Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Tale of Two Gurneys

Two murderers were recently executed in Georgia and Texas.
One murderer was white, the other black.
The white murderer killed a black man, the black murderer killed a white police officer.
The white murderer dragged his victim behind his truck killing him and scattering his corpse. The black murderer shot his victim at point blank range when he tried to intervene in the beating of a second victim.
There was significant physical evidence against the white murderer, but no witnesses except the victim and two conspirators. There was significant eye witness evidence brought against the black murderer but little physical evidence.
The execution of the white murderer went virtually unnoticed, while the execution of the black murderer elicited a media circus.
The question this juxtaposition raises regards the sincerity of those who claim so publicly to be opposed to the death penalty. Is it about the convict or the protestors' fifteen minutes in the spotlight? Does it really have anything to do with the moral and ethical issues surrounding the death penalty?

Those truly committed to abolishing the death penalty need to understand that low hanging fruit will not suffice. While their protests that may inspire tears over the plight of a Karla Faye Tucker they also create a dark little comic theater that does little but suggest that adorable murderers ought not be put to death simply because they're attractive.

To be effective, death penalty abolitionists need to reach higher where the strange fruit are harder to grasp. They must present a compelling argument for those convicted of even the most heinous crimes.

They must successfully argue that the likes of Ted Bundy, described as "the very definition of heartless evil" and "a sadistic sociopath who took pleasure from another human's pain and the control he had over his victims, to the point of death, and even after", should be rotting in jail rather than the grave.  If they can convince us all that a civilized society cannot morally apply the death penalty to such a force of evil, who is yet a human being, then there will never again be a need to grandstand and glad-hand over the likes of Troy Davis.