"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, May 01, 2017

Fisking Mr. Shea, Part II

Mr. Shea’s defense of his view that the Church’s teaching on capital punishment has “developed” such that what was once a moral and licit practice is now immoral and must be abolished, continues in Part Two of his series in an Australian Catholic publication, the Catholic Weekly.

But before offering evidence of this “development,” he asserts, as he has before many times, that the U.S. “labours to keep itself on a list with Communist China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and sundry other Islamic despotisms to keep killing people on death row.” As I’ve pointed out before when Mr. Shea has resorted to this “argument:”
Shea also resorts to his old tactic of conflating the just and measured use of the death penalty as it is practiced in the Christian West, with the horrible excesses and murderous injustice of Islamic dominated regions, as though the due process, years of appeals, and extremely limited use of the death penalty in this country could be comparable to the wanton, reckless, and arbitrary use of barbaric methods of death imposed by the Muslims.
It's the logical fallacy of association and the bottom of the barrel resort for those who lack rational arguments.  In short, it's a cheap huckster's ploy and a demagogic device.  It's a losing argument's last resort.
But alas, it’s an old and recurring device that Mr. Shea still cuts and pastes into his articles.
Next, Mr. Shea veers off into a non-sequitur about a recent case in Arkansas, which he found noteworthy to identify as occurring during Holy Week, suggesting what, exactly, about the condemned killers?
During Holy Week this year, the Islamic Republic of Arkansas sought to slaughter eight men as quickly as possible for the highly principled reason that the chemicals used to kill men on death row were reaching their expiration date and needed to be use up so that good money did not go to waste.
Note the gratuitous smear, by which the people of the State of Arkansas, through their elected representatives, their Governor, and the juries and jurists who all combined to bring the accused to death row, are Islamists. But Mr. Shea does not inform his foreign readers about the facts of some of these cases, or about the laborious appeal process in the US (note the offense dates), as reported by the NY Times:
Mr. Williams killed a cheerleader at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in December 1998 but escaped from a maximum-security prison after a jury sentenced him to life the next year. A few miles from the prison, he fatally shot Cecil Boren, a farmer who was working in the yard while his wife was at church, and stole his truck. Mr. Williams led the police into Missouri in a high-speed chase before he crashed into a car, killing the driver. In 2005, he confessed to killing a 36-year-old man the same day he shot the cheerleader.
The only other executed Arkansas inmate in the current round of eight scheduled executions was Ledell Lee. According to the Arkansas Supreme Court summary (a case in which Lee did not contest the sufficiency of the evidence against him),
Twenty-six year-old Debra Reese was found brutally murdered in her home at 212 Cherry Street in Jacksonville on February 9, 1993.   She had been beaten some thirty-six times with a tire thumper, a tool resembling a baseball bat that her husband Billy, a truck driver, had given to her for protection while he was away.   Bruises on Debra's face and neck indicated that she had also been strangled.  Lee passed one of three crisp, new $100 bills the victim’s father had given her to pay a debt at a local business.
The NY Times also tells us this about two other of the "Arkansas 8" condemned murderers:
In 1995, Mr. Jones raped, beat and strangled Mary Phillips, who was 34, and beat and choked her daughter, Lacey, who was 11 at the time, to unconsciousness, but the girl survived. He has admitted guilt and said repeatedly that he did not want clemency.Mr. Williams [not the same as just mentioned], 46, kidnapped, robbed, raped and strangled Stacy Errickson in 1994, and has also admitted his guilt. Ms. Errickson, 22, had two children.
The challenge made to these executions is that use of the drugs involved might cause the inmates to experience pain, and thereby violate the constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments. Ironically, the state resorts to use of lethal injections because after years of litigation by death penalty opponents, lethal injection is viewed as the most painless form of execution! You can see the method employed: litigate, get what you ask for, then litigate again, asserting that what you wanted before is now unacceptable. The people of a state can never win such a ratcheting form of argumentation. And lost in the years of litigation is the thought that perhaps the few moments or even minutes of discomfort or pain felt by the murderer is a very miniscule inconvenience indeed weighed against the terror inflicted on his victim, and the lifetime of pain inflicted on the victims’ families.

But Mr. Shea no doubt hopes that none of the facts of these crimes or the reality of the endless legal process and judicial review these cases undergo actually comes to the attention of his readers, because it does not fit the narrative that the US is Indonesia or North Korea. It's very difficult, indeed, to talk about what these criminals actually did, who their victims were, and how frequently the "system" is unequipped to render them anything close to harmless. The abolitionists cannot focus on the crimes themselves, or they lose the abstract sense of injustice they labor so hard to create.

And of course, none of this ad hominem, incomplete, off-topic treatment of the subject supports his theory that the abolitionist cause he and some unknown number of Western laity and clerics support is a “development” by which these executions run afoul of Catholic doctrine.

There’s more in Mr. Shea’s Part Two, but too often, the quick and dirty misrepresentations are left unrebutted because, frankly, they flow so freely in Mr. Shea’s writing. I’ll turn to the remainder of his piece in another posting.

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