The Case for Life or Death

The debate continues and will for a long time I think. Is Capital Punishment morally or ethically right? Is it a deterrent; is there anyone who has chosen not to commit a crime because he/she was afraid of being put to death? I’ve ridden the fence on this one for a while now. I don’t find myself opposed to it on a very basic level. There are psychopaths and sociopaths in this world; there is evil. There are people who prey on others. There are people who commit heinous crimes against the innocent without a shred of remorse.

For many, the question has always been ‘Do we have the moral authority to decide if another human being should live or die?’. I’ve contemplated this question on many an occasion. But in the wake of some of the most violent, baseless, hate-filled murders our generation has even seen, my question has actually changed.  ‘Do these criminals deserve to die?’ Yes, I said ‘die’ not ‘live’…

This question was brought even more to the forefront of my thoughts as the trial of domestic terrorist Dylan Roof was ongoing. He wants to die. He has no remorse, he is unrepentant, and if given the chance he would do it again. While he was awaiting trial, he was annoyed that prison was so boring. That he had no pizza or cable TV. That his life was now in someone else’s control. He didn’t want to spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. He defended himself, dismissed his attorneys to this end. He didn’t want them to reveal the results of his competency evaluation, didn’t want them to reveal his mental state, didn’t want anyone to advocate for his life to be spared. A cowardly act to close the scene on a cowardly life.

There are those who may think he was just trying to be a martyr for the cause of white supremacy. That he wanted to die to cement his legend. For those of us who have been to the very depths of depression, for those of us who have endured mental, emotional, physical and/or spiritual trauma, we understand what many others do not. Death is not always a punishment, it is a reprieve. It is a release from suffering or in his case, a release from the inevitable, endless boredom of incarceration. From the beatings and violations he would no doubt suffer. He lacked the bravery to take his own life in the wake of his actions. Unfortunately for him, his ethnicity proved a detriment as the police chose to take him in, heavily armed, belligerent but still very much alive (after they had taken him to lunch no less). His last option was state sanctioned termination and he campaigned mightily for it. A relatively quick, painless death.

He doesn’t deserve to die. Death is for the remorseful. Death is for the penitent. Death is for the desperate. He deserves to live for as many years as possible, with the weight and consequences of his actions. He deserves a long healthy life without the amenities and the luxuries he would have enjoyed as a free man who chose not to take the lives of nine innocent, elderly Christians who prayed with and for him before he took their lives. He deserves to live with the emotional and mental anguish that the survivor will no doubt experience, but multiplied ninefold. He deserves to live.

4 thoughts on “The Case for Life or Death

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