I know that admission may shock some of my progressive friends, but I'm conflicted here. I realize that the Christian point of view ought to be no executions, no exceptions, because Jesus Himself stopped one. I guess stoning was a particularly cruel manner of capital punishment, depending on the size of the rocks, but Jesus said, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." Then again, the Old Testament calls for "an eye for an eye." So many conservatives cheered for Texas Governor Rick Perry's heavyweight championship of execution during the Republican debates, it's an ongoing spiritual mystery how so many Rock of Ages absolutists can be both pro-life yet also favor the death penalty. Irrespective of the fervor of the faithful, if karma works in the same way as the laws of cause and effect, and someone has committed a crime so horrible that he will return to this life with some type of deformity, we'd be doing him a favor to give him a little nudge along the path of his spiritual journey.
Everyday, I see someone walk out of prison that was on death row. Advances in forensics and other technologies have freed men held captive for decades while others have surely been wrongly put to death. In Texas, they do it for a hobby, like hot dog eaters trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. On the other hand, Charles Manson may well have reached cult-like status anyway if the death penalty were not eliminated in California in 1972, but he wouldn't have stayed alive long enough to record new CDs and become this country's convict with the most correspondence. I doubt that John Wayne Gacey's paintings would still be on the market if he hadn't spent that much time in prison in order to paint them all. The most egregious example is Richard Speck, the mass murderer. Speck's was the first particularly horrifying mass slaying to be made public during the media age. In 1966, Speck raped, tortured and murdered eight student nurses in their beds at their Chicago apartment. He was quickly captured and sentenced to death, but a Supreme Court decision created a four year moratorium on state execution, under which Speck's life was spared. He later claimed he never really had a reason to kill those girls and that it was so messy, if he could go back, it would just be a simple house burglary.
If there were ever a candidate for capital punishment, it would be Richard Speck. But the evidence was not necessarily in the trial so much as in the prison video Speck made before he died of natural causes at age 50. The footage is still so gag-inducing, it makes me ill to conjure the memory, but without being expansive, Speck is featured snorting coke with his jail lover and showing off new surgically enlarged man-breasts. He says to the "videographer," "If the public only knew how much fun we're having." At that point, I stopped caring about deterrence, or cost, or philosophy, or ethics; I just wished that guy was dead. But, "Vengeance is Mine," sayeth the Lord. Fair enough. But it's also said, "The Lord helps those who help themselves." Face it, there are some people that are just dying to meet their maker, and doing it in so gruesome a way that we, as a society, need to accommodate them. These times in which we live, (the Kali Yuga in Hindi), are so dark that violent crimes have become increasingly brutal, depraved and committed with such savagery, that the perpetrators have forfeited their right to live on this planet and breathe the same air as other humans. Game over. Thanks for playing. Better luck next time.
The 1972 case that stopped all executions for a time was called Furman v. Georgia. It wasn't because of a rigged trial or planted evidence, the court merely ruled that a more uniform system about what did and did not qualify for the death penalty needed to be put in place. So, let's merely follow the court's ruling and narrow the criteria for the ultimate punishment. This would, of necessity, have to be a federal law, just to overrule the "try 'em and fry 'em" regimen of some of our more trigger happy states. To my mother's regret, I am not an attorney, but I'll bet that some legal statutes could be written on a national level, like the voting age, that regulate the conditions necessary for and the method of execution. Leaving a matter of this magnitude to the states has created the chaos we are currently witnessing. I once believed that the correct solution was not to kill the murderers, just lock them in a cage like mad dogs. Forget about rehabilitation or exercise, just slide their food under a crack in the door and let nature do its work. But in recent decades, a category of soulless criminal has emerged that just doesn't deserve any more food and water. For example- anyone committing a mass slaying or spree killing is good to go; anybody that tortures and murders for kicks is hot to trot; serial child predators win a free ticket to the afterlife, including the clergy. Now that might serve as a deterrent.