Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Death Penalty

I've been corresponding with a friend about the death penalty in general and Tookie Williams in particular. You probably remember Tookie: he was executed last week for three murders in California back in the 70's. Tookie's other claims to fame are (a) his having been a co-founder of the Crips, the notorious LA gang, and (b) his having found religion while on Death Row.

For the most part, I am against the death penalty. It doesn't serve as a deterrent -- too many studies have made that argument untenable (although it does prevent recidivism); it is statistically much more likely to be applied to minority defendants (regardless of the facts of the case); it does not allow for rectifying mistakes (and I'm not naive enough to think juries are never wrong); for some murderers, it's an easy out (it seems to me that life without parole would be much worse than going to sleep for good); and -- as opponents rightly say -- it's cruel and inhuman (we are, I think, the only "civilized" country that still uses it).

Most executed murderers have been at least arguably mentally ill. John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Bruno Hauptmann, Sacco and Vanzetti... the list goes on and on. I believe that executing people like that serves no useful purpose. In fact, keeping mentally ill murderers alive might actually benefit society, in that -- assuming their cooperation -- medical science might be able to develop treatments that could either restore these people to health, or maybe treat someone else before that person becomes a killer.

People like Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (for the youngsters in the crowd, they were executed for spying for the USSR back in the 1950's) certainly weren't mentally ill, but it is entirely likely that they were "railroaded" into execution as a result of the "Red Scares" of the 50's. This is the logical next step to what the Bush Administration is doing today... whipping up a political furor to justify their hatred of a particular cause or people. Eventually, calmer heads prevailed in the 50's (as I hope they will prevail in 2006 and 2008), but by then it was too late for the Rosenbergs.

There are some people, though, who are just so inherently inhuman, the death penalty is the only fair treatment: Osama bin Laden*, Hitler (although he committed suicide rather than face the music), Eichmann, and the rest of the Nazi hierarchy**... and Tookie Williams.

In founding the Crips, Williams unleashed an unspeakable horror upon society. The Crips (and their arch-rivals, the Bloods) were -- and still are -- monstrous, murderous thugs. They have waged war upon a decent society for more than thirty years. God only knows how many innocent men, women, and children were butally murdered by these animals. Billions of dollars in losses can be traced directly to the activities of the Crips, and possibly trillions in indirect losses.

Maybe I'm a Neanderthal, but I don't think there is any sort of conversion or redemption that can erase the evil -- the pure, unmitigated evil -- caused by Tookie Williams.

He deserved to die.

* While bin Laden should be executed for masterminding the 9-11 attacks against the United States, Saddam Hussein should not be executed, in that his "crimes" against the US do not (IMO) rise to the level justifying that punishment. What Saddam's countrymen do to him, however, under their own legal system, is none of our business.

** The Nazi leaders richly deserved being put to death. The vast majority of the German people, however, merely followed a charismatic, mesmerizing (although truly evil) leader. The Germany that existed after WW I was defeated, demoralized, and pretty much destroyed; their people wound up following Hitler for, I suspect, many of the same reasons today's neocons and fundamentalists are following George Bush.

Update: I also believe that a few others are deserving of the death penalty: Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, for crimes against humanity, and -- if he can be deemed competent to stand trial (which I seriously doubt) -- George W. Bush. These three, in much the same way Williams and Hitler did, have unleashed numerous horrors upon the world. They should be tried by an international, impartial tribunal, and, if convicted, executed, to show other potential dictators that such behavior is not, cannot, and will not, be condoned by a civilized world. The rest of the Bush cabal -- Gonzales, Rice, Wolfowitz, Feith, that whole damned crew -- should do life at hard labor, without possibility of parole, in some joyous little hell-hole like Devil's Island. They should also be treated to "interrogation" like that visited upon the rest of the "enemy combatants".

Update 2: Please feel free to leave comments below. You don't have to have a Blogger account to comment, but you DO have to do the "word verification" thingie (to keep out body-part-enlargement spam comments). Obscene, rascist, or otherwise unacceptable comments will be deleted immediately.

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