Thursday, November 17, 2005

Kill Happy?

The kill-happy state of Texas executed a second man in as many days yesterday. This was only the nineteenth death sentence carried out this year, well under the pace at which Texas took lives during the reign of George W. Bush. Still as CNN reports, Texas remains “nation's busiest capital punishment state.”

In case you haven’t perceived it, my “bleeding heart” liberalism includes opposition to the state murdering human beings under the euphemism of “capital punishment.” From a logical standpoint, it makes no sense to “to kill people who kill people to show killing people are wrong.”

From a viewpoint of a civilized society, capital punishment is barbaric: most enlightened and civilized nations have abolished the death penalty for all crimes (86 countries); another 11 countries have abolished the death penalty for all but exceptional crimes such as wartime crimes; while 24 countries can be considered abolitionist in practice (they retain the death penalty in law but have not carried out any executions for the past 10 years or more and are believed to have a policy or established practice of not carrying out executions). (Source: Amnesty International)

Before I go any further, I may as well confess that, yes, as my right-wing chums will attest, I am a Pinko, card-carrying member of such anti-American organizations as Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, Greenpeace International, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. To me, these are organizations that are civilized and moral. Enough said, or shall I remain longer in the pulpit?

Returning to the executions in Texas the past two days, both of the men killed were drug addicts. Both committed horrendous crimes. Shannon Charles Thomas, who was put to death yesterday, murdered a man and his two children on a Christmas Eve while attempting to obtain drugs and money from a small-time drug dealer. The day before, Robert Rowell, 50, was executed for fatally shooting three people at a Houston crack house. While I am tempted to sashay this post into my concerns about drugs in our society, I’ll postpone that until another day.

My thought is: does a moral and just society have the right to end the life of any human being, no matter what they have done? The Decalogue, which right-wing "Christians" want posted in every public building, says "You (thou those who believe that God speaks only Elizabethan English) shall not kill." There is no "except when" in the Law: you shall not kill. Period.

I shall end (almost) this post with another question in the manor of Sam Keen: How can so many (Christians) who claim to follow a man (Jesus of Nazareth) who was executed as a criminal (convicted of sedition) be so support of capital punishment?

NOTE: While doing research for this post, I came upon another Pinko organization that I may join: the Texas Moratorium Network, which identifies itself as “an all-volunteer, grassroots organization formed in 2000 with the primary goal of mobilizing statewide support for a moratorium on executions in Texas.”


  1. On an emotional level, there are some criminals I'd like to execute with my bare hands. But on an intellectual level, which I thought is how a civilized country operates, I see no gain for society in the death penalty.

    And for all the clear-cut, caught-red-handed convicts on death row, there is always the possiblity of error in our system. How many innocent people have been executed in this country? Even one is too many.

    Okay, so I'm a bit of a bleeding heart myself. I also believe there are a lot of crimes which should not warrant jail time (or shouldn't even really be crimes, don't get me goin' on that), thus freeing up that money and those resources to keep the truly dangerous bastards locked away from the rest of us. Not to mention all the resources of the courts that would be freed up...

  2. I'm always intrigued to read the opposing opinions on the death penalty in our state.

    I guess I'm a cold hearted bitch, because I almost always walk away from the conversation/post thinking, if you don't want to be executed, then don't come to the state of Texas and commit murder against the mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers etc etc... people.


    One of the few times I had real pause in my opinion, was during a long conversation with a net pal, and it was pointed out, many times the death penalty is an act of revenge, not punishment.

  3. I personally say fry the fuck out of them all. But hey, that's just me. Queen of Fairness. :)

  4. You are right that there is no possibility for rehabilitation if a person gets to the point where he will be executed, but the hope is that execution acts as a deterence for others from commiting such crimes. I don't believe there is any problem with the state using such punishment. As you showed, these people were not exactly outstanding citizens. If you want to think of it on the side of rights. These people took away others' right to life, shouldn't the same be done to them.

  5. Bucky: There are some, too, that I would like to hurt, if not kill. I have fantasized about shooting Mark, the guy who provides Candy with narcotics and meth, in both knees. That, I understand, was a punishment developed by the Irish Republican Army. Of course, that would be a personal act, not the action of my government. I would expect to pay a stiff penalty for intentionally hurting anyone.

    Yes, there is always the possibility of error in a conviction. And the statistics indicate that the poorer you are, the greater the probability of error. It hasn’t been that long ago that the out-going governor of Illinois recognized that and stopped, at least for a while, executions.

    I agree that we waste too time and effort on victimless crime. And we bleeding heart liberals have statistics on out side: taking human life does not lower the incidents of the crimes for which the life was taken. The majority of murders are neither planned nor often intentional. They are spurring of the moment acts, the type I may have committed had Mark walked into the room immediately after I saw the signs of methamphetamines in Candy.

  6. Milkmaid: I suppose the opposing arguments are intriguing! However, as one who had a string bias regarding the issue, I find it difficult why anyone would be willing to take another person’s life. As for Texas, I find it for than interesting that as I drive into Dallas I see several billboards advertising “the quick route” to obtain a permit to carry a concealed deadly weapon.

    For me, the issue of vengeance is one of a spiritual problem as well as a moral one. I have seen too many people—victims of crime to divorced folks—eaten up internally by their desire for vengeance. It is one of the most deadly emotions we humans can have. I think a Chinese proverb says it best: “The one who opts for revenge should dig two graves.”

  7. Southern Fried Girl: May sound good now, Queen of Fairness, but what if you or one of your loved ones was executed for a crime he or she didn’t commit? Or, what about the execution of child offenders? It wasn’t until last March (2005) that the U.S. Supreme court ruled in Roper v. Simmons against the execution of children in the United States. In the last few years, the United States was the only remaining country in the world to openly acknowledge executing child offenders and to claim for itself the right to do so. From January 1990 until last March, the United States carried out 19 executions–more than any other country.

  8. El: The statistics indicate that execution does not act as deterrence. Scientific studies have consistently failed to find convincing evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments. The most recent survey of research findings on the relation between the death penalty and homicide rates, conducted for the United Nations in 1988 and updated in 2002, concluded: ". . .it is not prudent to accept the hypothesis that capital punishment deters murder to a marginally greater extent than does the threat and application of the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment."

    Not killing people has been found to actually reduce homicides. For example, in Canada, for example, the homicide rate per 100,000 population fell from a peak of 3.09 in 1975, the year before the abolition of the death penalty for murder, to 2.41 in 1980, and since then it has declined further. In 2003, 27 years after abolition, the homicide rate was 1.73 per 100,000 population, 44 per cent lower than in 1975 and the lowest rate in three decades.

  9. You start with one killer.

    Then the jury votes to kill the killer. Add twelve; now you're up to 13 killers.

    Then the Judge approves the order. Fourteen.

    Now start adding jailers and prison officials, politicians, appeals courts…

    It started with one killer, and by the time it's all over, we've got a whole society with blood on their hands.

    For those of us who believe in karma, that can't be a good thing.

  10. I know as much as anyone in political science that you can use statistics to prove any point. I could use statistics to prove that it is a deterance. I just looked up pro death penalty and I was able to find this:

    This says that death penalty deters as many as 18 murders for each execution. I'm not saying it is definate truth, about as definate as the evidence you provided. Basically, there are too many other factors involved to show that death penalty is an effective or noneffective way of detering crime.

    This is not an issue I really feel strongly for. I just don't see it as barbaric or "uncivilized". It would be uncivilized if we went around carrying out such punishment without trial. I also don't find it "cruel or unusual" since the criminals usually committed worse crimes than what they are recieving. Of course, the Catholic Church is against the use of death penalty, so that leaves me in kind of a toss up personally.

  11. Thomas: You got it, man! For many years I have understood that, since we live in what is supposedly a representative democracy (I’ll not get on that soapbox at the moment), each life that is taken by the state makes each citizen of the age to vote also a murderer. That is truly bad karma for all of us.

  12. I hear you, El. I agree that statistics can be manipulated.

    I believe that capital punishment is barbaric and unenlightened. That, in part, is why the enlightened societies of the world have banned it. We live in a new age, unlike any that has existed in the past. We have more knowledge and abilities than ever before. For example, Genghis Khan once benevolently had 30,000 or so children put to death. The benevolence of that act was that his army had already killed their parents and did not want all of those orphans to suffer. That was, to me, the act of a different kind of ethic than we have today.

    The issue for me isn’t whether taking a life is a deterrent to crime; it is the theological issue that there is no “except” in the Torah after the words “You shall not kill.” That, as a society, ancient the Israelites did kill—stoning to death adulterous women and making war—is an historical reality. Yet the theology remains: to take a life is God’s prerogative. Not man’s.

    Where the Catholic Church is concerned, for centuries, the Catholic Church accepted the right of the state to take a life in order to protect society. But over time and in the light of new realities, Catholic teaching now recognizes that there are nonviolent means to protect society and to hold offenders accountable.

    Cardinal Roger Mahony wrote in an article entitled “It's time for a new ethic---justice without vengeance”:
    “This is a time for a new ethic—justice without vengeance. Let us come together to hold people accountable for their actions, to resist and condemn violence, to stand with victims of crime, and to insist that those who destroy community, answer to the community. But let us also remember that we cannot restore life by taking life, that vengeance cannot heal, and that all of us must find new ways to defend human life and dignity in a far too violent society.”

  13. Isn't the more accurate translation "You shall not murder"? I think there is a difference when it is a punishment dealt by the state than by a person. Justice is something through the state and it is not something that can be taken upon personally. If you think that the state does not have such authority, what about with the military? Do you not think that is uncivilized for them to kill for our protection?

    I would write more, but I am about to fall asleep. Maybe I'm taking this in the wrong direction. I can't tell right now. Goodnight:)

  14. El: I’ll have to pull out my Hebrew language books and research the etymology of the Hebrew translated as “kill/murder.” I’ll get back to you on this.