Saturday, September 23, 2023

I’m a retributionist: I support the death penalty

Back in 2011, I wrote here in support of the death penalty. The debate on the death penalty has once again arisen and I’m still unshaken in my support for the death penalty. Many arguments are being thrown around by those who do not support the death penalty but still, I find the reasoning not enough to sway my conviction. Those who are against the death penalty often rush to raise only two reasons. They argue that there is no proof that the death penalty is a deterrent to murder. Those who read the Bible too much assert that no one has the right to kill. Look, we don’t necessarily hang murderers to deter other people from committing the same offence. We kill them simply because the punishment has to carry the same weight as the offence. The family of the murderer must go through the same anguish and pain that the murder victim’s family went through. The killer has to be stopped from enjoying all the things that come with being alive. When you kill another person, you deprive them of worldly enjoyments like food, sex, conversations, bathing, laughing, crying and therefore it is only befitting that you too get deprived of same and the only way to do so is through the death sentence. If we are going to shy away from punishing wrong-doers on the basis that the punishment won’t stop other people from committing the same offence then we might as well not send anyone to jail because sending people to jail has never stopped other people from committing the same offences. I often ask myself if people ever pause and ponder over what murder victims would prefer as suitable punishment to those who murdered them. Do we ever put ourselves in the shoes of murdered people? Do we comprehend the pain they go through before they finally take their last breath at the hands of these murderers? I strongly feel that murder victims would, should they be briefly resurrected, unequivocally and unanimously rally behind capital punishment for their killers. Yes, I am not a ghost and as such I cannot claim to know how dying at the hands of another person really feels like. However, the empathy I have for murder victims motivates my thoughts on what they would prefer. It is when I put myself in the shoes of those who have been murdered that I gather no slightest doubt they would embrace death on those who murdered them.Before that last gasp for air, I believe the only wish that goes through murder victims is for their killer to die an equally painful death.

Look, a guy kills his girlfriend by stabbing her several times with a knife. Imagine the pain that this lady goes through before she eventually dies. The guy goes further to dismember the dead lady’s body and buries her body parts in a shallow grave. There is a case of a couple that killed their own 11- year-old son by beating him to a pulp with a hammer, tying him to the roof rafters over night and waking him up in the morning to finish him off. You go on to hear of a middle aged man who mugged, raped and robbed a pensioner before killing the helpless old woman. My ‘retributive’ mind tells me perpetrators of such heinous acts deserve to die, painfully. This is why I maintain that even as we kill murderers, their death is more dignified and decent than those of their victims. 

They never give their victims an opportunity to justify why they should not kill them, whereas they are given the opportunity to justify their acts through the courts of law. Murderers are hanged by a thick rope which is not as painful as being clobbered with a hammer or being stabbed with a knife several times. They are given the opportunity to convey their last prayers to God before they die. I hear they are even given the chance to order their favourite dishes before they are resigned to the gallows. Unlike their victims, they are not raped before they get hanged.

 I am from a Christian family. A God-fearing family. A family that subscribes to the teachings of the Holy Bible. They probably would not support the killing of any person, including murderers. Now imagine if someone was to kill me today and my family was asked what should be done to the person who murdered me. I bet my Christian-oriented family would say only God must be allowed to punish the murderer. In fact they would pray for the killer because to them, he would have only killed me because he has not ‘received Jesus’. They would probably say the killer must not be killed because he will face the music when Jesus Christ comes back to take stock of his flock. Now you see why I choose to write on behalf of someone who has been murdered and not for someone who has lost a family member through murder? While the people who survive me might be of the view only God should judge my killer, I, the dead man, want my killer to be killed, not by God but by another man. I strongly believe it is only fair that a person who kills another person must be killed by another person (the hangman). Let’s leave God out of it. There are plenty of people who are ready to take over the job of the ‘hangman’. There are plenty of legal professionals who are ready to sit as High Court Judges and pronounce death sentences, so I don’t want to buy the argument that the hangman and the Judges are traumatized after condemning murderers to death and eventually carrying out the death penalty. If you are too traumatized to kill a murderer, you are free to quit. I mean, if you cannot stand the sight of a wound, why would you opt to become a nurse? The good thing about the death sentence is, when you kill another person you are not condemned to the gallows there and then. The Law appreciates that there are those circumstances where killing someone can be justifiable and in order. When robbers break into my house armed to the teeth with weapons and a fight ensues and I kill one, or luckily all of them, I do not expect any High Court Judge to order that I hang by the neck until I’m pronounced dead.

I would have appropriately defended myself. By entering my house uninvited they would have invited death on themselves. That is just an example and we have in abundance cases of ‘justified killings’. Murder refers to the heinous, often premeditated killing of another person and it is this offence that carries the death penalty, which I support. In a case where you kill someone because you were defending and protecting your life from being taken by him or her, you end up being let scot-free because the conclusion is, the victim invited his or her own death by first trying to visit death on you. Look, we all love to live, don’t we? No one likes to die, including those who commit suicide. People only kill themselves simply because they love life so much it frustrates them when life appears not to return the favour. Life, even as it sucks most of the time, is precious. Now if you take my precious life, why should yours be spared? I don’t get this. Human rights activists will tell you how inhuman and degrading it is to hang murderers. The men of cloth will tell you how only God should be the one to punish murderers. Those who have nothing really convincing to put forward will tell you how sentencing these murderers to death traumatizes judges and the hangman. Now you see why I stated from the onset that I write on behalf of murder victims? I mean, it’s very clear that in all these debates, murder victims have no one on their side. People always say no one has the right to kill. I fully concur. These murderers had no right to kill their victims in the first place hence they don’t deserve to live among the society in which, yes, no one has the right to kill.

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