Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Death Penalty repeal

Late today the state House voted 86-62 to repeal our state's death penalty statute. It awaits Governor Malloy's signature, and he's definitely said he's going to sign it.

I don't want to celebrate this event, because there are so many people who feel strongly that this law should remain in place. People like Dr. Petit, who lost his family in a terrible crime. People who have suffered losses similar to his.

Instead, I wish to quietly affirm the idea that our state, and hopefully our nation, is comprised of people who honestly DO believe in the things that are right.

I understand the anger, the hurt, and the need for vengeance that many people wish against those who have committed horrendous crimes. I honestly can't feel exactly what people like Dr. Petit have gone through, although I do know that it's been absolute hell for them. And I don't condemn them in the least for wanting to see those who killed their loved ones suffer death. It's a very basic human instinct.

I'm against the idea of killing in general, but I wouldn't hesitate to harm or even kill someone who was trying to harm someone I hold dear. This is something that each of us need to deal with, and I agree that one has a right to use justifiably fatal force if they are faced with the likelihood of someone they love being gravely harmed.

But in retrospect, long after the crime has been committed, we do need to think about where we, as a society, stand on the subject of being in the business of consciously, and without any chance of future harm being caused, killing a prisoner.

As a society, we are better than this.

I don't blame Dr. Petit for his views on the death penalty. I don't blame anyone who has suffered at the hands of someone who doesn't respect human life for how they feel. But I do consider our society to be above the need for vengeance, for retribution, for killing, when all we need to do is lock these monsters up until the day they die to protect our people.

I did some video work on a documentary about the death penalty, and in the course of that project I witnessed people who had suffered tremendously at the hands of people who didn't respect human life. I was surprised at how many of them wished to deal with the loss of their loved ones, but not at the cost of the perpetrator's life. They felt that they honored their loved ones' lives by NOT being bloodthirsty for revenge.

This opened my eyes about the death penalty debate. I had always sort of felt that those who committed horrific crimes deserved what they got. It just seemed like a straight-forward conclusion to me. I didn't dig beneath the surface.

But after listening to people who lost spouses, relatives, and even children, and to see that they had no lust for killing the ones responsible, I changed my views.

Sadly, the documentary I worked upon never got finished (like many projects with good intent) but I learned many valuable lessons during the course of production.

Lessons like, you can always pardon someone who is wrongly imprisoned, but you can't pardon someone from the grave. And trust me, there are lots of cases where people are on death row because they have shitty public defenders. I met one last year, Juan Melendez, who spent 18 years on Florida's death row before evidence proved he didn't commit the murder he was accused of. And this was soon after his last appeal was heard. Juan even considered killing himself during his long stretch, and I can only imagine how many innocent people have taken that way out rather than endure what must be a hellish purgatory before finally being executed.

I wish I could have seen the documentary finished. We interviewed many people, including family members of victims, who shed a light on the debate that I don't think has ever been properly explored in this way.

But now, fortunately, with Governor Malloy's signature soon, this project won't be needed any more.

And for that, I'm very thankful.


Peter Kaufman said...

Very fine piece Bob.

I share your position on the death penalty. I didn't get to my position the way you did yours, but the place we are at is for me the right and prudent place socially. I believe.


CT Bob said...

Thank you!

lakezoarian said...

I'm thankful too, and you brought the issue to life in a way I would not have known otherwise. I just don't know what to say beyond that except to say thanks. And thanks for continuing with your blog posts.

CT Bob said...

Thanks Rodney!