Killer to be executed
May 21, 2002 5:46 AM   Subscribe

Killer to be executed even though victim's mother requested a commuted sentence to life imprisonment. Shouldn't family members of the victim have some sort of say in whether a convicted killer should be executed or not? Especially when they are against the execution of the perpetrator?

Just an add-on toThe Texas Conveyor Belt of Death thread from yesterday.
posted by da5id (18 comments total)
No. If we did that, where would it stop? Maybe the mother of the victim also doesn't think they should spend any jail time, do we also appease her at that request? I know our legal system isn't perfect, FAR FROM IT, but if we allow it to just break down like this, where are we headed?
posted by the_0ne at 5:51 AM on May 21, 2002

If the victim's mother had requested that the killer was chopped into pieces, and then fed to sharks, would you still have suggested that she should have "some say" in the type of punishment that he is dealt? Or do you (hypocritically) only support this if and when she agrees with you?
posted by dagny at 5:53 AM on May 21, 2002

No. Criminal punishment is based on societal concerns, rather than individual retribution. That's why it's "People of the State of Texas v. Murderer," not "Victim v. Murderer." And, as dagny suggested, you're probably far more likely to see the opposite (victims/families demanding harsher penalties, not softer). But that would be OK with you, right?
posted by pardonyou? at 6:05 AM on May 21, 2002

dagny: there's no need to be so polarizing. perhaps da5id simply supports this if and when the decision could be reversed at a later time if it was determined that following the wishes of the victim's family was a bad call?

though you can't really say that she didn't have some sort of say when she communicated with and convinced 8 people to vote for commuting the sentence.
having some say is not the same as dictating the outcome...
posted by juv3nal at 6:06 AM on May 21, 2002

The whole idea of law, as I take it, is to remove the desires of the opposing clans from the settlement of the case. It's predicated on a dream of impartial objectivity. And even though it doesn't ever hit that mark, striving for it is a good thing.

I sympathize with the mother and it's fine for her to advocate for some sentance short of capital punnishment (if I were a juror, her opinion would have some effect on me). But putting her in charge of sentencing, in some codified way, would be a very bad idea, IMHO.
posted by wheat at 6:07 AM on May 21, 2002

I'd go along with it - if the mother would agree to share in any additional punishments handed out to this guy for crimes committed while in prison. Somehow, I don't think she'd be so willing.
posted by schlyer at 6:08 AM on May 21, 2002

Many victims of spousal abuse often wish for their abusers to go free, especially after the abuser apologizes and asks for forgiveness. That is part of the cycle of spousal abuse, and laws were wisely put into place to take that matter out of the hands of the abused. Victims, and in cases like that mentioned above, victims' families are too close and emotionally involved to be able to make good decisions regarding the perpetrator. So no, I don't think family members of the victim should have some sort of say in whether a convicted killer should be executed or not.
posted by cheineking at 6:14 AM on May 21, 2002

dagny - why don't you just put the words in my mouth?

The questions are rhetorical and were presented to open discussion.

I did not present where I stand on the subject, and you shouldn't read into what was posted that way.

So Fark off already.
posted by da5id at 6:19 AM on May 21, 2002

I think da5id brings up an interesting point. To me, it seems somehow morally wrong to execute someone when the victim's family does not wish it. Somebody wants him dead -- let's not hide behind the terms "our legal system" and "our society" when we're just talking about lawyers, judges and juries. I know it's not so as simple as that, but this just illustrates to me the wide gulf between humanity's idea of "justice" and what is ethically and morally right.
posted by drinkcoffee at 6:20 AM on May 21, 2002

Aren't victims or relatives of victims allowed, in some cases, to give statements to juries in some states before a sentence is decided? I seem to remember that cropping up at some point in the last few months... anyway, it's interesting that the sharia allows for just this -- that it's down to the victims to commute death sentences -- because it's a system of law which at least claims to be based upon both the impersonal demands of justice and the need to maintain social cohesion. In the sense that a sentence that satisfies the state but neither side isn't much use. (And it avoids vendettas, I s'pose.) Not that sharia in practice tends to demonstrate this, but religious courts have always been that way.
posted by riviera at 6:37 AM on May 21, 2002

No matter what the mother said, things like this shouldn't be decided by such a close board vote (9 for killing him, 8 for imprisonment). There is significant doubt among the supposed hardened experts that this guy should be killed, and of course there will be no room for correcting the error once he's gone.
posted by pracowity at 6:53 AM on May 21, 2002

What strikes me as weird is that these people are deciding on matters of life and death of someone and they are not required to meet and discuss tha matter in hands nor have a hearing where the case might be presented better, unless some of them specifically ask for the hearing.

They fax their votes, for crying out loud. I know that sometimes there's no need for a hearing and you can speed up the proccess. But in a death sentence case, I think the hearing should be mandatory.

And have you noticed that there's a James Bush on the board? :-)
posted by rexgregbr at 7:16 AM on May 21, 2002

Shouldn't family members of the victim have some sort of say in whether a convicted killer should be executed or not?

Should victims have a say? I think so, but it needs to be handled in a way that tempers the emotional outbursts and thirsts for vengeance that would flow from many a wronged person. Here in Canada, part of the process often includes a victim impact statement that is taken into consideration during sentencing, but doesn't dictate sentencing.

Especially when they are against the execution of the perpetrator?

Asking for that input to be weighted according to the victim's disposition vis a vis a specific punishment, however, is pretty faulty in even the most charitable interpretations.
posted by holycola at 8:59 AM on May 21, 2002

The crime is what it is, regardless of the views of those who happen to be related to the victim. Ditto the penalty. I think those affected should have no more say about a legal matter than random strangers. That's why we have a system of law.
posted by rushmc at 9:15 AM on May 21, 2002

For years we had been assured by certain benevolent souls that the purpose of capital punishment was deterrence. "It's a horrible thing, but we must set examples...we must do it for the sake of society...etc, etc" was the babble.

Of course, we now know capital punishment is utterly useless as a deterrent. The violence that is ineffective when wielded as a tool of change by the murderer will never become magically effective just because it is embraced by the state, in our name.

Next we were told that even if the death penalty doesn't deter, it is a form of justice called "retribution." It satisfies some primitive lust in our hearts (no doubt real) to hurt others as much as we feel we've been hurt. Blood lust...anger...the emotions of the murderer. And naturally, for those so inclined, the perception of "hurt" by those other than the families of victims are potentiated by other primitive lusts like racism, and converge on those who are "different" or "alien". Thus, the outsiders and the poor are executed in extraordinary numbers, while corporate executives who kill thousands with toxic waste and poor safety practices spend (at most) a few months in a federal country club. The Stephen Bikos are imprisoned and die, while the Union Carbide and Firestone executives retire with golden parachutes.

And now in the case referenced above, even retribution is obviously no longer the goal, so I'm not sure what rationalization comes next from those who cry constantly for blood. Obviously, removing the demand for such retribution by those closest to the victim doesn't temper the desire to kill from the pro-death-penalty crowd one tiny bit. One must assume, therefore, that it is their own blood-lust that drives such a view.

Thus, it is abundantly clear that proponents of the death penalty have MUCH more in common with the perpetrators...the murderers...than they do with the victim. Their willingness to kill, to use violence to make the world conform to their views, is as frightening and as irrational as the mind of any common murderer. Their unwillingness (or inability) to use reason and compassion as tools to prevent evil and to effect change is damning. They are part of the problem of violence, not the solution.

Capital punishment is murder. Violence begets violence. Stop violence in whatever form it takes.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:48 AM on May 21, 2002

Forget what you've been told in the past - as you rightly point out - it wasn't right. Too many death penalty proponents tried to make is more the idea of it more agreeable to those who were on the fence by coming up with deterrance and retribution as reasons to support it.

The death penalty is a punishment, just like any other criminal sentence. It isn't there to make the victims feel better, it isn't there to keep others from committing the same crime (if those things happen, all the better). Its there to keep a specific criminal from committing another crime against society - ever.

Thats something life in prison, even solitary, can't guarantee.

Violence begets violence With that statement you are buying into the very idea of deterrance that you agrued against earlier. Name me one person who's been executed who's committed another act of violence?

Capital punishment is murder. So's abortion - do you want to criminalize that?
posted by schlyer at 12:49 PM on May 21, 2002

The death penalty is a punishment, just like any other criminal sentence.

Um, no. By that thinking, murder is a crime, just like any other crime, and so no special punishment should be reserved to it.
posted by riviera at 2:13 PM on May 21, 2002

Um, I was making the point that its a punishment - not a deterrance or a means of retribution. Obviously it is more severe than other sentences, but nobody looks at those other sentences as anything but punishment.
posted by schlyer at 6:09 PM on May 21, 2002

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