From the onset I wish to make it abundantly clear that I subscribe to the view that capital punishment can be a deterrent to the commission of homicidal crimes; and that corporal punishment can be an effective means of disciplining children between the ages of five years and fifteen years.
Undoubtedly the posture assumed in this regard puts me in vehement opposition to many, including my illustrious friend Dr. Stephen King, my friend and colleague Ms. Mary Francis and the very respected Dr. Julia Bird. With regard to capital punishment the pronouncement has always been that it is better to have one hundred offenders go free than to execute one innocent man. The question that needs to be asked is: How many innocent citizens will have been mortally impacted upon by the one hundred offenders who went free?
We are imperfect beings living in an imperfect world and the unfortunate demise of an innocent person is an acceptable price society has to pay in order that peace and security may be assured. We have heard of collateral damage. It is a price society must be willing to pay for its survival. A price to be paid for the greater good; and that good or greater good is being sought by those who are in opposition to my position. They cry out for peace and tranquillity that elude them and which are not provided by the societal status quo. We have not executed anyone for quite some time and yet our homicidal rate is alarming. Is the status quo reassuring? We are doing something by doing nothing and yet before this month and year come to a close some young man or woman will have bitten the dust.
Is capital punishment a deterrent? Many studies seem to indicate it is not. I say most categorically that it is. The studies are flawed. And they are flawed for one very simple reason: the time frame that is being covered—by which I mean the length of time that lapses between being found guilty in a court of law and the date and time of execution. Invariably that length of time is between fifteen and twenty-five years. For that period of time a convicted and condemned man is languishing on death row. And then one morning in the twentieth year of his incarceration he is escorted to the execution chamber, there to surrender his mortality through the instrumentality of a lethal injection, gas inhalation, electrocution or the hangman’s noose. Very likely on that cold morning he cannot even remember why he is having this solemn perambulation in silence!
Under those circumstances capital punishment is not, and cannot be, a deterrent. The society, the community,the town, the village cannot even recall the horrific nature of the act that occasioned the death of some innocent man, woman or child twenty-five years earlier. The heinousness of the offence has dissipated with the effluxion of time and men and women have continued with their mundane daily activities in a condition of time-engendered amnesia. The shock, the horror, the pain, the fright for the generality are all relegated to a dim and dimming poignant past.
Capital punishment is, or can be, a deterrent. But that possibility can only be actualised by certain conditionalities. Once these conditions are manifest then deterrence is an actuality. As I stated earlier, there is a flaw in those studies that spuriously or mistakenly lead to the conclusion that capital punishment is not a deterrent to the commission of homicidal offences. And that flaw is primarily time. There are three elements when conjoined that will bring about the objective we all seek. And they are as follows: the celerity of punishment, the certainity of punishment and the immediacy of punishment. Deterrence is a function of these three elements.
In the real world my suggestion would be this: once a suspect has been charged with the offence of murder, no more than six months should elapse before his case is heard before the Supreme Court. Once charged, he would be assigned two lawyers of at least ten years’ experience. If at this initial trial before the Supreme Court he is found guilty he has an automatic right of appeal before the Court of Appeal. Again he is assigned two lawyers with at least ten years of experience. If his appeal is disallowed, then again he has an automatic right of appeal before the Caribbean Court of Justice. At that appeal he would be assigned one lawyer of at least ten years’ experience. If this appeal before the CCJ is disallowed then thirty days subsequent to the handing down of the decision he should be dispatched. From charge to final appeal, a maximum of three years should be allowed.
I am not a dreamer but a realist who subscribes to a philosophy of a universal humanism. I am not a bleeding heart but I do have a heart that bleeds conditionally. The man who, in giving perverse expression to his venereal propensity, raped buggered and strangled a 97-year-old woman, should be given a mandatory death sentence. He deserves to die.
Some glibly say give him twenty, thirty or sixty years, forgetting that there is a financial cost to be paid by society for that accommodation. And so for sixty years, he breathes, he eats, he drinks, he plays, he laughs and even enjoys his life of incarceration. What about the victim who will never engage in any of these activities? His untimely terrestrial demise will forever traumatically impact his family and relatives. The relational void created will never be filled and the terror, however evanescent, experienced by the victim is real; palpable; and goes beyond the imagination. It further is tormenting to the relatives of the victim forever. To those whose view, morality, philosophy are diametrically opposed to mine, imagine the victim to be your mother; your sister; or your daughter. She has been raped, buggered and strangled to death. Where do you find solace? I can recall the nine months pregnant lady from Babonneau (I believe) who was raped by two men and virtually during the horrific ordeal she gave birth. Mother and child died. I witnessed the execution of these two monsters. Indeed justice was served.
Very importantly he, the perpetrator, gets to know the general time of his death. He can even make amends to a God whose existence he may have denied all his life. The victim, on the other hand, may not have the luxury of repentance. And for those who believe in those Biblical, Islamic and Torah pronouncements, the question that comes to mind is this: Who goes to heaven and who goes to hell?
I am not a raving lunatic, neither a raging psychopath. I am civilised, whatever that means, and for whoever that means. The man who rapes, buggers and strangles a 97-year-old woman is evil. The act is unadulterated evil. He will commit that act repeatedly, for that is what he is: the embodiment of evil. The female society will be in perpetual fear of him (it?). If imprisoned his-its escape is a probability. We cannot take that chance . He-it deserves to die. That is justice.
Those who oppose me hold the position that capital punishment is cruel and unusual punishment, and violates the murderer’s human rights. With that I vehemently disagree. If you murder someone you forfeit your human rights, since the victim is coerced into surrendering his mortality and his human rights under circumstances where those rights and the incident of life are callously and brutally denied and destroyed. If there is evil, and I say there is, then the act that rapes the mind and violates all human sensibilities, emotions and feelings to the point of extinction is evil. But then there are gradations of evil and they attract various punitive responses. But the act that is unequivocally and universally perceived as evil, and that has no redeeming aspect, that is contrary to life and living, attracts annihilation—naturally. So, when a sentence of death is effectuated there is a certain measure of peace, personally and societally, since justice on our level will have been dispensed and Life will have reconciled with Death.
To those who hold the view that the death penalty is incompatible with human rights and human dignity, what really do they mean? Incompatible with what rights, what dignity? That dignity reposes where? Where is that dignity when by criminally effectuating the demise of a human being you have regressed to the level of that which is sub-human? In what way does the death penalty undermine human dignity? To the contrary, it preserves and protects our human dignity and our right to life. Where is that human right when the murderer has forfeited his right to life by his wanton slaughter of another human being?
As I see it, the death penalty can be an effective instrument of preservation as far as our human dignity and right to life are concerned.
Next week Velon John continues to offer his reasons as to why he supports capital punishment as a deterrent to crime and is in favour of corporal punishment for children. Don’t miss it in next Saturday’s STAR Newspaper.