Tortured Reasoning

I’ve always been in favor of the death penalty. I believe that it is Constitutional; the Constitution explicitly describes circumstances where it can be applied. Had the Founding Fathers wanted to ban it outright, then they would not have put limits on it.

That being said, I’ve never been a fan of “torture porn” variants of the death penalty. I’ve seen so many talk about how certain criminals deserve a slow, painful, poetic form of execution. Arsonists burned alive, rapists impaled, and whatnot.

If we, as a society, are going to kill someone, if we are going to decide that certain people simply can not be allowed to continue to live as retribution for their crimes against us as a society, then we ought to do it as efficiently, as mercifully as possible. And as a society, we’ve constantly evolved our method of execution. The current preferred form — lethal injection — is pretty darned close to ideal. One drug first, to put the condemned to sleep; then another to stop their heart. Apart from the initial pain of the needle — and as an eight-gallon-plus blood donor, it’s really not that bad — it’s pretty painless.

I reject the “torture porn.” I don’t want Osama Bin Laden dropped into the middle of Manhattan or crushed under millions of tons of rubble or burned alive. (I wouldn’t mind his corpse being buried inside a pigskin, but that’s mainly for the deterrent effect on his followers. And I wouldn’t object to him knowing about that before his death — I don’t want his death to be painful, but I’m not above a bit of psychological discomfort before he goes.)

No, the torture pornographers are usually located on the extreme right — or, occasionally, the mainstream left.

Such as, say, the long-time Democratic Mayor of Boston, Hizzoner Thomas M. “Mumbles” Menino.

The current case that has Mumbles so worked up is the murder of a pizza delivery guy. The scumbags allegedly ordered a pizza to a vacant house, then killed him, robbed him of the pizza and a few dollars, then fled in his car.

The suspects have been caught, will be tried, and if convicted face a maximum of life without parole — Massachusetts has no death penalty.

I can understand, a bit, the passion Menino expressed. I recall in the 1988 presidential campaign, when CNN’s Bernard Shaw asked Democratic nominee (and Massachusetts governor) Michael Dukakis if his opposition to the death penalty would be changed if his wife was raped and murdered. Dukakis gave the politically-correct, bloodless answer: no.

Dukakis, quite frankly, blew it. What he should have said was “hell, yes, I’d want the bastard killed. I’d want him killed in the slowest, most painful way possible. I’d want revenge for what he did to my wife. But that’s why we have a justice system, and not a vengeance system. Other cultures, other nations let the victims — or their heirs — decide the fate of the guilty. Not us. We understand that crimes are committed both against individuals and society, and it is society’s role to take the burden off the victims — who have already suffered enough — and impose justice. To punish the guilty and protect the innocent. So yes, I would as the one who suffered the loss of my wife, would want revenge, but society would be there to step in and protect me from the consequences of my own fury.”

And now we have another Boston liberal Democrat (but I repeat myself) talking about the death penalty. But Mumbles overshoots in the other direction. Where Dukakis was almost inhumanly detached, Menino was all too human.

And both betrayed their utter ignorance in both human nature and the nature of capital punishment. The primary purpose of it is not to punish past crimes, but prevent future ones. It is to both protect society from the criminal striking again, but to remind others that this could be their fate as well.

The example I always cite is, again, from Massachusetts. Joseph Druce was tried and convicted of first degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison without parole. While in prison, he stalked and murdered another inmate — a convicted pedophile priest. The death of Father Geoghan was no great loss, but it simply wasn’t Druce’s place to impose his own justice. And while Druce’s chosen victim was exceptionally unsympathetic, the next time it could be a guard.

So Druce, while serving the greatest penalty Massachusetts can impose, committed yet another premeditated murder. As punishment, the commonwealth gave him several weeks of regular trips out of prison for trial, convicted him, gave him another sentence of life without parole, and sent him right back to the same cell where he was before.

Also known as “square one.”

So the next time Druce decides he needs another change of scenery, all he has to do is kill someone else. After all, why shouldn’t he? Massachusetts has already done its worst. To trot out one of my favorite aphorisms, “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” and Druce literally has nothing left to lose. He has absolutely no incentive to behave himself.

Mumbles Menino simply can’t get that. Michael Dukakis couldn’t get that. And their inability to do so has caused so much harm in those who chose to entrust them with power.

You and I are stupid
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