Brian "Kingfish" Trascher

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Brian Trascher



Whack’em All!
High electric bill worth the cost

By Brian “Kingfish” Trascher



Here we go again debating whether or not the death penalty is a moral or even constitutional form of punishment for capital crimes.  The U.S. Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments on whether or not it is cruel and unusual to execute a retarded person.  This hearing comes on the heels of the recent commutation of  Ernest McCarver, a mentally retarded man convicted of murder and sentenced to die in North Carolina.  

The fact that this subject can even draw an intelligent debate defies all means of conventional wisdom.  If the government used a form of execution that caused excessive amounts of physical pain or was torturous in any way, then it could definitely be considered a cruel and unusual punishment.  On the other hand, the simple fact that someone who takes a life must pay for it with their own does not come within ten city blocks of being cruel or unusual. 

Now, before you anti-execution nut-jobs get your hemp underwear in a knot, I should mention that no mentally retarded person should be executed if they committed murder by some sort of negligible accident like dropping a baby.  In the case of McCarver, he murdered a co-worker that he was angry with and even planned out the act prior to carrying it out.  

There are millions of retarded persons in this country who have a tough time leading a normal life but it is safe to say that nearly all of them know that hurting or killing someone else is wrong.  Granted, the severity of the retardation should be considered, but McCarver was competent enough to hold a job and even had driving privileges.  His lawyers are of course dropping his IQ score with every press release, but hopefully the justices will realize that anyone who can plan and carry out a murder is a threat to society and should therefore be eliminated.

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Now, leave it to me to be the cynical , dollars and cents type, but has anyone ever stopped to think about how much it costs the average taxpayer to keep someone in prison for the rest of their lives?  If that statistic was made public the anti-death penalty crowd would lose half of their membership.  Prisons are overcrowded, and millions of dollars are spent every year on appeals for murderers who are as guilty as O.J. while all along every additional day we keep them alive and in custody costs us more money.  

It isn’t as though prosecutors pick names out of a hat for who gets executed next.  There has to be a fair trial with a jury of the defendant’s peers delivering a sentence of death -- not an easy thing to do. 

If the existence of the death penalty fails as a deterrent of crime, it is only because criminals know that the appeals process is so screwed up that they can live to be old men on death row, and may very well end up getting their sentences commuted to life in prison.  Now, of course many would ask why one would aspire to live out the remainder of their days in a state penitentiary, and that is a question which has no final answer.  

Perhaps one explanation is the fact that prison overcrowding leads to taxes being raised to build new jails, and from what I hear, if you live in an old project, a new jail isn’t that bad.  Perhaps I’m once again being too cynical in my assumptions, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.  Or perhaps I’m just excited about the arrival of the new season of The Sopranos, but when I look at the bottom line between keeping a convicted murderer alive for fifty years versus a one-time high electric bill, I have to say Whack’em All!  

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© Brian Trascher, 2001, All rights reserved.

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