

    Priya,
    It is not the condition of the facilities – rats, roaches that matter. Living amongst convicts of various kinds is a big punishment much more than rats/roaches. Many movies like Shawshank Redemption depict the state of affairs inside prisons very well.

  28. Quote

    Probably sukumar may be right, atleast in the case of afzal guru.. 🙂

  29. Quote

    Sukumar – Probably you are right, I can’t really say. Perhaps I’m unable to see past the robust concrete & steel structures.

  30. Quote

    I dont understand why you guys want to make a prison life horrible for the convicts.

    The idea of imprisonment should be to make the persons realize their fault and prepare them to live with the society again. If the person feels that he has got equal amount of suffering for what he did, then he will not realize his mistake and maybe even do the mistake again.

    Capital Punishment is an extreme case where the person cannot be changed and serves to instill this fear in the society as a deterrent for further crimes.

  31. Quote

    Rajesh – I don’t think you understand our point.

    Please read the discussion thread. Essentially, this was the question: Aren’t prisons very comfortable, so is curtailing a person’s freedom sufficient punishment? Especially for very serious crimes?

    The answer given to that was: Perhaps the creature comforts are taken care of, but modern prisons are too dangerous because of the number & nature of criminals lodged in there.

    You are misreading the above discussion by extrapolating that we want to make the lives of prisoners miserable.

  32. Quote
    Srini (subscribed) said January 26, 2009, 1:19 pm:

    Priya,

    Again, a nice post.

    I feel that no body had the right to take the life of another. However cruel the crime may be, I think no one deserves the death penalty. Because even the death penalty is in itself a kind of crime except for the fact it is justified by the justice system of each nation or a Society. Every Death penalty is like an eye-for-an-eye in my opinion. How would you differentiate between an animal and human being? We humans are considered to have the 6th sense. We (Humans) should use that god given gift to transform the criminal or atleast attempt to transform. Even if we fail in that attempt to transform, we should only consider it as a failure on our part to utilize the 6th sense to its fullest capacity.

    Noone is born a criminal. One becomes criminal due to various reasons. His/Her surroundings, upbringing, social inequality, influence of the society, etc all are in one or the other responsible for a criminal to get his criminal mind. So, directly or indirectly we the human beings are responsible for every Criminnal in this world and for every criminal activity. In a way all are guilty. So, now think about how we can justify taking the life of a criminal in the pretext of justice, while we ourselves have been responsible in one way or the other.

  33. Quote

    Srini – Thanks for your comment.

    While there are differences between lesser animals & us, we should never forget that we are animals too. And the 6th sense – the ability to think – is a continuum. Many higher order animals – Mammals, Octopuses, Crows, Parrots – show remarkable levels of thinking ability. We have more thinking ability than other animals, which is why we try to be fair, desire order in our societies & have a justice system. But, we are not Gods.

    We cannot deny the existence of our baser instincts, like vengeance, hatred, anger, greed, lust & rage. Crime & Murder are not abnormal, they are just unusual. There is much depravity in human nature. All we can do is, regulate such instincts. Our laws attempt to do that in a just manner, with an emphasis on reducing arbitrariness.

    Yes, we should attempt to transform murderers. We can ponder as much as needed, to see how we can prevent murderers from getting created. I’m with you 100% on that. Where I disagree with you is: you completely absolve the criminal from all responsibility towards his/her behavior, while expecting the law-abiding, decent souls to steep themselves in a pool of collective guilt. How did you arrive at that conclusion? In that scheme of things, there seems to be no upside for being conscientious.

    I respect your opinion. But, considering these factors, I think – When someone murders repeatedly & without mitigating circumstances, its time to kill them.

  34. Quote

    Maybe i dont make it up to that question and you have an answer too, so let me leave it there.

    Although i agree on the necessity of capital punishment, my perception differs. I dont see death sentence as a punishment but i see it as extreme step necessary for the welfare of the society when there is no other option.I dont know if it makes a difference.

  35. Quote

    Rajesh – You raise an interesting question: Does the Death Penalty make a difference? An excellent question, let me handle that in in the final part of the series, Part 4.

    I’m in agreement with you, that the death penalty should be used only sparingly, only in certain cases. I think you’d like to apply it in even fewer cases than I want to.

    Quiet a few people would agree with you, that a Death Sentence isn’t, can’t, shouldn’t be a punishment – And I respect that position, even though I may not agree with it fully.

  36. Quote
    Srini (subscribed) said January 27, 2009, 8:18 am:

    Priya,

    Here are some statistics that from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Use_of_capital_punishment_by_nation

    “Capital punishment has been used in almost every part of the globe, but in the last few decades many countries have abolished it. Amnesty International classifies countries into four categories:

    59 countries maintain the death penalty in both law and practice.
    91 have abolished it.
    10 retain it for crimes committed in exceptional circumstances (such as in time of war).
    35 permit its use for ordinary crimes, but have not used it for at least 10 years. ”

    Looking at the numbers above many countries are moving towards abolishing Death Penalty. Does that mean that…in the countries that has abolished death penalty there is less crime/first degree murders?
    or
    in the countries that still have Death Penalty has the crime come down because of Death Penalty being in place?

    I guess neither might be true (though I have to admit that I don’t have the facts to prove that).

    So, I think we should see whether the crime rate has come down because of capital punishment or does it have any correlation at all? If not why can’t we abolish death penalty? I still feel that rather than capital punishments, we need to establish correction facilities, rehabilitation centres, etc for such criminals, to turn them into normal compassionate being.

  37. Quote

    Srini – Please see my response to Rajesh above. I plan to cover some aspects of how effective the death penalty is. I don’t want to go over it in detail in this comment.

    I can interpret your statistics to say that 55% of the countries retain the death penalty. So, we are not ready to abolish it now. Bear in mind that I only support the death penalty in certain cases.

    As I mentioned in my earlier response to you: It is your opinion that we need to correct, not punish. I certainly don’t agree with that position completely. I believe the families of the victims & the society at large deserve their sense of revenge. Some criminals are so far gone that I don’t care to correct them. I think our time can be put to a better use.

    So, even at a premise level, we don’t see eye to eye. You are certainly free to hold your opinion & likewise, I’ll hold on to mine.

    We can’t set store by the fact that 45% have abolished the death penalty completely now. Ideas & Ideals pass through in waves & cultural trends swing like a pendulum.

  38. Quote

    Priya,

    Your post is a classic example of the terminology “don’t give a shit”. No, not your post but some of the people commenting on the post.

    You clearly made a statement that death penalty should not be applicable to people with mental disabilities and other exceptional situations. Its funny how people read the first 3 lines and come back with jackass comments like “but what about insane people and mentally retarted, blah, blah…”

    I’m not a decent / kind person like you and if this were my blog i would ask these silly folks to buzz off. Clearly they have NOT read the complete post and get the bigger picture. I only hope people will read the content before showering their worthless opinions when clearly you are indeed saying the same thing they believe in. Sigh!

    Nice post nevertheless, i support your view on death punishment. If someone repeatedly commits murder/rape/arson for monetary or other benefit then he needs to go. Period.

    If only convicted properly i think most of our politicians will hang. 😛

  39. Quote

    Dilip – Thanks for your comment.

    I have to make this very clear: Please use polite language. You cannot disrespect authors, other readers & commenters, however much you may disagree with their opinion. This will not be tolerated in this blog. Civility should be maintained & hurtful words like “silly, worthess, jackass” etc will not be allowed in sastwingees.

    While I’m glad you agree with my position, you are jumping into conclusions about what these people have said. I think some wonderful points have been made.

    A – The difference between Legally Insane & Medically Unstable;
    B – Is criminal behavior the result of brain dysfunction;
    C – The society is largely responsible for creating criminals;
    D – Can the victim’s family request for a lesser punishment?;
    E – Isn’t the society impacted by murders too?
    F – Imprisonment these days can be really hard.

    Excellent perspectives, all of them. These people have not only understood the post, but in the true tradition of debates, presenting another point of view, questioning my premises & finely dissecting my stance thereby questioning my limits.

  40. Quote

    Part 2 hasn’t really strengthened your argument much. Let me proceed… to 3..!

  41. Quote

    Abinav – Thanks for your comment.

    >> Part 2 hasn’t really strengthened your argument much

    Perhaps you underestimate the need for revenge. And I’m not sure you understand the intent of this post. The goal is to finely dissect how the death penalty is awarded, who gets it & who doesn’t – to show that there are many clauses governing the death penalty already.

    Series posts are like stories. The goal of multiple parts isn’t to ram the argument multiple times 😉 Every part reveals 1 side of the tale & develops it.

  42. Quote

    Priya – I understand that they are sequential episodes of a larger story. I restrained from commenting in part 1, and I said I would wait till I read all 5 parts. I am basically, not pro-capital punishment. I would lay my reasons out in due time.

    I am trying hard to convince myself of why it might be needed. That would challenge my instincts and reasons, and if I am able to pose a reasonable wall to your arguments – that would further strengthen my conviction. After part 2, I did not find much value or stron reasoning being added to part 1. You state examples and I get the gravity of each situation, the import of it. All I am saying is that it hasn’t strengthened your argument much. You aren’t telling me anything novel, barring the unfortunate incidents you quote. I am absolutely amazed by the kind of research you are putting in, I really am.

    Maybe, this was a classic case of misplaced expectations. I expected, I think, something else. Something more, with due credits, insightful.

    And – yes, I think I underestimate the need for revenge. I am not sure if this estimation is based on lack of experience, first hand or otherwise. I have never felt the need for revenge, in any measure. I haven’t ever had a headache too. But that does not mean heads don’t ache. Neither does it mean that it ain’t a big deal. I understand it. I acknowledge the ‘need for revenge’. Not agree, merely acknowledge.

    And, I am only done with your post 3 – and I am still looking for THAT compelling reason which would convince me against my thoughts.

  43. Quote

    Abhinav – The intent of this post is not to convince others to change their opinions.

    >> All I am saying is that it hasn’t strengthened your argument much.

    All you can say is, this post did not strengthen my argument – in your mind. Since you don’t know what the other readers think 😉 I’ll wait for your comments on the last post in this series, but by the same token, it will require strong arguments from your side to convince me that I’m wrong 🙂

    Perhaps your expectations prevent you from seeing what this post set out to do. Extreme pole positions in most issues make no sense, so this post states the conditions where I support the death penalty. It does so by slicing the problem & paring it to the bone. Common Objections & Misconceptions about the death penalty are handled. The law is all about fine dissection, so the case law has been laid out & reviewed for that express purpose.

    In the end, what remains is the stark question: If we don’t kill 1st time offenders, if we only kill serial killers, if we don’t kill the mentally ill or the minors – Do you support or oppose the death penalty?

    Since all the covers are blown, people who oppose the death penalty can’t hide behind misconceptions. They have to answer this or state that they are opposed to the death penalty on moral/ethical grounds (or something similar). It forces people to think about their position clearly. I respect well thought out positions, whether I agree with it or not.

    If your opposition is purely on moral/ethical grounds – I don’t think its a strong enough argument to abandon my position. But, I respect that sentiment.

    We don’t need anything new to say that the emperor has no clothes on. We just need an uncluttered world-view. The history of jurisprudence has been analyzed to show that revenge is a strong need. People have a tendency to make light of it & I think that’s a grave error. After all, we’re Homo sapiens, a species from the Animal Kingdom.

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