On Death Row

I was mulling over the idea of writing a letter to Larry Johnson. But I got over it after I listened to LJ on the Dan Patrick Show yesterday, and realized just how lost this dude actually is. He actually believes that there’s hope that the Chiefs would actually bring him back to Kansas City to break a record. For those of you who understand the situation: *crickets*

On to more important things:

John Allen Muhammad, the beltway sniper, was put to death on Tuesday evening. He was pronounced dead at 9:11 p.m.  EST. For some reason or another, I kept clicking back and forth between CNN and checking CNN.com to see when he was dead, looking for reaction, his last words, wondering about a last second pardon and so forth.

One of my friends asked me why I seemed enthused about him dying, and I had to explain that that wasn’t the case.

What compelled me more than anything was the statement released by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who had the opportunity to “spare” Muhammad’s life. Kaine found “no compelling reason for clemency,” so Muhammad was put to death.

That little bit makes me wonder what goes through he mind of a man, presumably a good man, a commonwealth’s governor, when he decides that he won’t spare a life that’s, in all likelihood, harmless. Knowing he’s been here before, makes me wonder what his conscience looks like.

Now, before I go any further, I guess it would be wise for me to say I’m on the fence concerning the death penalty. I go back and forth on it with each death row case that turns into a media circus of sorts. I see the crimes committed and understand why someone might want that person dead. Then it comes to that final day and I question how a decent person finds the will to actually put someone else down. It confuses me.

More than anything, though, I wonder whether or not the punishment does much good. Sure, a murderer is dead. But does that really serve the justice that the states and victims are hoping for?

Bob Meyers, whose 53-year-old brother Dean was shot dead while pumping gas in Virginia, called Tuesday’s spectacle “surreal.”

“Watching the life be sapped out of somebody intentionally was very different and an experience I’d never had,” he told CNN’s “Larry King Live.”

“I’d watched my mother die of natural causes, but that was very different.”

He said he may have attained some closure, “but I would say that pretty much was overcome just by the sadness that the whole situation generates in my heart. That he would get to the place where he did what he did, and that it had to come to this.” (CNN)

I don’t know. That doesn’t seem/read like justice. It’s reads like the intentional death of a man who could no longer do any harm. And though it seems right in some moments (McVeigh, Hussein and even this one), the calculation and method of it all seems too much.

There’s a reason that I said that I’m glad that the gunman in the tragedy at Fort Hood is alive and didn’t die last week. Although he almost assuredly will have a fate similar to Muhammad’s.

Still, the fact that he must live through some of this life in a hole understanding what he took away (whether there’s remorse or not), that means something. A lot more than intentional death. I think.



14 responses to “On Death Row

  1. I go back and forth on this issue as well. While I’m not exactly morally opposed to the death penalty I feel that it is somewhat misused. There aren’t standard practices concerning the death penalty among various states (I guess because the prision system isn’t completely run by the federal government). Some states do it, some don’t, not to mention the disproportionate amount of one color of people that are put to death.

    I’m not going to pretend to know the history behind the dealth penalty but I always thought it was used as not only punishment but also a deterrant. I don’t think that it is very effective as a deterrant because unless it is a huge case, most executions aren’t widely publicized so many people don’t even hear about them.

    If someone killed a family member of mine would I want them dead? Probably so, I think it would burn me up to know that the person that took the life of someone I love was walking around breathing (not to mention living off of tax payer’s money) even if they werewalking around in a tiny box. In my opinion the whole prision system needs to be revamped, including the part concerning the dealth penalty.

    • “If someone killed a family member of mine would I want them dead? ”

      I am actually in this situation and it’s something I’ve pondered. Most of all, I’m just concerned the perpetrator be held responsible and punished. Whether that’s life, 30 years, the death penalty, I don’t really care, but it would be nice for word on the street to be shock that so-and-so actually got the death penalty. I don’t know why black men actually don’t get death for killing each other more often.

  2. I truly don’t believe that man should have the say as to whether or not a person should live. In essence, the system is doing the EXACT same thing that the convicted murderer was doing, they are KILLING. I can understand the feeling of wanting someone dead that caused so much hurt and pain. But it just isn’t our call as man to decide when another man should die. I’m very spiritual and feel like all things in life should be controlled by our creator. He should decide when death is warranted, even if it is at the hands of a cold-blooded killer. But an organized execution? I don’t think I’ll truly be able to get with that…

    Sure, it will make you feel better if world criminals like Sadam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden are taken out, but again, if they are taken out in combat or war that’s an entirely different topic. If they are captured and jailed, let them rot their sorry lives away and live in misery…

    • @jlbd

      We are >here<

      I completely agree with what you say. I don't want to diminish the pain of losing a loved one, but killing the murderer doesn't bring them back and if people are honest, I think it doesn't ever make the pain easier.

  3. I don’t have a moral problem with the death penalty; executions have always been a part of any theocracy. For example, as a Christian, I see that when God established the nation of Israel, executions were included as part of the moral code of justice, which included a man carrying out the sentence (and thus killing another man). So I do not ponder the morality of governors, courts, judges, etc who deny clemency.

    I’m much more interested in whether it is an effective deterrent and fitting punishment, and the efficient use of tax dollars to do both. I understand it costs much more to try a death penalty case and carry out an execution than it does to convict a person and put them in prison for life. I am also concerned that the death penalty is sought at a higher rates for minorities compared to whites regarding the same crimes.

    • @D-milz: ” I understand it costs much more to try a death penalty case and carry out an execution than it does to convict a person and put them in prison for life”

      -That is interesting. I’ve never done any research on the matter, I just figured that it cost more to keep a person housed in jail for life (depending on how long they actually lived).

    • “So I do not ponder the morality of governors, courts, judges, etc who deny clemency.”

      I know it’s a part of their jobs. I just wonder what goes through their minds knowing what will be the result of their decisions… and moreso the governors, who have that last minute decision. I wonder personally what they think, and if that changes over time as they’ve denied more and more people clemency.

      I guess you could say that it’s just a sentence that I would never want to carry out. And I wonder what the people who do it think/feel like during that process.

  4. I agree w/ the death penalty although I believe that it is used a tad too liberally in some states/situations. As the person said above, there is also a large discrepency between minorities & whites convicted of Capitol Murder, that receive a death sentence.

    I know there are some federal guidelines that have to be met before considering the Death Penalty but I don’t think they are followed as closely as perhaps they should.

    Anyway, Muhammed was not a political prisoner sent to death for some crime that could be interpreted any other way. Just like McVeigh and this Scott Roeder dude from KS, he is a calculated killer who understood perfectly what he was carrying out and with that no remorse from me or clemency from me (if I was a governor, that is).

  5. I’m anti death penalty. I don’t think it actually serves anyone any justice, victims, families, etc…

    In fact, I think it would do our country some good to revisit many of our punishing laws, similarly to how they’re revisiting “life with no parole” for teenage convicts.

    Consistently when the families of victims are asked about watching the convicted die, they say it wasn’t what the expected it to be (in some form or fashion). Not all of them, but enough.

    Now, I say that knowing that if someone simply harmed my mother, not even killed her, I’d want them to die. But when a loved one is a victim, emotions take over everything.

    That man terrorized an entire city and it’s surrounding suburbs for days on end. He deserved to stay in prison forever as far as I’m concerned but I just don’t feel that any one person (or group of people) have the market cornered on deciding who lives and who dies.

    I have to say, I’m most vulnerable on my argument on this as it relates to people who harm children. Those bastards I do want to die… the end.

  6. I’d have to echo the ocmments made by D-milz. The death penalty doesn’t bother me. The legal system that utilizes said penalty is what causes me to hiccup when pondering the rational behind use of the death penalty. I don’t think there is a true means of determining if the death penalty is working or not. People often say we have just as many or more murders after the widespread use of the death penalty as evidence that it doesn’t deter. Yet I wonder if that increased crime is more a result of the fact that we have more ‘bad people’ in our world. And what alternative would you put in it’s place? Making said killer a responsibility of the state and taxpayer?

    I will always be on the fence regarding this issue and pray to God that I and noone I know would ever have to endure the pain that would push one to the pro-penalty side of said fence.

  7. As far as I can tell, and from extensive research, capital punishment has not acted as a deterrent to crime. That said, why even employ it’s use.

    If in Saudi Arabia they can and do have rehabilitation programs to turn Islamic extremists into, well, “normal people”. Why then can we not rehabilitate an individual in this country?

    We live in a violent nation, and the death penalty doesn’t make it any less violent.

  8. I would like to know what was on the mind of the current Texas governor when he had the chance to grant a stay of execution in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. At the 11th hour in the face of new evidence proving his innocence, the governor didn’t grant a stay.

  9. I don’t have time to write a lot, but I do want to say I feel a lot like you do. Can I just say “ditto”?

    And I thought it was a strange irony to set the execution of a mentally ill veteran on the eve of Veteran’s Day.

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