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Commentary
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Charley Reese
McVeigh case illustrates our heads out of place
Published June 12, 2001


Timothy McVeigh’s execution should have been a two-paragraph story on an inside page and a footnote to the evening news telecasts. Instead and as usual, the press made more of it than the event deserved.

McVeigh killed 168 people. The government killed McVeigh. End of story. Nothing was learned and nobody felt any better afterward.

The thing to remember when the topic of the death penalty comes up is that we are all under a sentence of death we received on the day of our birth. Executing a man is not doing anything to him that will not happen anyway. It is merely determining the time and the manner of his death. Lethal injection is certainly a better way to die than some other ways. I don’t think people on death row deserve any sympathy. There are too many good people who suffer worse than they do.

Some people oppose the death penalty because human error is possible. I don’t. Doctors every year kill more people than the 50 states and federal government plan to execute. Shall we banish doctors and abolish medicine because of human error? Of course not. If an innocent man is executed for something he didn’t do, then he’s no worse off than the 90,000 people every year who are killed in accidents.

As for the moral burden of guilt on the state, don’t worry. The state is a machine. It has no conscience and no soul. The state kills innocent people all the time, usually in wars.

Life without possibility of parole -- often proposed as an alternative to the death penalty -- has two flaws. One is that one politician can’t bind another one. Such sentences can always be commuted. The other thing wrong with that idea is that life without parole is a death sentence, only it will happen at an indeterminate date. Room and board in these prisons costs too much to waste the money keeping some guy behind bars until he dies of old age. If that’s the intent, then it’s better to go ahead and kill him.

Opponents of the death penalty argue sometimes that it is not a deterrent. It is. Nobody executed for one murder has ever committed another one. As for whether it deters other people, that’s impossible to determine. Insane, stupid or drunken people will not be deterred, but not all criminals fall into those categories. Still, even if it doesn’t, it’s cheap and a 100 percent cure for recidivism.

The only thing wrong with the death penalty is that the judicial system is so screwed up it takes years, often decades, to bring a person to justice. Americans really ought to be concerned that their judicial system is so creaky and in need of repair that it cannot perform its most basic functions in a prompt manner.

The fault lies with judges, timid of manner and short of brains, who tolerate these frivolous appeals and are afraid of bringing unscrupulous lawyers up short. It pays to remember that appeals are about procedures, not facts of the case. It’s rare, in my opinion, for an innocent man to get convicted. It happens but not that often.

At any rate, judges ought to crack down on these anti-death-penalty lawyers and, if their appeals turn out to be frivolous, slap them with big fines. No more than 12 months should pass between the time of sentence and the date of execution. That’s plenty of time for any valid appeals.

There is one thing I don’t understand. That is how anyone could favor abortion, which is the execution of an innocent child, and oppose the death penalty for adult criminals. Makes no sense to me at all.

On the one hand, innocent babies without sin, are being executed on a mass-production basis. On the other, you have to wade through mobs of do-gooders and frivolous legal appeals, to throw the switch on a mean and vicious killer.

Well, it seems we haven’t had our heads on straight since the 1960s. That old waterfront philosopher, Eric Hoffer, said in one of his last books that he was not sure the United States could survive the Sixties Generation. Maybe he was right.

Some people sure have a hard time deciding what is right and what, if anything, is wrong these days. I’m glad to be out of step with my times. I like the old verities and the old virtues. I’ll leave relativity for discussing the size of fish.

There will be more McVeighs, I think. We may be mass producing them, too -- people who can separate their humanity from their ideology. We are too much into the business of collateral damage and "the price that has to be paid." Most people who say the latter are talking about somebody else paying the price.

Our militarized society turns out thousands of young men each year who are familiar and capable with explosives and improvised munitions. Nearly all the Army training manuals are available for sale. It’s just not a good idea to kill the conscience and at the same time train a man in the high art of killing. But, as I said, we haven’t had our heads on straight for quite some time.
 

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Some flaky thinking going on here IMHO:

Life without possibility of parole -- often proposed as an alternative to the death penalty -- has two flaws. One is that one politician can’t bind another one. Such sentences can always be commuted.
Yeah, I'm getting tired of hearing how Sirhan Sirhan, Charles Manson et. al. keep getting let out of prison by politicians because, hey, there is no better way to get popular than to let famous killers go free :roll:

Personally, I like the entertainment value of guys like Manson and Sirhan Sirhan actually GETTING a parole hearing and begging for mercy so they don't have to go back into the hole.

The other thing wrong with that idea is that life without parole is a death sentence, only it will happen at an indeterminate date. Room and board in these prisons costs too much to waste the money keeping some guy behind bars until he dies of old age. If that’s the intent, then it’s better to go ahead and kill him.
That would be the case if we just found people guilty & killed 'em. We don't. The cost of appeals for a capital case is usually much more than the cost of life imprisonment, and since the typical criminal spends DECADES on death row anyway, the practical differnce between the two is small. To implement the death penalty with any degree of fairness (let alone the insane appeals process we have now) is to make it at least as expensive as just putting them in prison and condeming 'em to 50 years of misery and degradation.

I don't have any sympathy for McVeigh. My problem with the death penalty is that it just isn't practical and is actually "nicer" than the alternative of perpetual confinement.

_________________
CastleBravo
Visit The Pit: http://www.geocities.com/mr_motorhead/

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: CastleBravo on 2001-06-12 11:47 ]</font>
 

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I agree for the most part except the part about executing an innocent man. The examples he gave are not of a conscious decision to kill, but unpreventable occurances of death from trying to do something beneficial.

Now some will argue that capital punishment is beneficial to our society and those benefits outweigh the deaths of innocents. On that I have to disagree. If there were no other way for justice than maybe I can accept that. But I believe we can still bring justice without looking at the wrongful execution of innocent people as an acceptable consequence.
 

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The problem is that more innocent people probably spend life terms than go to the chair. If you get the death sentence, a vast array of appeals processes and resources are opened up to you. If you get a life sentence, you may get lucky and be able to afford an attorney, or you may have to wing it. The government does not have to pay for an attorney for a lifer, but it does for someone with a death sentence.

I'd say far more innocent people died in prisons of old age, violence, etc., than have ever been executed.
 
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