Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Death Penalty: The Tough Issues Stay with Us

Holidays or not, the tough issues stay with us. “At what should be festive time of year, I consider it abominable that the governor would repeal the death penalty for cold-blooded killers”, lamented NJ Assembly Minority Leader Alex De Croce, R-Morris. Perhaps the families who have someone on death row would consider the timing apropos. Other than these families, I too think that the timing is off which is why I could not just shake it off as I wrapped gifts most of the afternoon. The death penalty is a grim subject to grapple with and there is something to the point made by some state legislators and citizens. Some say this issue should have been debated not wrested from the public and shoved through with the speed of an Amtrak en-route to Florida.

Has New Jersey moved in the right direction here by abolishing the death penalty? There are good arguments on either side. On the one hand in support of the death penalty, by our very human nature we yearn for justice. This is a thirst that must be quenched for those who have suffered, had their hearts ripped asunder by the rape or murder of a loved one. Such victims will never be the same. The price they pay is too high for those of us who have never suffered such a loss to understand. People today seem to murder with such abandon, gang initiations, for instance. The growth of gangs even in our quiet hamlet of Flemington should be real a concern. Folk like us nationwide are becoming their new targets. I am a woman and mother of two, twenty- something daughters. I want those predators who pick off women gone forever so my daughters and I are safer. Punishment is a legitimate function of the state in meeting its primary obligation to ensure law and order and our safety. Keeping prisoners alive for decades costs thousands that we should put toward education and crime prevention. Have you seen these National Geographic prison specials like Pelican Bay. Prisoners are subject to rapes and beatings. Life imprisonment under these conditions is more inhumane than death. And on and on we go, justifying state sanctioned death.

On the other hand, life is getting cheaper here in America. Abolishing the death penalty seems to enhance the value of any and all life. This is something I support, enhancing the value of all life. Were I summoned to jury duty on a capital murder case and asked if I could recommend the death penalty upon conviction during jury selection, I don t believe I could. Can I support the death penalty but not have the courage of my convictions if it comes to enacting it? Is it all right to say--- yes, I support it but it is someone else’s job to carry it out? For me, I don’t think so. It is important to stand by one’s convictions. Finally, like many I have deep faith and take strongly the directives of the Father Almighty…”Thou shalt not kill.” Carrying out the death penalty is not an act of direct self- defense like killing an armed intruder who enters our homes, for example.

The governor argues that mandatory life in prison with no right to appeal is more moral than the death penalty. After all he says, life imprisonment is far better, making sure we are not executing someone who is not guilty. True. But what if you have an innocent person in prison for life, with no chance of appeal or parole. How is this any more moral? For all practical purposes this innocent person’s life is over too. Is life imprisonment really a life or just a prolonged death? For some prisoners both options, execution and life imprisonment, are a version of death. Perhaps the prisoner himself should be given the final choice, life or death. Maybe that is the most moral choice we can hope to attain.

What say you here in Flemington?

Stay tuned.

2 comments:

Betsy said...

Maybe you should do more homework before posting, Mrs. Greiner.

Keeping prisoners alive for decades costs thousands that we should put toward education and crime prevention.

The State of NJ has published numbers that indicate the taxpayers will save $1,360,000 each year by eliminating the death penalty. Here is the citation you couldn't bother to look up before posting: Cost Savings

Do you have any citations for the following claims made in your latest missive from Flemington:

Some say this issue should have been debated not wrested from the public and shoved through with the speed of an Amtrak en-route to Florida.

Some say? What some? Who's some? And by the way, have you taken Amtrak since the Republicans have been in control of it? It's pretty slow.

On the one hand in support of the death penalty, by our very human nature we yearn for justice.

As a human, I would prefer you don't speak for me.

The growth of gangs even in our quiet hamlet of Flemington should be real a concern.

This so fails Journalism 101. Citations and confirmation please. This statement has as much validity as me saying, "Your mother doesn't love you." I live in Flemington - on the end of town you probably think is unsafe because there are brown people on the sidewalk. I've yet to see any evidence of gangs here in Flemington.

Perhaps the prisoner himself should be given the final choice, life or death. Maybe that is the most moral choice we can hope to attain.

Mrs. Greiner, many Republicans consider themselves to be "pro-life". Would you put yourself in that camp? Or do you think that each person has the ultimate control over their body? Does that control include the right to terminate a pregnancy in your world? How about the right to die via suicide in your world - does it exist?

If it really was your daughter as crime victim, do you think you would be that agreeable to the perpetuator taking the easy out via a needle?

I'm tuning in and waiting for answers.

Courier News Flemington blog said...

Re: cost savings ...these figures may wax and wane…executing prisoners may save the money put forth for appeals but we also must support them and pay their medical costs and as longevity continues to increase so will these expenses. I recently saw on TV a case in which that state paid for all medical expenses for an organ transplant for a prisoner (not in NJ), the donor was a family member, but the victim of his crime was forced to pay for her own medical bills…a real injustice, it seems to me. I personally do not find that cost savings is really the best motivation for the death penalty, either keeping it operant or abolishing. We do not advocate eliminating senior citizens or the terminally ill to save money.

Re: the speed in which it was passed…I took this info from the article from the Courier News regarding the death penalty. It is the same article from which I cited the initial quote in my post. There were also some Storychat comments to the same effect. The Amtrak reference was just poetic license. I do not see the death penalty issue as a Republican/Democrat issue and would not present it that way. I see it as a very serious moral issue about which I am undecided. I just posed some pros and cons. I can see valid arguments from both sides.

Regarding gang issues here in Flemington…As I understand it, we have MS 13 presence here closer to us than Frenchtown. Exactly how they are operant I am not sure yet. I have a source who works in a gang infiltrated area not all that far from here and my source recognizes some early warning signs here. The news on gangs nationwide is that they are now dropping the tattoos and gang dress to blend in to expand their drug and prostitution markets by targeting the children of middle class folks who have children with money. I think we should be concerned. I think we need to be present to this threat for our own good. I believe this threat is on our doorstep, minimally.

Regarding life and death decisions in general…I get the sense you think I am defending some sort of Republican right to life platform. I am not. More accurately, I am speaking from having studied these types of issues in my field. Check my byline if you have a minute. Were my daughter hurt, I may feel many things I do not feel now but I am seasoned enough to know that no matter what happened to the perpetrator, my daughter is injured or dead. The attitude the Amish took when that man killed their children in the schoolhouse is not out of the realm of possibility for me. Justice is good and necessary. Vengeance brings satisfaction for about 5 minutes in my experience. I am pro life to the extent that women should not terminate a pregnancy because it is a matter of inconvenience. But there are circumstances in which I think it is morally acceptable to terminate a pregnancy. No, I do not think women are entitled to have an abortion for just any kind of a reason because they have ultimate control over their bodies, i.e., like to continue a tennis game like Billie Jean King. This cheapens life.

I personally do not think there is a really a good answer to the death penalty dilemma. There good and valid arguments on both sides of the issue. But maybe a prisoner should decide what is best, in the context you put out…it gives him control over his own life, his own body. And there is still the issue that an innocent prisoner can be held captive with no chance of parole under this legislation, as I understand it to date. Is that possibility morally acceptable?

Good ideas and thanks for the discussion.