Death Penalty: Dead Man Talking
Though some try to hijack the issue of capital punishment into a left vs right tailspin, it’s not a pol issue at base; it’s a thinking issue about, “How shall we who are of, they say, greater minds than other creatures, how shall we live together in the forest?
… a forest that is filled with great peril, more so for some than for others… and also filled with many avenues for self-defense, as well as ways of co-existence, and even symbiosis, as each situation might merit?
Pre-Sister Prejean, the nun who so deeply speaks out against executions, groups of Catholics, since forever, have stood outside in cold or heat of night protesting each execution of a human being in the United States. So have other religious groups, like the Quakers, who hold each God-created human life as sacred. So have many others protested the death penalty, both spiritual and secular groups
Perhaps that is the operative phrase, “human” ….for surely some such as Ted Bundy, implicated in the murder of dozens of long dark-haired young women who back in the 60s and 70s ‘took a ride with a stranger,’ and whose bodies Bundy left in deserts, down mine shafts and at river bottoms… would he be ‘human’?
Or is there another word that describes a person who has no fear nor mercy for innocent young women, bloody and torn, begging for their mothers, begging to be let go, promising they would never tell? Some would say, “animal,” some would say, ‘mental defective.” Perhaps there are other names.
Could we ask the non-PC question, What do we do with persons who are no longer persons? Once as babies, or as young children appreciably peaceful, but somehow, somewhere along the line, the brain unraveled and deteriorated into a malicious ganglia of kill synapses that looks like, talks like an actual person. But isn’t. And more so, is not in any way fit to live amongst human beings without doing them harm.
We kill animals who have rabies because we donâ€™t know how to heal them. And we execute people who have murdered once, or serially.
And the subject of ‘taking another person’s life who has already taken another person’s life,’ is a huge one. My own side, I have struggled through these issues time and again, and I still stand for life. No killing. Even though I, like most people, can see how some should never have been allowed to walk the face of the earth, even though in my work as a post-trauma specialist working with families of murder victims; I witness and see the sheer glass mountain of pain the family endures for the rest of their lives.
I also see that for most survivors and survivor families, their pain of loss is not diminished at soul, spirit level by the murderer being executed or even dying of natural causes. There is a feeling of ego satisfaction perhaps in those moments after an execution, especially when it is a criminal like Timothy McVeigh, who kept giving interview after interview to media (another issue in itself), until finally, Judge Matsch, the westerner with real cowboy gear bona fides and a fine judicial mind, said, the buck stops here. McVeigh was executed.
The survivor families from the Murrah Building were spared from years and years more of media outlets making their chops on ‘interviewing the mass murderer of infants’ who thought extinguishing the tiny and precious lives of children was a necessary ‘collateral damage.’
Yet, there are arguments on all sides, most certainly also including the barbarous, and for many decades almost unquestioned means of literally burning a person to death with electricity, poisoning them, and other means used to put criminals to death. Though survivors of loved ones murdered might say any number of things about that, the surviving relatives do not put criminals to death. We do.
But, things are changing. It used to be we most often heard about ‘dead man walking’ to his or her own execution. Now, it may be ‘dead man talking’… for a powerful group has taken up the plight, not of those who are guilty of murder on death row, but of those who are on death row and innocent.
This Sunday, the American Bar Association released a report saying that the death penalty systems are deeply compromised, applied unfairly in many cases, and inaccurately in many others. The ABA for three years studied eight states, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee
The ABA said every state with the death penalty should review its execution procedures before putting anyone else to death.
This link to the story at CNN also carries the link to download a PDF of the 31 page ABA report, with vital charts on something seldom spoken about regarding prison and death penalties: severity of mental illness.
“After carefully studying the way states across the spectrum handle executions, it has become crystal clear that the process is deeply flawed,” said Stephen F. Hanlon, chairman of the ABA Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project. “The death penalty system is rife with irregularity.”
The ABA, which takes no position on capital punishment, did not study lethal injection procedures that are under challenge across the nation. The procedures will be reviewed by the Supreme Court early next year in a case from Kentucky.
State and federal courts have effectively stopped most executions pending a high court decision.
Prosecutors and death penalty supporters have said the eight state studies were flawed because the ABA teams were made up mainly of death penalty opponents.
To have an influential group speaking in some part, for the innocent on death row, comes more and more to the fore these last many years with various projects by law schools and well known lawyers.
A good many thoughtful questions keep rising too, What about those who, despite all their tics and warts, and perhaps guilt in lesser crimes, were put to death nonetheless… those for whom “dead man talking’ comes too late?