Elen sila lumenn omentielvo!

Monday, June 17, 2013

One doesn't see too many job listings for executioners these days

I'm trying to wrap my head around this story. A convicted murderer is about to go free in Indiana. The case has never been in doubt; this isn't a case of innocence-by-DNA. The woman confessed to the crime, and there has never been any challenge to her conviction. The sentence, however, was: the woman was sentenced to death. But she was only 16 at the time.

Murderers are...well, they're murderers, and I struggle with my notion of how best to deal with them. I honestly do believe in rehabilitation and maybe even redemption, and this woman has served 27 years in prison. Is she rehabilitated? I guess that's not really for me to say. It's a tough question. But the idea of sentencing someone to die for a crime -- and this one, involving a butcher knife and more than 30 stab wounds, is pretty heinous -- before they're old enough to have even most of the privileges our society reserves for 'adults' seems extreme.

And then I read further in the article and I learn that until 1988, you could be sentenced to death in Indiana as young as ten years old.

Many years ago, I believed in the death penalty. It seemed pretty clear to me: murderers should be executed. Eye for an eye, and all that. But I changed my mind when Ted Bundy was executed.

If you were to draw up a list of every murderer in the history of the human species, and rank them in order of who most deserved the death penalty, I think there's a pretty good chance that Ted Bundy would wind up in the top ten. He is among the very worst things our species has ever produced. But I've never forgotten the news footage of his execution, during which a raucous and celebratory crowd was gathered outside the prison, brandishing hand-painted signs that said things like "Barbecue Ted" and "Fry Bundy Fry". Those images were like a bucket of cold water, thrown upon me. The state was killing a human being, and there were folks outside the place where it was happening. And they were having a tailgate party.

I haven't had much confidence in the moral underpinnings of the death penalty since then.

In my lifetime, at least one state maintained the legal authority to execute ten-year-old children. The mind reels.


Tayna L said...

Yes and Texas has, more than once in RECENT memory, executed persons with mental retardation.

So... yea.

Unknown said...

To stop a beating heart is never a trivial matter. The debate always, for me, twists back to pull in the abortion discussion. There is no easy answer.

Roger Owen Green said...

Not to mention stuff like class distinction, racism, and the like. The youngest person executed since the beginning of the 20th century was black; this is not a surprise.

Chicago Erratic said...

YES! I love your reason for changing your mind about the death penalty. It's a huge reason why I oppose the death penalty: what does it do to us as a society to take someone (no matter how awful) and murder them in cold blood?

Curious how you define "redemption" and "rehabilitation." How I define it I tend to think a bit of the reverse: rehabilitation is hard and unlikely while the potential for redemption is endless.

Wonderful post!

Roger Owen Green said...

We shouldn't make mistakes that are permanent.