For­mer Jus­tice says hang ‘em high!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT -

From the on­set I wish to make it abun­dantly clear that I sub­scribe to the view that cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment can be a de­ter­rent to the com­mis­sion of homi­ci­dal crimes; and that cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment can be an ef­fec­tive means of dis­ci­plin­ing chil­dren be­tween the ages of five years and fif­teen years. Un­doubt­edly the pos­ture as­sumed in this re­gard puts me in ve­he­ment op­po­si­tion to many, in­clud­ing my il­lus­tri­ous friend Dr. Stephen King, my friend and col­league Ms. Mary Fran­cis and the very re­spected Dr. Ju­lia Bird. With re­gard to cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment the pro­nounce­ment has al­ways been that it is bet­ter to have one hun­dred of­fend­ers go free than to ex­e­cute one in­no­cent man. The ques­tion that needs to be asked is: How many in­no­cent cit­i­zens will have been mor­tally im­pacted upon by the one hun­dred of­fend­ers who went free?

We are im­per­fect beings liv­ing in an im­per­fect world and the un­for­tu­nate demise of an in­no­cent per­son is an ac­cept­able price so­ci­ety has to pay in or­der that peace and se­cu­rity may be as­sured. We have heard of col­lat­eral dam­age. It is a price so­ci­ety must be will­ing to pay for its sur­vival. A price to be paid for the greater good; and that good or greater good is be­ing sought by those who are in op­po­si­tion to my po­si­tion. They cry out for peace and tran­quil­lity that elude them and which are not pro­vided by the so­ci­etal sta­tus quo. We have not ex­e­cuted any­one for quite some time and yet our homi­ci­dal rate is alarm­ing. Is the sta­tus quo re­as­sur­ing? We are do­ing some­thing by do­ing noth­ing and yet be­fore this month and year come to a close some young man or woman will have bit­ten the dust.

Is cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment a de­ter­rent? Many stud­ies seem to in­di­cate it is not. I say most cat­e­gor­i­cally that it is. The stud­ies are flawed. And they are flawed for one very sim­ple rea­son: the time frame that is be­ing cov­ered—by which I mean the length of time that lapses be­tween be­ing found guilty in a court of law and the date and time of ex­e­cu­tion. In­vari­ably that length of time is be­tween fif­teen and twenty-five years. For that pe­riod of time a con­victed and con­demned man is lan­guish­ing on death row. And then one morn­ing in the twen­ti­eth year of his in­car­cer­a­tion he is es­corted to the ex­e­cu­tion cham­ber, there to sur­ren­der his mor­tal­ity through the in­stru­men­tal­ity of a lethal in­jec­tion, gas in­hala­tion, elec­tro­cu­tion or the hang­man’s noose. Very likely on that cold morn­ing he can­not even re­mem­ber why he is hav­ing this solemn per­am­bu­la­tion in si­lence!

Un­der those cir­cum­stances cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment is not, and can­not be, a de­ter­rent. The so­ci­ety, the com­mu­nity,the town, the vil­lage can­not even re­call the hor­rific na­ture of the act that oc­ca­sioned the death of some in­no­cent man, woman or child twenty-five years ear­lier. The heinous­ness of the of­fence has dis­si­pated with the ef­flux­ion of time and men and women have con­tin­ued with their mun­dane daily ac­tiv­i­ties in a con­di­tion of time-en­gen­dered am­ne­sia. The shock, the hor­ror, the pain, the fright for the gen­er­al­ity are all rel­e­gated to a dim and dim­ming poignant past.

Cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment is, or can be, a de­ter­rent. But that pos­si­bil­ity can only be ac­tu­alised by cer­tain con­di­tion­al­i­ties. Once th­ese con­di­tions are man­i­fest then de­ter­rence is an ac­tu­al­ity. As I stated ear­lier, there is a flaw in those stud­ies that spu­ri­ously or mis­tak­enly lead to the con­clu­sion that cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment is not a de­ter­rent to the com­mis­sion of homi­ci­dal of­fences. And that flaw is pri­mar­ily time. There are three el­e­ments when con­joined that will bring about the ob­jec­tive we all seek. And they are as fol­lows: the celer­ity of pun­ish­ment, the cer­tain­ity of pun­ish­ment and the im­me­di­acy of pun­ish­ment. De­ter­rence is a func­tion of th­ese three el­e­ments.

In the real world my sug­ges­tion would be this: once a sus­pect has been charged with the of­fence of mur­der, no more than six months should elapse be­fore his case is heard be­fore the Supreme Court. Once charged, he would be as­signed two lawyers of at least ten years’ ex­pe­ri­ence. If at this ini­tial trial be­fore the Supreme Court he is found guilty he has an au­to­matic right of ap­peal be­fore the Court of Ap­peal. Again he is as­signed two lawyers with at least ten years of ex­pe­ri­ence. If his ap­peal is dis­al­lowed, then again he has an au­to­matic right of ap­peal be­fore the Caribbean Court of Jus­tice. At that ap­peal he would be as­signed one lawyer of at least ten years’ ex­pe­ri­ence. If this ap­peal be­fore the CCJ is dis­al­lowed then thirty days sub­se­quent to the hand­ing down of the de­ci­sion he should be dis­patched. From charge to fi­nal ap­peal, a max­i­mum of three years should be al­lowed.

I am not a dreamer but a re­al­ist who sub­scribes to a phi­los­o­phy of a univer­sal hu­man­ism. I am not a bleed­ing heart but I do have a heart that bleeds con­di­tion­ally. The man who, in giv­ing per­verse ex­pres­sion to his vene­real propen­sity, raped bug­gered and stran­gled a 97-year-old woman, should be given a manda­tory death sen­tence. He de­serves to die.

Some glibly say give him twenty, thirty or sixty years, for­get­ting that there is a fi­nan­cial cost to be paid by so­ci­ety for that ac­com­mo­da­tion. And so for sixty years, he breathes, he eats, he drinks, he plays, he laughs and even en­joys his life of in­car­cer­a­tion. What about the vic­tim who will never en­gage in any of th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties? His un­timely ter­res­trial demise will for­ever trau­mat­i­cally im­pact his fam­ily and rel­a­tives. The re­la­tional void cre­ated will never be filled and the terror, how­ever evanes­cent, ex­pe­ri­enced by the vic­tim is real; pal­pa­ble; and goes be­yond the imag­i­na­tion. It fur­ther is tor­ment­ing to the rel­a­tives of the vic­tim for­ever. To those whose view, moral­ity, phi­los­o­phy are di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed to mine, imag­ine the vic­tim to be your mother; your sis­ter; or your daugh­ter. She has been raped, bug­gered and stran­gled to death. Where do you find so­lace? I can re­call the nine months preg­nant lady from Babon­neau (I be­lieve) who was raped by two men and vir­tu­ally dur­ing the hor­rific or­deal she gave birth. Mother and child died. I wit­nessed the ex­e­cu­tion of th­ese two mon­sters. In­deed jus­tice was served.

Very im­por­tantly he, the per­pe­tra­tor, gets to know the gen­eral time of his death. He can even make amends to a God whose ex­is­tence he may have de­nied all his life. The vic­tim, on the other hand, may not have the lux­ury of re­pen­tance. And for those who be­lieve in those Bi­b­li­cal, Is­lamic and To­rah pro­nounce­ments, the ques­tion that comes to mind is this: Who goes to heaven and who goes to hell?

I am not a rav­ing lu­natic, nei­ther a rag­ing psy­chopath. I am civilised, what­ever that means, and for who­ever that means. The man who rapes, bug­gers and stran­gles a 97-year-old woman is evil. The act is unadul­ter­ated evil. He will com­mit that act re­peat­edly, for that is what he is: the em­bod­i­ment of evil. The fe­male so­ci­ety will be in per­pet­ual fear of him (it?). If im­pris­oned his-its es­cape is a prob­a­bil­ity. We can­not take that chance . He-it de­serves to die. That is jus­tice.

Those who op­pose me hold the po­si­tion that cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment is cruel and un­usual pun­ish­ment, and vi­o­lates the mur­derer’s hu­man rights. With that I ve­he­mently dis­agree. If you mur­der some­one you for­feit your hu­man rights, since the vic­tim is co­erced into sur­ren­der­ing his mor­tal­ity and his hu­man rights un­der cir­cum­stances where those rights and the in­ci­dent of life are cal­lously and bru­tally de­nied and de­stroyed. If there is evil, and I say there is, then the act that rapes the mind and vi­o­lates all hu­man sen­si­bil­i­ties, emo­tions and feel­ings to the point of ex­tinc­tion is evil. But then there are gra­da­tions of evil and they at­tract var­i­ous puni­tive re­sponses. But the act that is un­equiv­o­cally and uni­ver­sally per­ceived as evil, and that has no re­deem­ing as­pect, that is con­trary to life and liv­ing, at­tracts an­ni­hi­la­tion—nat­u­rally. So, when a sen­tence of death is ef­fec­tu­ated there is a cer­tain mea­sure of peace, per­son­ally and so­ci­etally, since jus­tice on our level will have been dis­pensed and Life will have rec­on­ciled with Death.

To those who hold the view that the death penalty is in­com­pat­i­ble with hu­man rights and hu­man dig­nity, what really do they mean? In­com­pat­i­ble with what rights, what dig­nity? That dig­nity re­poses where? Where is that dig­nity when by crim­i­nally ef­fec­tu­at­ing the demise of a hu­man be­ing you have re­gressed to the level of that which is sub-hu­man? In what way does the death penalty un­der­mine hu­man dig­nity? To the con­trary, it pre­serves and pro­tects our hu­man dig­nity and our right to life. Where is that hu­man right when the mur­derer has for­feited his right to life by his wan­ton slaugh­ter of an­other hu­man be­ing?

As I see it, the death penalty can be an ef­fec­tive in­stru­ment of preser­va­tion as far as our hu­man dig­nity and right to life are con­cerned.

Next week Velon John con­tin­ues to of­fer his rea­sons as to why he sup­ports cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment as a de­ter­rent

to crime and is in favour of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment for chil­dren. Don’t miss it in next Satur­day’s STAR News­pa­per.

Never one to be short on words Velon John has much to say in sup­port of the

re­ten­tion of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment.

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