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Archive for September, 2019

Word this weekend comes of Vice President Pence and Attorney General Barr seeking to promote legislation that would accelerate the executions of mass shooters.

This is a really, really bad idea.

Putting aside my opposition to the death penalty for a moment, how does DOJ propose to streamline/abrogate the appeals process for one class of murderers and not for others? The courts will make a meal of this bill. Delving further, some of these mass shooters (Colorado movie theater, Sandy Hook) were clearly deranged human beings, meriting life incarceration in a psychiatric hospital. Streamlining the path to the gallows railroads the truly mentally deranged, whose disease state sufficiently mitigates culpability where execution is concerned. Such legislation fuels the just fires of outrage in the citizenry, leads to bringing capital charges where true justice finds such charges abhorrent, puts unbearable pressure on prosecutors and judges to deliver the shooter up to death, and speeds the timeline to death by denying the most unsympathetic of the condemned the one thing necessary to assemble mitigating and exculpatory evidence: Time.

If the horror of such crimes begets in us such a bloodlust for vengeance, that a thoroughly mentally and neurologically malfunctional and diseased young man as Adam Lanza (who took his own life) could be railroaded to the gallows, then these mass shootings will have only succeeded in diminishing and perverting us as a people by the perversion of our justice system.

For most of us, the profoundly mentally ill are not a part of our daily lives. They are both out of sight and out of mind, until their disease state erupts into acts whose lethality is as random and unfocused as their cognitions. Then we are overwhelmed by the realization that it could be any one of us, in any place, at any time who find ourselves in the sights of a diseased and deranged mind. In the face of this horrific uncertainty and true compassion for the slaughtered comes such legislative proposal. It is sweetly seductive precisely because it offers us the only control we have in the face of these shootings:

Swift execution of the shooter.

But if we enact law that will lead to unbearable pressure brought on prosecutors and judges with obviously insane shooters, then our entire judicial equilibrium becomes skewed and twisted as we snuff the life out of humans who merit our protection from the diseases that ravage their nervous systems and their minds. That our system of jurisprudence has always allowed for that is one of the noblest achievements in human history. That we may be willing to throw that away for a false sense of security, as such legislation has no deterrent effect on the mentally deranged, represents the biggest death of all amidst these horrors.

I say we’re better than this.

[Photo Credit: Deviantart.com]

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