Don't worry, I'll post my fat pregnancy pictures just as soon as my camera decides it doesn't need new batteries after all. I'm assuming it just has to choose not to want them rather insisting than it does. Stupid, spoiled camera.
In the mean time I'm going to write about something that's been weighing on my mind for a couple of days. It's a serious topic, it's going to be very long and wordy, and it won't be funny in the least. So if you're looking for amusement today you won't find it here. I can't always be your little entertainment monkey, you ingrates.
Some drama has happened in our family over the past week. My husband's 16-year-old niece went missing on Sunday and still hadn't been heard of four days later. She hadn't taken anything with her except her ipod (very important) and her cell phone, which she never answered. Money, keys, and ID were all left in her room. Obviously, her parents were frantic, but the police labeled it a runaway situation and basically ignored it. It wasn't until she still hadn't resurfaced on Thursday that the police actually sat up and took notice and actually began investigating her disappearance. And 24 hours later, and one ex-convict 19-year-old lousy boyfriend back in prison later, she was safely back at home again. She'd been keeping this idiot boyfriend a secret for over a year. When her parents finally found out about him, they went to all lenghts to keep him away from her, all to no avail. They even had the cops come to their home and tell their daughter just how bad her boyfriend was and illuminate her life about his extensive rapsheet. She refused to believe it of course, because "he's the only one who understands me and we're in love." Got it.
The whole family assumed the worst about our niece and they were naturally worried sick. However, the more I thought about the situation and the evidence available, the more I was convinced that she was perfectly safe, being sheltered by her idiot boyfriend. He felt the same way about her--that she was the only one who truly understood and loved him for the way he was--and as such I didn't believe he would hurt her. But he would definitely hide her. I'm very disturbed that elements of this case reminded me a great deal of one that the husband and I heard about via one of our many crime shows we're addicted to at the moment, and not the fake ones but the real ones. There was a case of a young teen girl who was a bit of an outcast who befriended an older teen hoodlum with serious issues inside and out of prison. Eventually they and his friend began to do drugs together, specifically LSD. When her mother objected to their undying love for each other, they decided to do away with her. And one night, the boyfriend stabbed her mother to death while her daughter and his friend hung out in the other room or watched or helped, depending on whose version of events you believe. The daughter and friend were sentenced to prison and the boyfriend was sentenced to death. Unless it has since been overturned by appeal, he is still on death row for the offense.
Here is my problem. While a heinous act, no doubt, he should not have been sentenced to death for that. All three were unbelievably high on LSD when they not only commited the murder, but also when they discussed doing it a couple of days before. There wasn't any evidence to suggest that they discussed her murder when they were not high. If I had been on the jury that sentenced this lad you would have had to convince me that he was not only capable, but also even willing to take that woman's life while he was stone-cold sober. Drugs impair one's reasoning ability to the degree that most of us are willing to do things under their influence that we would never even dream of doing otherwise; after all, isn't that the point of doing drugs? That would be the same as taking a drunken driver who had committed vehicular homicide and sentencing him to death for it. Surely he (or she) is responsible for the deaths his selfishness and carelessness caused and he should certainly be punished for not thinking ahead to take into account the possible consequences of his actions. But it was not premediated. He did not begin drinking that evening thinking that he would kill someone with his car. It is this same reasoning that makes me believe the boy was unfairly sentenced in his girlfriend's mother's murder. It was never properly proven that took LSD that evening with the intent of using it to aid him in murdering her mother, nor was it ever proven that he took it days prior with the intent of talking about it with his friends. The prosecution argued that because they had discussed her murder prior, that pointed to intent and premeditation. However, is it truly premeditated when it only occurs to them as a viable option when they are not in their right minds? The mention of murder was never brought up in conversation until well after the effects of the drug had worked its way into their systems. So while the boy certainly deserved to be put in jail for killing her, because really this speaks to his suitability as a common citizen in general, I believe handing down a death sentence for it was unnecessarily extreme given the circumstances surrounding the crime.
I was emailing my friend, Trina, back and forth and she was talking about black and white issues in society. I was reminded then that I believe there are very, very few situations that are truly black and white in this world. I believe that there are exceptions to almost every rule and circumstances vary to such a degree that no two situations can ever be truly compared to one another with the intent of laying out a solid, indefensible solution for both. I believe God is the only one who can do so and I believe He takes everything into effect before passing judgement. We are imperfect as humans, but we do our best by usually having juries decide each individual case based upon the unique evidence and circumstances that go with it. Juries aren't perfect, but they're the best we've got in an imperfect situation.
The death penalty. I believe in using the death penalty, but sparingly. Also, not for the same reasons many people believe in it. Often proponents of capital punishment use the "eye for an eye" argument to justify its use. If you kill someone, you deserve to be killed. I don't believe that. I believe if you kill someone or multiple people, or something just as heinous AND you've proven yourself incapable of ever being a capable contributing member of society AND you are just as much a danger in prison as out and if you ever escaped you would immediately resort to your previous heinous activities, then you have forfeited your chance to live and should be put to death. In my opinion, just because a murder has been committed does not mean the person who did it should also die. Here's an example. Say that a man comes home from work, catches his wife in bed with another man, and in a fit of rage and jealousy picks up the first object he sees and chucks it at her head. The blunt-force trama results in excessive internal bleeding and she dies. Should her husband be sentenced do death? Why or why not? I believe not. Not only was there no time for him to develop a plan before his emotions took over, but what are the chances that he will go and murder again after this initial crime? For a man who had previously no former criminal past, it would seem that only such an extreme emotionally charged event was capable of making him irrational enough to forgo his usual non-violent nature and act upon his over stimulated emotions. What are the chances that this same man will be found again in a similarly emotionally charged position that would force him to react in the same way? Therefore, is he a danger to society? Possibly. Some would argue that it's easier to murder the second time than the first. If he's capable of it at all, he's capable of it again. I would argue we're all capable of it if forced into an extreme enough situation. Would I kill someone who was trying to permanately harm one of my children? Yes, I might. The law would likely excuse me for protecting my young, but not necessarily in every situation, even if we at the time feel it is more than warranted.
The husband in my example is not necessarily uncommon. There is a reason lawyers have used "temporary insanity" as a defense in the past. It is an attempt to show the jury that this was an isolated event brought on by the most extreme of circumstances and that the odds of replicating those circumstances to the point of replicating the result as well is nearly non-existent. Does that argument work? Not always. But it still brings the point across that not everyone is a serial killer.
America's prison system was the first of its kind on earth. While other countries reserved prison for people who couldn't pay their debts and handed out death sentences for nearly everything else, America used its prisons as a form of rehabilitation. The U.S. had the idea that if prisoners could be reformed, they would not need to be executed but rather re-taught and then released back into society as productive citizens. Sometimes that works and obviously sometimes it doesn't, evidenced by the number of repeat offenders out there. And some are deemed to be beyond the point of rehabilitation so that they are sentenced to life in prison. They cannot be trusted within society any longer and thus have been stripped of the privilige of living with the rest of us.
So then what specifics separate those with a life sentence from those with a death sentence? Well, that's truly the question, isn't it? This is what citizens and politicians argue about unceasingly. People in favor of the death penalty use several arguments in their favor: the afore-mentioned eye for an eye argument, the argument that it provides closure for the victims' families, the argument that it serves as a deterrent to those who would otherwise commit these crimes, and the argument that what they did is just so bad that they have essentially proven that they are inhuman enough that they cannot be allowed to live. I believe only one of those arguments holds water, and it is the last one. But first, the others. I've already gone over the eye for an eye argument and why I don't believe it's justified to kill everyone who takes a life no matter what. Every situation is different and each needs to be analyzed based upon its own unique circumstances. The closure argument. I have yet to see a family member of a victim say that the death of the murder makes them feel better. In fact, most of the time they express the idea that even though the murderer is dead, they feel just as much pain and that person's execution will never bring their loved ones back. The only positive outcome they ever express is that now the murderer can't hurt anyone else. We will be coming back to that one, guaranteed.
And finally the deterrent argument. This is touted as being the strongest argument in the pro-capital punishment arena, and yet it is the argument that holds the least water. No one has ever provided evidence that I've ever heard of that has polled individuals with the results being "Yeah, I was gonna kill her, but man, then I thought about how our state allows the death penalty and then I thought, oh crap! I better not do it then! So I let her live." Most murders do not lend themselves to enough prior thought that would allow the would-be killer to think far enough in advance of that specific consequence. When humans are presented with enough time to think before they act on something they know they shouldn't do, the farthest their thoughts will carry them is, "I might get caught." It is from there that they exercise the idea of whether or not it's worth the risk of being caught or not. I daresay it would be a rare event for an individual to think about killing someone else for their own reasons that they've concocted as good enough to justify such an act and then pause to think about the consequences through to their complete end: "OK, so I kill this guy. If I don't cover my tracks enough, the cops might get the idea it's me. So I better do a good job of hiding what I did so I don't get caught. If I don't do that well enough, what will happen to me? The cops will come and they'll question me. If I don't lie well enough I'll have to sign my confession and get thrown in jail. Then I'll have to wait for my day in court and I'll have to have a good lawyer. If he can't argue well enough the jury might find me guilty. Oh man, and then I'll go to prison. Oh, but wait! What if they decide that what I'm about to do is so bad, despite my assertions that it had to be done because this dude totally has it coming and/or has something I really, really want that think I'm unfit to breathe another breath! OH MY GOSH I COULD GET THE CHAIR FOR THIS. Maybe this guy doesn't have it coming after all? Yeah, they're totally right. It's just not worth it. Time for Wheel of Fortune!" I guarantee you that that thought process and the type of person capable of carrying out a capital punishment-worthy offense are not compatable. As indicated, most people don't even register that what they're doing is worthy of such a sentence or it wouldn't occur to them to do it in the first place. While they may admit what they're about to do is wrong (if they've even thought about it long enough to come to that conclusion at all), they either do not believe they'll be caught for it, or they don't believe that a jury would think it's so wrong that they should die for it. Very few people on this earth would knowingly and willingly commit a crime so unbelievably horrendous that they believe they would be sentenced to die for it. Of those who know they would, typically serial killer types, those criminals believe themselves to be, and are usually correct to some degree, that they are intelligent enough to get away with it. And for those of us who do think about capital punishment, we are usually also right-thinking enough to not believe in committing the act in the first place if for no other reason than a strong sense of right and wrong. More of us are scared out of ever committing murder and other horrible acts for the consequence of eternal damnation rather than lethal injection. The death penality is not the deterrent people believe it to be.
I believe the death penalty is based in fear. There is a line that has been crossed in such a crime that is so unsettling to us as human beings that we cannot fathom its purpose or possible justification. An angry and jealous husband who murders in the heat of the moment will not be forgiven, but he can be understood to some degree. While most of us would not have reacted in the same way (or so we believe), we are not disgusted with his actions to the point of taking his life. But a man who rapes and murders dozens of teenaged girls on a spree that lasts years and crosses 32 states is unfathomable. It is inexusable. It has crossed a line. It shakes us to our cores. It terrifies us. Such a man cannot only not be trusted in society, he cannot even be trusted in prison. If he escapes he will do the same all over again because his mind is deseased to such a point that he can never be cured of his sadistic urges and he will continue until he is dead. There is little reason to keep him alive, and the risk of doing so far outweighs the guilt of taking his life. And so we execute him. It is the only solution to his personal problem and our problem with him. He will never be rehabilitated, he will never be in his right mind, he will never be forgiven by society, he can never pay his debt. He is hopeless and thus extremely expendable. There is a reason that states are willing to pay the price of killing some people versus the much cheaper option of simply keeping them in prison until they die naturally. Because they feel it's worth the cost. It's worth the peace of mind. It's worth the safety of everyone else in society because until that individual is six feet underground, he will always be a potential danger to us. And not just a danger, but a cancer. A disease that is pulling our society under with it. The criminal must be completely erradicated to cleanse us and more importantly for us to feel safe. Fear is a very powerful motivator in our society, don't ever doubt that. It can decide if you live or die.
And what do you think?