The United States Supreme Court
i don't know a ton about what's going on in the courts of the United States these days, but now that i live in London i get most of my U.S. news from miscellaneous internet sources. today, on the well-respected BBC World News online, i read a U.S. sub-headline that shocked and dismayed me. it was:
"The US Supreme Court has struck down a law that would have allowed the execution of someone convicted of raping a child."
umm... excuse me?
now, i know most people have VERY strong opinions about whether or not the death penalty is "cruel and unusual" punishment. i also know that the United States is often looked down on by the international community for even allowing the death penalty to exist -- no matter how heinous the crime. i know there are people who believe the worst punishment is not to be executed, but rather to be sentenced to a lifetime behind the bars of a prison without possibility of parole. further, i know that there is more than religious beliefs and party politics at play when people take their positions on this issue -- and yes, i know there is something to be said for the possibility of rehabilitation (though let's get real: how many rapists and murderers are "rehabilitated" in prison?).
for the record, i am on the fence regarding the death penalty.
well, let's see... do i believe executing one man for a heinous crime eliminates the possibility of that crime being committed again in the future? no. do i believe that imposing the death penalty is an invasion of basic of human rights? i'm not sure. do i believe that two wrongs make a right? sometimes.
in this particular case we are talking about how to punish a man for raping a CHILD in Louisiana.
the article i read today said: 'Citing the 45 states who had imposed bans on execution for child rape, Justice Kennedy wrote in his opinion that "there is a national consensus against capital punishment for the crime of child rape."'
pardon me, Justice Kennedy, but no one has ever asked ME what i thought about how to punish a child rapist.
the article continued: 'Writing on behalf of the minority of justices who opposed the decision, Justice Samuel Alito said: "The harm that is caused to the victims and to society at large by the worst child rapists is grave. It is the judgment of the Louisiana lawmakers and those in an increasing number of other states that these harms justify the death penalty."
and i say amen to that, brother.
to those of you who are resolutely against the death penalty i ask: if you were the parent of a young child, and a man came along and RAPED your child, would you sit in the courtroom and argue for that man's right to life? might you swing the way of the Louisiana state lawmakers and decide his heinous crime deserved the death penalty? would you truthfully want to live your life knowing that your hard-earned tax dollars were paying for your child's rapist to have shelter and three square meals a day for the rest of his life?
and yes, i know that some statistics claim that the cost of seeing a death penalty case through to the end exceed the cost of keeping a prisoner in jail for the rest of his life, but MONEY probably shouldn't be the deciding factor.
if the anti-death penalty argument comes down to the violation of basic human rights, i ask: who is protecting the child's basic human right to not be RAPED?
obviously i have not studied law, and there's a ton of stuff i do not know, but i'm not here trying to make any big statements. i just want to say that the world is not easily read in black and white -- there is much gray in between. perhaps there are some cases where the death penalty WOULD be a fitting punishment for a crime other than murder. if you ask the family of the raped child i'm sure they'd say that death is a fair punishment for the man convicted of raping their family member.
so maybe there should be a little more room for the consideration of gray area under the law. perhaps murder is not the only crime that should qualify for the death penalty. dare i suggest, perhaps, that the U.S. Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment" needs some re-tooling?
and if i suggest it, does that make me un-American?