Monday, January 31, 2005

Hurray for the death penalty!

Here is a piece from Counterpunch that -- while perhaps more strongly phrased than I would have made it -- nonetheless raises a valid issue:

You really know the state killers have lost it when they call for the death penalty for someone who was just trying to kill himself in the 1st place.

That's what prosecutors are doing in the case of Juan Manuel Alvarez, the 25-year-old Californian who apparently parked his SUV on the tracks of a Los Angeles commuter train line in order to commit suicide.

Alvarez, according to news reports, lost his nerve and left the vehicle as the train approached, and escaped injury, but the resulting crash, which derailed the train, ended up killing 11 riders and injuring many others.

Death penalty aficionados, including L.A. County's vote-hungry District Attorney, see killing Alvarez as the logical punishment for his horrible misdeed. Under the Old Testament eye-for-an-eye logic of state killers in this great Christian Nation, it's kill and be killed.

But what exactly is the punishment when you kill someone who was trying to do that to himself anyway? If anything, after causing so much suffering and pain and loss of life, Alvarez probably wants to die more than he did before the tragedy. In any event, he certainly wanted to die badly enough to try to do himself in. All the state will accomplish by injecting him with their deadly cocktail of toxins at the end of a high-profile legal process and millions of dollars in legal costs will be helping him to do what he didn't have the courage to do himself.

To read the entire article, go here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Exactly! Consider the post entitled "DUI, Train Wrecks and Murder" posted on January 28th at

Police and prosecutors have an obligation to seek justice, not vengeance. Their job is to apply the laws as written, not as personal feelings, political considerations and/or special interest groups dictate. And nowhere in the criminal justice system are passions, political considerations and special interest groups more prevalent than with drunk driving.

A few days ago a young man in Indiana became intoxicated and accidentally drove his car off the road and landed in an embankment. His girlfriend was thrown from the car and killed. As any experienced officer or prosecutor will tell you, the obvious charge is DUI and vehicular manslaughter. He was, however, charged with murder.

There are some of you whose reaction will be: He deserves it. Morally, that may or may not be. We are, however, a nation of laws, and he deserves the punishment set forth by those laws. If the legislature wishes to call a drunken but accidental homicide a murder rather than manslaughter, they are free to do so. Until then, police and prosecutors should follow the law rather than passion and pressure.

How far can it go? Well, how about the death penalty for DUI? And if you think that's just sarcasm, read my post about a drunk driving trial that recently took place right here in the United States.

We are living in an increasingly vindictive society, a society of passions rather than laws, as evidenced by developments after the recent train wreck here in Los Angeles. A deeply disturbed man, trying to commit suicide, sits in his car on the train tracks and just before the collision panics and jumps out of the car. The offense should be obvious: multiple counts of involuntary manslaughter. (By a great stretch of logic, one could argue 2nd degree murder due to "conscious/willful disregard for the lives of others", although that seems refuted by his mental state and wandering through the carnage afterwards crying out "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry".)

Yesterday, however, he was charged with eleven counts of murder. And the media has been loudly reporting (hoping?) that the D.A.'s office will be seeking the death penalty. Even the staid New York Times reported that the District Attorney, "his voice firm with anger", said that "Because this man was distressed, 11 people are dead from his selfishness" and that he was considering the death penalty.

When did we start executing people because they were distressed or selfish? Or, as in DUI cases, stupid or reckless? Whatever happened to "cold, calculating and premeditated"?

While the rest of the world is abandoning the death penalty, we in the United States are expanding it to include juveniles and unintended homicides.