Exiled to the Undiscovered Country

This should be fun. Here’s the topic suggestion from the Daily Post that I found in my email this morning:

Topic #268:

Do you agree with the death penalty? Is it ever right to kill? And under what circumstances? Is it worth the risks of being wrong?

For an interesting and surprising history ready Wikipedia’s entry on Capital Punishment (Only 58 nations actively practice it anymore).

Of course my first thought is, “I don’t know, what’s the death penalty been saying? We might have to agree to disagree.” Probably just the latest evidence of my continuing progression of becoming a pedantic old fart. Anyways, let’s talk about this.

The thing about death is that it’s kinda permanent. There’s really no changing your mind after you’ve executed someone. And nobody would claim our justice system is flawless except a fool or a campaigning politician. (Do I repeat myself?) With this in mind, the only way I can really condone execution is if someone sentenced to life imprisonment waives their rights to appeal and requests a quick death instead.

One of the reasons we have the presumption of innocence in this country is an understanding of the consequences of the courts being wrong. Take the basic two ways a criminal court can be wrong: First they might acquit a guilty party, second they may convict an innocent. In both these cases, the guilty party goes free, but in the second we have an additional injustice committed against an innocent, and committed by the very system of law sworn to defend them.

If that innocent person is executed, the state has literally taken everything from someone because of a mistake. It doesn’t matter if only one in a million condemned prisoners is falsely convicted, even a single person is too many. We only get the one life, you know.

There’s something very strange about the way this country perceives law enforcement. It’s treated almost as though “justice” is a simple thing that can be scored like a sporting event. District attorneys flaunt convictions like a scorecard, and resist retrials apparently out of a childish fear of looking bad. Read the statements from judicial candidates in the next election and compare boasts about being “tough on crime” to any talk about fairness, impartiality, or the law.

It feels almost as if it’s treated like a game rather than a system to make it easier for people to live with each other. The courts are a tool for people to redress wrongs, settle disputes, defend themselves and others from each other and also from the very government that applies the law. It’s not as simple as us vs. them, we’re the good guys, they’re the bad guys, go team. It can’t be boiled down to a folksy cliche or soundbite or talking point, not if it’s going to apply to the infinite complexities of real people living in the real world.

Heh, I suppose I drifted off topic a bit there. But only a bit, only a little bit. I could go on about this, but I’m tired and frankly getting a little depressed.

For the moment, good night and take care of each other.

About Leo Tarvi

Mostly fictional.

Posted on October 4, 2011, in Daily Post and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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