Wednesday, April 2, 2008

My View Has Not Changed

There's a great piece today in Britain's newspaper, The Independent, by Susanna Miller, whose brother Dan was killed in the 2002 terrorist bombings in Bali. The three men convicted of those bombings are appealing their death sentences this week. Susanna Miller writes:

...The world may even think that somehow the death penalty will help people such as my parents and I to achieve "closure".

The world will be wrong. Up until the Bali bombings, I had always thought that capital punishment was an impossibly primitive, clumsy and flawed answer to the question of how to punish those convicted of the most serious crimes. I felt that there were clear moral and practical problems that should consign it to history. I associated its proponents with deeply vindictive and reactionary mindsets. I could not understand how people could advocate such an absolute and irreversible sanction, when the shortcomings of the judicial system meant that a conviction could never be said to be infallible, and when the point of the trial is to demonstrate that the taking of a life is a crime.

Before Dan was killed, I had always believed that capital punishment was an ineffective deterrent to murder. I believed that the convicted murderer should instead be put through some moral journey, to see the error of their actions, and with luck be rehabilitated. If repentance and rehabilitation is too much for some individuals, then so be it, I thought – they can at least provide a resource for understanding the criminal mind. I agreed with the premise that the death penalty violates a fundamental human right to life, and is therefore morally unjustified.

My view has not changed. One of my strongest memories is of standing beside that bomb crater in Bali, with my eyes closed, trying to block out the destruction and sense Dan in it all. Although I could not block out the smell of murder, and the sheer enormity of the carnage, I did feel his presence there, just beyond living reach.

My brother was a lawyer, deeply versed in the moral and practical arguments surrounding law and its role in society. As we grew up, Dan and I sparred happily over numerous family suppers. As far as I remember, Dan also thought that the arguments, both moral and practical, against capital punishment were compelling and conclusive.

That day was one of the saddest moments of my life, and one that reinforced to me the sanctity of human life, and the appalling effects of taking it. Yet capital punishment seemed even more inappropriate then than before. I felt, and still strongly feel, that there is never justification for another human being to wilfully end another's life.

Read the whole piece here.

1 comment:

dudleysharp said...

From my extensive experience, closure is a claim most made by those in the anti death penalty movement, as in

"Those supporting capital punishment claim that closure is a major reason to support the death penalty - but there is no closure."

I consider this one of the many obvious deceptions of the anti death penalty movement.

Closure to what? All an execution does is bring closure to the legal process of the punishment.

I know of no victim survivor who believes that the execution of the guilty murderer(s) can somehow bring closure to the emotional or psychological suffering of that victim survivor(s) for the loss of their innocent loved one(s).

I have never encountered such a person, in the may years I have been involved with victims. Have you?

However, I have read of victims survivors who claimed they did find closure with the execution, although without clarification.

Any inquiry would reveal that they are relieved with the closure of the legal process, that being the execution and/or that they are relieved that the murderer(s) can never harm, again.

That is a conclusion from experience.

I have encountered many who have found execution to be a just sanction for that crime and that many victim survivors are relieved that the murderer is dead, for two reasons:

One, justice has been served and

Two, the murderer(s) are no longer capable of ever harming another innocent, in prison, after escape or after improper release. I suspect that would reflect the real meaning of any closure expression, should further inquiry have been made.

Sincerely, Dudley Sharp