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That Fleeting Feeling of Justice
Debating with myself over the death of McVeigh

By The Cynic
cynic@politicalusa.com

4/27/2001

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Tim McVeigh's countdown clock continues to tick, and I can't shake the urge to want to be able witness it. I am hoping Pay-Per-View will broadcast it for $39.95 with a free 'I watched Tim McVeigh die and I'll I got was this fleeting feeling of Justice' T-shirt. Nothing would make me happier then to watch him quivering in those final moments, with beads of sweat running down his face in anticipation of his final breath.

The odd thing is, the Death Penalty is one of the few issues I actually waver on.

I support the concept of capital punishment. I like the idea of a punishment fitting the crime. I want an expedited death sentence so we can save millions in life support of three squares and a private cell for these beasts. It perfectly fits into my "choices have consequences" view of how the world should work. Eye for an eye and all that stuff...massive punishments for horrendous crimes.

Then the thought occurs to me: Have we ever executed the wrong guy? (Nasty emails in 3....2....1)

No, I am not getting all squirmy here, I think everyone at some point has to entertain the possibility. I know that several Death Row inmates have been exonerated prior to execution. While I am relieved that we caught these mistakes before they were too late, it definitely puts me into a mindset of questioning the process. The state of Illinois has put a moratorium on executions because so many former death row inmates have been released. The prospect of killing an innocent is a scary one to consider.

I am sure that several rabid anti-death penalty fanatics have tried to prove the innocence of an already executed inmate, but they have yet to actually dig one up (ohhhh...bad pun). Let's face facts here, those goofy ACLU types aren't too bright. (These are the same folks who believe that the word "of" means "from" when the Constitution says "Freedom of Religion") Of all the modern executions that have taken place, we cannot say with 100% accuracy that we absolutely got the right guy each time. Normally, I hold nothing to 100% accuracy, but there is no turning back on a decision like that.

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I know a lot of pro-capital punishment folks are reading this and thinking to themselves: "Hey, these people get a trial, in front of 12 of their peers. They have several opportunities to appeal, and they are executed only once those appeals have been exhausted."

The American judicial system is by far the best in the world. Guess what? It still stinks. If I can't trust a jury to do the right thing and deny a $6 million dollar settlement to some dolt who spills a triple hazelnut latte on her lap, how I can I trust that a jury will return the correct verdict in a life and death situation? If one jury can let OJ go free, how can I trust another to convict the "real killers?" Appeals are great, but in most jurisdictions new evidence must be presented or some kind of judicial oversight must be found before a judge will order a retrial. It is possible that, if we haven't already, an innocent will be put to death. I have a hard time stomaching that.

Death Penalty cases are usually emotional charged marches for Justice. The District Attorneys feel pressure from their superiors, the press and the public to catch murderers whose acts are heinous enough to be considered for this punishment. Zealotry is a real possibility in most of these cases. Everyone wants the guy caught and punished. DAs are human, they will make mistakes and I have to wonder if all the emotion and pressure could cause one to press a case a little. 

Ultimately, I think I would be completely comfortable with some kind of DNA requirement being in place before capital punishment could be considered. The science is there. This at least gives us the opportunity to know that the suspect was actually present at the crime scene. It's not foolproof, but it's something.

As far as Tim McVeigh goes, he has admitted to his crimes. He will be executed next month in Terre Haute, Indiana by means of lethal injection. (What a weak way to go. Let's make him take a really long nap) I think back to the images of Oklahoma City, that now famous picture of the fireman carrying that bloody child, the video of mothers crying over the loss of their children, a city that came together to give aid all those involved, and all I can say is one thing: Let's bring back public flogging.

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