Sunday, September 26, 2010

With Malice Toward None

On Thursday evening, Virginia executed Teresa Lewis for her role in the murder of her husband and step-son. Talk Left has a wonderfully simple but crystal clear comment on this.

California is about to re-enter the business of state-sanctioned murder as well, now that a federal judge has cleared the path, as reported in the Los Angeles Times. [Warning, the article is quite macabre, even grisly, so keep that in mind when clicking on the link.]

A federal judge on Friday cleared the way for the first execution in California in nearly five years when he refused to halt murderer-rapist Albert Greenwood Brown's death by lethal injection, scheduled for Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel expressed concern about the limited time he had to evaluate the state's newly revised execution procedures and gave Brown the choice of being put to death by a single injection, as practiced in Washington and Ohio, instead of by the state's three-drug method.

How kind of Judge Fogel to give Mr. Greenwood the option of choosing to die with one shot or three. I guess he had to consider the method, given the various rulings that the three-drug method often failed, leading to extremely painful deaths, thus constituting cruel and unusual punishment.

For some, that was not a bug, it was a feature. The argument runs that "justice" is being served by killing those that commit the ultimate crime, but that's patently bogus. That is not justice. That is revenge, a left-over from our tribal days when an eye-for-an-eye was considered appropriate, when chopping off the hand of a thief was only fair, when stoning an adulteress was fitting. So much for the shining beacon of liberty.

I made my usual trek to Watching America yesterday and came across an editorial in Germany's Frankfurter Rundschau. It's a pretty good analysis of how our nation is viewed when it comes to our barbarous death penalty. I am violating fair use principles by quoting the editorial in its entirety.

The United States remains on its sad, lonely path, unique among Western democracies.

There’s no doubt about Teresa Lewis’s guilt, but what has American society gained now that she has been executed? Her case is a dramatic example of the arbitrariness and injustice of America’s execution mills.

Opponents of the death penalty have demonstrated for decades that the poor, members of ethnic minorities and those not mentally able to defend themselves in a court of law are sentenced to death more often than other perpetrators. In the Lewis case, where the actual killers got off with prison sentences, the injustice was especially blatant.

Optimists like to point out that the death penalty is being applied less and less in many states. Whether that’s a reflection of a change in the American political climate is questionable. The governor of Virginia, who denied Lewis clemency and ordered the execution to proceed, even wants to expand the death penalty to cover other crimes. The United States remains the only Western democracy to continue down this sad and lonely path.

And so I find yet another thing to mourn about this country, a country I truly believed had such promise. I'm beginning to understand that famously short verse in the Bible, one of the few I can actually recite accurately:

Jesus wept.



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