Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Question Of Capital Punishment

The world is waiting with baited breath for the jury to return with yet another verdict in the Jodi Arias case. Not one of guilt or innocence - they've already done that. This time they are deliberating about whether Jodi will live or die.

Now, let me stop here and say that I did not watch the trial. With that said, her guilt or innocence is irrelevant to my thoughts here today. The jury found her guilty, and I accept that.

My thoughts today are in the direction of the death penalty. I have been swamped by postings on Facebook and have tuned into HLN and CNN - listening to the talking heads discuss Jodi's fate. "She's a liar!" ... "She killed him!" ... "Her plea to the jury was ridiculous!"  I am not disputing any of this. She was found guilty of murder, she lied, and yes ... her plea (which I did happen to watch) was ridiculous.  I just question how easy it would be for the jury to have her put to death.

I question if I would be able to do so.  During jury selection, they filled out questionnaires asking if they would have issue with electing death as a punishment. And - clearly each of they said that they would not have a problem in doing so .... or they would not have been selected in the first place.

I myself have often said through my lifetime that I am in favor of Capital Punishment. I have questioned aloud why certain criminals are kept alive for years and decades - at a high cost of keeping them alive.

I think that the public at large - the blood-thirsty observers calling for the head of a convicted criminal, are doing so from a safe distance. I really question that if it came down to their 'okie-dokie' at ending a life, if they would be able to do so.  Yes the jury must be unanimous for death to be handed down as a punishment ... as justice ... but if only one person is unable to give their 'yes' vote - then the jury is hanged. Deadlocked.

I think it is very easy to say "Yes." when it is not your voice that counts. When you really have no say in the matter - it is easy to be a backseat driver.  But what if your 'yes' mattered? What if your voice counted? What if your say-so, would end the life of another person? Could you live the rest of your life knowing that you had a hand in the end of a life?  I'm not sure that I could. In fact, the more that I think about it, the more sure I am that I in fact would not be able to do so.

Now, don't get me wrong. I do not believe that Jodi - or any other murderer (Child molester, etc..) should be eligible for parole. Ever. I think life in prison should mean exactly that. LIFE. We are no longer in the time when people lived to be 20 years old ... people can live to be 100 nowadays. So, life in prison should be natural life.

I just don't think that as humans we have the right to take a life. And in doing so, are we really any better than the criminal who took a life? "Well, the law says that we have that option."  These are man-made laws, so at the end of the day, man is deciding when it is (and is not) okay to take the life of another person. Does man have that right?

To me, it just feels wrong. I do not believe in 'an eye for an eye'. I do not feel that I have the right to decide if another human being gets to live or die.  I understand that if I had a loved one who was murdered, I may feel differently.  But is that a true feeling? True conscience? Or is it grief? Is it revenge? When someone hurts a loved one, as humans - our instinct is to exact revenge. But does that make it right? Will killing the criminal bring back the life of the victim? Sadly, the answer is No.

I think about Guy Paul Morin, who was wrongfully convicted for the 1984 rape and murder of his nine year old neighbor Christine Jessop. Ten years later, with advancements in DNA, Guy Paul Morin was found indeed innocent of the crime, in which he was convicted. What if Canada didn't abolish Capital Punishment in 1967? What if Guy Paul was sentenced to death? Wrongly?  Would a collective "Oops!" be enough?

I could quote several examples of this type of scenario, where innocent people were wrongly convicted - serving many years in prison before being vindicated. People who very well would have qualified for a death sentence. Now, before I get a back-lash of email, let me say that I am aware that these examples are few and far between. I am aware that the majority of people who are convicted of a crime, did in fact commit the offence. I am in no way suggesting that Jodi is innocent. What I am saying is that you cannot un-ring a bell. And if one person is put to death - wrongly ... that is one too many. And that, in and of itself, is just one of several reasons to abolish the death penalty.

I heard on the news today that the majority of the civilized world has abolished the death penalty. The exception being the United States. This strikes me as odd. The conversation went on to speak about how capital punishment is primarily observed in 3rd world countries, and questioned whether America should be held in such liken company.

I took the liberty of researching this 'fact' and found the following:


Capital punishment has been used in almost every part of the world, but in the last few decades many countries have abolished it. Usage of capital punishment is usually broken into the four categories set out below. Of the 195 independent states that are UN members or have UN observer status:

  • 90% of the world's countries are not executing, according to Amnesty International.
  • 100 (51%) have abolished it.
  • 7 (4%) retain it for crimes committed in exceptional circumstances (such as in time of war).
  • 48 (25%) permit its use for ordinary crimes, but have not used it for at least 10 years and are believed to have a policy or established practice of not carrying out executions, or it is under a moratorium.
  • 40 (20%) maintain the death penalty in both law and practice. These countries make up approximately 66% of the world's population in 2012.[1]

The information above is accurate as of 2013 when Chad, DR Congo, Cuba, Qatar, and Zimbabwe became de facto abolishionist countries because they had carried out no executions for ten years.

(Click image for easier viewing.)

(Blue) Abolished for all crimes (100)
(Yellow)Abolished for all crimes except under exceptional/special circumstances (such as crimes committed in wartime) (7)
(Orange)Abolished in practice (under a moratorium or haven't used capital punishment in at least 10 years) (48)
(Rose) Retainers of the death penalty (40)



Clearly my thoughts penned here on my little blog, will not change the world, or even the minds of those who hold close to their personal beliefs. The thing about capital punishment is that it is a very touchy subject - and much like abortion, the topic can be extremely polarizing. I am just voicing my thoughts as they have been playing on my mind with all of the recent discussion of the impending verdict.  My thoughts are not only with both of the families - those of the victim, but also those of the convicted ... for both are going to experience a loss, regardless of what decision the jury comes back with. But in the end, my thoughts are also with that jury, because not only do they have the burden of witnessing all of the gruesome evidence in a trial, they also have the burden of weighing the value of a life. Further to that, they have to carry that decision - whatever it may be - with them for the rest of their lives.