"And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God"
-- Micah 6:8

"The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict."
-- American Bar Association Standard 3-1.2(c)

"There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
--Pope Benedict XVI, June 2004

Monday, March 17, 2008

Justice for the 9/11 Killers

Professor Stephen Bainbridge has a good summary of the issues surrounding executing the WTC masterminds on trial at Gitmo. His piece responds to the suggestion of the U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey that he personally hopes the plotters are not executed.

Bainbridge considers his position in light of his Catholic beliefs, and concludes that since the plotters are incapacitated now at Gitmo, there is no need to execute them according to John Paul II's teaching in Evangelium Vitae.

Interestingly, however, he concludes by noting "I confess that it’s a close case. The blood of thousands calls out for retributive justice." And he quotes in this respect another blogger: "The visceral reaction is to say that these men should die a slow, painful death. But I’ve got to wonder what that’s going to accomplish at this point."

Yet he shies away from this question of why it seems to be just to execute these killers. Why? John Paul II himself admitted

The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is 'to redress the disorder caused by the offence'. Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime....
In other words the Pope recognized that for some 6,000 years, the traditional justification for capital punishment rested not primarily with the observation that its use will protect society, but rather that it is sometimes necessary to execute a murderer in order to restore the moral equilibrium upset by his offense; in other words, it is right for society to expect that there be a congruent satisfaction for the offense.

It is this just satisfaction for the offense that answers the natural reaction to the crime of murder in those whose sensibilities have not been blunted to this worst of crimes.

With respect to the 9/11 killers, the enormity of their offense has "overriden" the modern dissipation of this visceral hatred most people used to experience concerning murder.

There will always be cases so horrible, or in which there are so many victims, that the attempts to squelch our innate hatred of murder will be overriden, and it will be appear that the only just response from society is to exact the ultimate penalty from someone who, in a certain sense arrogating to himself a power belonging to God alone, dared to take another human person's life.

1 comment:

Murray said...

Yes everybody who believes in capital punishment has his or her own reasons for it. As do different countries. In North Korea it is a capital offence simply to make international phone calls and they will execute you in a public stadium in front of 150,000 people. That happened last year. In Saudi Arabia a women faces beheading because a couple of people have accused her of being a witch.

I know you are in favor of capital punishment for only the most heinous crimes, but the death penalty is a less persuasive argument these days. Unfortunately flawed investigative procedure and manipulation of evidence and witnesses is a worldwide adjunct to policing, so everyone knows innocent people get executed too. Especially those who cannot afford decent lawyers to arrange better deals before trial.

So on that alone the ‘ultimate penalty’ will always be on shaky ground.

Some people see eradicating the death penalty as a ‘minor evolution’ for human society. That death penalty is useful to certain governments as an instrument of control-and-reward to the public, more than anything else. The ‘satisfaction’ of knowing the killer is killed.

The worldwide trend away from the death penalty means in a court of law, justice must not kill.