Tuesday, September 14, 2010


It's stunning and sad that the United States still deems it appropriate to kill someone in the name of justice.
Here's a case that I think many people who generally oppose the death penalty might make an exception for. A woman hires two men to kill her husband and stepson to clear the way for a romance with one of the men, and cash in a $250,000 life insurance policy. She showed little remorse, even trying to cash the policy as well as her late husband's paycheck just hours after the crime.
I, however, would still oppose the death sentence. Nothing can be gained from revenge killings, and if the goal of American society is to limit the role of government intrusion in our lives, as both social and economic libertarians would insist, then it seems to me that willfully killing a living human ought to be at the top of the list of things that a government cannot do, no matter how egregious that person may have behaved.
There is nothing, save a few bucks, that killing someone would solve that a life in prison without parole would not duplicate. Since rehabilitation is off the table, spending the rest of her life behind bars would be a more practical solution if teaching her a lesson is the goal. If the goal is to prevent her and others from killing, then certainly a life spent behind bars would serve as a constant reminder that "this could be you". Too, there's a bizarre and twisted honor in facing death and going without crying out. That badge of courage would be rather more difficult when it comes to facing yet another day behind bars. Resolve breaks, sanity withers away, and all you're left with is the hulking mass of a former human being.
In other words, it would actually be crueler, if revenge is the true motive, and I suspect we all know it is. If cruelty is the intent, how much crueler can it get than the taunts to an elderly prisoner? 
But there is one benefit keeping this woman alive for the rest of her natural born life could indisuptably provide: research.
Whenever some crazy story like this, or some other crime that makes little sense to us, pops up, we all marvel in wonder at what could drive someone over the edge like this: "He seemed so normal. She was such a good mother/wife/friend."
Somewhere, that thread was broken. We ought to take the opportunity to understand how, and to try to come up with some way to deter this crime and others in the future.
You want deterrent? How about prevention? That seems to make a lot more sense to me than the collective sigh we let out when the last wisps of life exit the dying killer.