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
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
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
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
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
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When the State Kills: Capital
Punishment and the American Condition.
by Austin Sarat
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Just Revenge: Costs and
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Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the
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