Wednesday, September 29, 2010

When the punishment fits the crime

Writing in the Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby writes "Ultimate evil calls for ultimate penalty."

"ELECTED OFFICIALS don't usually acknowledge wanting to torture people in dark alleys, so it made news recently when Boston Mayor Thomas Menino expressed such a wish during a talk at Emerson College.
"Menino had been speaking about the murder of Richel Nova, a Domino's pizza delivery driver who was brutally stabbed to death after being lured to an abandoned house in Hyde Park on Sept. 2. The suspects charged with Nova's late-night slaughter -- two teens and a 20-year-old -- are accused of lying in wait with knives, stabbing him repeatedly in the chest and throat, and rifling his pockets for money as he lay dying. Then, prosecutors say, the three drove off in Nova's car and ate most of the pizza from its blood-stained box."
"Maybe you guys can tell me," he said to the Emerson students, "what do they think when they do that? Don't they think life is worth anything?"

"A student asked Menino whether the three suspects ought to be tried in a state that, unlike Massachusetts, authorizes the death penalty.

"I'm not in favor of the death penalty," he answered. The death penalty is "a hot-button issue that doesn't solve anything. . . It's unfair. I just don't think the death penalty is the way to go."
Now Menino gets in trouble, he says,

"If I saw these guys in a dark alley, I'd like to have a fight with them," the mayor said. "I'd do some things that would be worse than the death penalty. . . . I would slowly torture them."
Torture, Mr. Mayor? You can imagine what comes next, the stuff hit the fan. Prosecutors, fearing that Menino had tainted any possible jury selection, forced him to retract his statement about torture. According to Jacoby,

“But the mayor took back the wrong words. It is his blanket opposition to the death penalty he ought to rethink, not his healthy and perfectly understandable urge to give Nova's killers a taste of the unspeakable evil they inflicted on their victim. It may not have been very genteel to speculate out loud about making the perpetrators suffer, but Menino was only giving voice to an innate and normal human craving: the desire to see justice done, to see those who prey on the weak or innocent get what they deserve.”
Where and when, in Massachusetts and other states that have outlawed the death penalty, does the punishment fit the crime? And what does that absence of punishment do to the rest of society?

To read what Jacoby has to say, go here.

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