Saturday, July 05, 2008

The death penalty: I have run out of excuses

Novelist and publisher Susan Hill has responded to this posting in comments.

After life-long opposition to the death penalty I am now drawn to the idea that it is possible to forfeit your right to life at the hands of the state. Even when my close friend, the writer Robert Tewdwr Moss was murdered back in '96 I did not think his two killers should be executed: the state should never be given such power, and I thought of the spiritual repercussions - which either you believe in or you don't. Every day it is possible to read of yet another criminal outrage here and abroad. But the recent pornographic murder of the two French students in London persuades me that in very, very rare circumstances convicted killers ought to die at our hands.

It would be for the prosecution to bring a special application for the death penalty after conviction - the onus would be on it to adduce peculiarly cruel and obscene factors in the case: it must be for lawyers to define what amounts to peculiar cruelty and obscenity since the premeditated taking of life in the first place is the ultimate cruelty. Such factors would tend to reflect on the nature of the killer - on whether, for example, he or she demonstrated an especial malignancy, an enduring hostility beyond psychiatric treatment. The argument that we should not countenance execution for fear of a miscarriage of justice does not work for me anymore: no system is infallible; justice never was. We do not cease to fly because of the very rare plane disaster.

Against this, some will point out that Barry George is currently appealing his conviction for the murder of Jill Dando. Would he not now be hanged if I had my way? Under my proposal he would not face execution: it would not be enough to show that he acted in cold blood or that the victim was a much-loved TV personality. But my view might be different if Dando's killer was a serial professional one, as I suspect. (Incidentally, have you noticed how the press made a big deal of the appeal case against him - front-page headlines about what was found at his home - a loner - the usual crap - but now relegate his side of things to a few paragraphs? That's the press for you, hanging judges all, always prejudiced)

Robert's killers will be out in 2011, probably. He was beaten up for no good reason, tied up and gagged, and left to die slowly by choking. No doubt the psychos' loving families are counting the days.

17 comments:

SUSAN said...

This is such a hard one to call. I marched for the abolition of the death penalty when I was a student and I have never regretted it. I do believe that 'vengeance is mine, says the Lord. I will repay,' and that you cannot disapprove of killing and kill the person who kills. But when there was a death penalty, not only did the wrong people sometimes hang - (Timothy Evans) but murderers who killed quickly in the heat of the moment.. (Ruth Ellis) were too. There is a world of difference between that and either the feral teenage knife-murderers who stab and kill for the most casual reasons, or those who murdered the French students. This is murder on a different scale. But there is always hope. The real reason for bringing back the death penalty for these very few would be as a deterrent. Does the death penalty work as that ? Life is so cheap, so little valued or enjoyed by the feral knife-murderers that perhaps even the death penalty would not deter them, for they care as little for their own lives and deaths as they do for those of others.
Everything in me says I would still march as I did then. But I understand where you are coming from, Madame, I absolutely understand.

Madame Arcati said...

I do not think the death penalty does act as a deterrent. I have absolutely no doubt that brutal killings would continue even with the reintroduction of capital punishment. The murder rate would not be affected at all.

I think my interest has turned to how society feels about the crime and the criminal and to what extent it feels that it has responded cathartically to the offence. In general, people - ie the rest of us not touched personally by any tragedy in question - do not feel that certain kinds of homicide are responded to on a scale that expresses the natural sense of outrage and shock at pathological brutality. This denial undermines faith in the justice system and our system of laws. This denial involves a lie.

It is an odd society, supposedly based on democratic and liberal princplies, whose citizens are in a permanent state of fury and dissatisfaction with its response to extreme crime. There is a public perception that no matter how depraved the killer, he or she will simply end up swallowed up in a bureaucracy of institutional punishment and its statutory porn, drugs and plasma TVs.

No deterrent, then: but society might feel that it had reacted appropriately and answered for the victims.

lavinia said...

I favour the death penalty, in extreme cases, in order to remove these sub-human super-violent mutants from the gene pool.

Jason said...

Judging by your other postings on the subject of your late friend Robert, I suspect you began to favour hanging back in 1996 when he died. This I think makes your argument one of special pleading. You would like the law to change to assuage your sense of loss and you have constructed a formula that neatly fits the circumstances of Robert's murder. The whole point of the law is that it is objective and dispassionate. It is a sad day when someone of your intelligence sounds like an Express leader.

Stella Polari said...

Having debated the posting over one of your delicioso espressos (or was it a Harveys?) I, like Susan, understand where you`re coming from but would probably march against it`s re-introduction. I am quite cruel, however, and would make sure life meant life, with hard labour thrown in. No phones, TVs etc. No possibility of parole. I would also make the treatment of prisoners excempt from the Human Rights Act. Perhaps a weekly torture treatment too ?

Stella Polari said...

Have you decided on much of `Mother`s` bush needs trimming? A Brazillian, perhaps?

drf said...

While you're debating death, can we have some inspiration for life? eg a cock-pick of Nadal

Best, Duncan

Madame Arcati said...

I always aim to please Duncan so though I have no pics of Rafael, Rupie has come to my rescue ....

Stella Polari said...

How many debates on the serious subject of capital punishment end up talking about cock and mother-in-laws` bush ? It could only happen here on Arcati, LOL !

Re: Nadal - he has a peculiar arse, don`t you think? It`s enormously deformed. And what`s all this constant underpant re-adjustment all about ? Have you not noticed how his knickers keep riding right up his crack? He wouldn`t have this underwear problem if he wore a (gay-iconic) jockstrap.

Madame Arcati said...

But that's the joy of blogging on Arcati ... at the Guardian where Comment Is Free you're ordered to stick to the topic in hand. that's newspapers for you, dictatorial, bossy. don't imagine the Guardian's any different - it's full of pushy little bastards on the make, in their big houses playing on their £50,ooo pianos - oh yes, we know about the pianos.

As to Nadal, I hadn't really looked at his arse but I did notice he was a-pullin' at his pants - funny long affairs almost down to his knee. He looked like some nance in an EM Forster movie. Still, it'll start a fashion and before you know it everyone will look like Fred Perry again.

I was wondering whether there is such a thing as a male gay champion tennis player.

Duralex said...

You should be glad with Amelie Mauresmo, you know. She's actually a male gay champion tennis player. :-)

Anonymous said...

yes, in tennis the girls have lots of interesting lesbians but the boys are such dreary straight airheads

Duralex said...

Anything wrong with being straight? :-)

Fish Inton said...

Bring back capital punishment, and it could finally bring some fear for the justice system back. Make people a bit more aware of what they face for their crimes... might stop them doing it. Criminals don't give a flying monkey f*ck at the moment. Or so it would seem.
Fish x

PS: Dearest Arcati, will you join our Steampunk movement? F x

Madame Arcati said...

Thank you Fish - I find the young and fresh are more sensible on these matters than the old hippy farts who cling to their namby-pamby values like barnacles on groynes. The astrological indicators would suggest a neo-hard line on blood-soaked killers.

Now, what's this Steampunk movement? I'm fascinated - what do I do to join? I'm not on Facebook or anything. Far too dangerous.

Duralex said...

<< Now, what's this Steampunk movement? >>

If you've seen the "Wild Wild West" series and if you've read Tim Powers' "The Anubis Gates", you already know what Steampunk is.

Fish Inton said...

There's a little bit about Steampunk on my blog, MA. Might shed some light on it. It's all quite fun.