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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

On the death penalty for Scott Peterson

I'm sure everyone is aware by now that is his sentence. These are the times that do try opponents of the death penalty. When my sister messaged me to tell me, I just replied, "Couldn't have happened to a nicer person."

Scott Peterson, if guilty, is probably a sociopath. It's hard to imagine how to punish a murderous sociopath properly with just jail, since he'll be sitting there the whole time thinking that it's just not fair that he has to go to jail when all he did was kill his wife because she was in the way and anyway she deserved it, etc. No conscience means no guilt means he doesn't have to sit there and "live with" the guilt over what he did, which many opponents say is probably a worse punishment for murderers than death. But if you can't make someone suffer guilt, then what can you make them suffer from? Well, you can scare the piss out of them and then kill them like they did to their victim, which is exactly what is appealing about the death penalty.

I am against the death penalty because I don't think it can be handed out fairly. For one thing, innocent people get sentenced to death all the time. In fact, there's reason to believe that a capital crime trial is more, not less likely, to result in a wrong sentence. A crime like this is so horrible, so gut-wrenching, that the jury is under a lot of pressure to put someone away for it. It just seems wrong not to convict, to leave it hanging in the air for everyone--yes, the killer is still on the loose. Scapegoating seems inevitable in some capital crime cases.

For instance, there's my comment that this couldn't have happened to a nicer person. I don't know for sure that Peterson killed his wife. He was, after all, convicted on circumstantial, if damning, evidence. I'd like to believe that I concluded that he is guilty through reason, but I can never know for sure. There's no way I can separate out my anger at the senselessness of the crime and my pity for poor Laci Peterson and my own fear that such a random act could be visited on me or my family from my reaction to the evidence. I imagine for the jury, who had to contemplate the visceral horror of this event day in and day out for the duration of the trial, had even less ability to separate their feelings from their rational examination of the evidence.

We cannot send innocent people to death, and if that means that we have to live with the fact that there will never be complete revenge on sick murderers like Peterson (probably) is, then so be it. I think there are still some death penalty opponents who deny that revenge should even be a factor in determining sentences, but I disagree. Exacting revenge for people's suffering is the only thing that we can prove the justice system does at all. Rehabilitation is a joke. If it were just about keeping dangerous people off the street, then we would release even heinous murderers once they became old and feeble instead of just letting them perish in prison. In fact, it might be easier to decriminalize victimless crimes like smoking pot if we admitted that prison exists mostly for punishment and revenge--there's no reason to punish someone so harshly for smoking pot, and we couldn't even say who we are exacting revenge on the behalf of.

It would also help establish the common ground between pro- and anti-death penalty people. I want the person who killed Laci Peterson to suffer an appalling and painful death just as surely as the pro-death penalty people. But I don't want an innocent person to die, and as there's no way to prove conclusively, ever, that we have the absolute truth about what happened in any case, we cannot afford to deal out the absolute punishment.

79 Comments:

Blogger resigned idealist said...

Thank you for this post. I have been struggling with my own anger about this crime... about Scott Peterson's seemingly sociopathic behavior... about the verdict. For the first time in my life, I actually uttered the words "I hope he fries," and immediately regretted it. I want revenge... on people who think they can use the media to manipulate for their own selfish needs and desire, on people who think they're too - whatever - to obey the same laws, on people who think a pregnant wife is a burden. But reading your words and listening to my bosses, made me realize why I am anti-death penalty in the first place, that the risk of killing an innocent far outweighs the satisfaction of revenge.

So thank you.

12/14/2004

 
Blogger bitchphd said...

See, I agree with the problem of unjustly killing innocent people. But I also think that, even if you can prove that someone did it (say, catch them red-handed), that invoking the death penalty is still wrong. Admittedly, the desire to punish/revenge a killing is innate, and normal: but presumably the very idea of a legal system is to put some distance between that desire and the role of the state in protecting people. Otherwise we'd let victims or their families kill criminals themselves.

I think it's fine to want someone to fry. I think it's wrong to translate that desire into action.

12/14/2004

 
Blogger mythago said...

"Circumstantial" does not mean "crappy." It just means that there was no eyewitness evidence.

If I go into the kitchen and find the step stool pushed up to the counter, the cookie tin knocked over, a trail of cookie crumbs leading to my son's bedroom, and small son-hand-sized chocolate-chip-smeary handprints on the doorknob, that is all circumstantial evidence that my son snuck some pre-dinner cookies. But it's pretty compelling evidence, wouldn't you say? I mean, *he* might say that I can't prove anything because I didn't actually see him steal the cookies...

12/14/2004

 
Blogger Amanda said...

I didn't say it was crappy, just not absolute. To be fair, I don't think that physical evidence is absolute enough to get someone the death penalty, considering that it gets willfully misinterpreted and deliberately messed with at times.

12/15/2004

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's one of the main reasons I'm against the death penalty. I also don't believe that we have the right to cold-bloodedly mete out death to those we believe deserve it. Surely sentencing someone to death is no better than murdering them? Just because it is sanctioned by the state, to me, does not change the fact that killing people is wrong. Full stop. I don't believe that it's something a civilised nation should do.

- The Birdwoman.

12/15/2004

 
Blogger syfr said...

I believe that God can forgive anything, and will. Killing a killer denies the killer the possibility of repenting the crime and "getting right with God" before they die.

Whether or not the killer ever does repent is not my problem; I just want the possibility there.

12/15/2004

 
Blogger Kyria said...

I'm with the Birdwoman on this one. In addition, I find something peculiarly creepy about the idea that killing is OK when it's done by the government ... er, the bureaucracy.

A couple years ago the NY Times ran a page of little photos and stories of people on death row who'd been exonerated. There were about 30 of them; all were African-American. In about five of the cases, evidence that would have implicated a white person had been overlooked. Most of the cases had been poorly built in the extreme.

Do you think any of the people who brought those cases lost any sleep over it? I don't. They were just doing their jobs. Clearing their desks. Making their bosses look good.

I think maybe Hannah Arendt had it backwards.

12/16/2004

 
Blogger Elayne said...

I'm with Birdwoman and Kyria on this. Killing someone, even if they're guilty of murder themselves, doesn't bring the victims back, and doesn't really offer a sense of closure, it just momentarily satisfies some primal testosterone-driven human instinct. It goes back to the old Gandhi saying, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. You want to punish a sociopath, you get them the hell away from society and the limelight and let them languish away in a dark and depressing place for the rest of their natural lives, until they die alone and forgotten.

12/19/2004

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was no evidence, circumstancial or otherwise, to convict Scott Peterson, are you people all braindead or so propagandized that you cannot scrutinize information properly. Scott was convicted by spin from the Sherrif. "It could have happened this way, kill em, poor baby conner". Give me a break. The modesto police thought they had the right man on the Yosemite murders and were putting the same spin on it when Staynor confessed. They were all set to put somebody, anybody in jail for that crime and they were wrong. We will not have justice in this country intil prosecuters are handled differently and juries are given some tests to weed out idiots like that red head jurist who had nothing to say but could'nt shut up about poor baby conner. I'm sick that we have an inocent man in jail and you people are clucking and bleating like sheep. I am embarressed for you.

6/24/2005

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please visit the CCADPs new personal webpage for Scott Peterson where Scott makes his first statement to the public since arriving on death row.

This webpage has been created at Scott's request and links to all the other sites supporting Scott and as a personal forum to express himself without the media bias which played such a major role in his conviction and death sentence.

http://www.ccadp.org/scottpeterson.htm

CCADP has been online since 1998; and maintains free webpages for nearly 500 death row prisoners in the US and around the world. Visit CCADPs main page at http://www.ccadp.org

Contact CCADP at 416 693 9112 info@ccadp.org

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Anonymous Justice for Scott said...

Hi,I sent Scott a letter last week and I have not yet recieved a reply but I am patiently waiting since I know that he only retrieves mail about once every two weeks. I have started a group in which others just like myself will be able to join in supporting justice for Scott. I must help this case I know far too much and I support this cause far too much to just watch him suffer the death penalty. His life is worth living and not one life is not. it doesn't matter what Scott has been accused of, there is not one reason to justify his death. Even if state is "positive" that Scott has commit this crime.. it still doesn't explain why he is being put to death. There are serial killers walking the streets, who kill for the thrill of it and Scott, somebody who is accused of murdering Laci and his unborn child, supported by no concrete evidence what so ever... has been given the death penalty? It boggles my mind. This is not justice, it is Revenge. Scotts conviction has been based on presumption of guilt...and premeditation... However..... Scotts death, the states penalty for his apparant rightful charge, is the most premeditated murder in history. He has been presumed guily from day one. Everyone has a right to a fair trial. Scott has not recieved one. End of story. Evidence was only permit if it were against Scott.... nobody was on Scott's side from the start except for his defense attorney and parents. It is unfair because those who have the money almost always are heard and those who do not aren't? That is absurd. People do not deserve to be wrongfully convicted and executed simply because they do not have the money for another trial... Espesially when there has been no concrete evidence against him.

Please let me help. In any way. I am going to continue trying to contact Scott. If there is anything I could possibly do, I will do it. I assured Scott of this and I assure you, his family, whoever else is seeing this email, that I will take this as far as it can possibly go because one life is worth everything. The state treats like as though its worthless and that is disgusting.

Please leave a post with the way you feel. I would love to hear as I will be forming a support organization in his name.

Sincerely,
JP

11/28/2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evelyn Hernandez torso found floating in the bay her full term un-born baby missing and five year old son Alex never found . missing for almost three-months just like Laci and conner wearing trade mark lable "mother hood "xl" pair of blue or black thong bikini panties just like Laci was, lacie a copy-cat killing to hide the crime above or is some -one targeting women who shop in the store .

9/12/2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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1/29/2010

 
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6/24/2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have to say you give a good reason for not having the death penalty. BUT i say if there is no doubt what so ever that you took another person life then you have given up any rights to live. especially when its such a hideous murder. think about what the victims last hours must have been like. the fear and pain they must have been in. i am talking about women and children of course. ESPECIALLY children. let me give you a few examples. the little girl in Florida that was taking out of her house and then kept a live for a few days being raped by that sick so of a B-t-h. and even after everything he did to her she believed him when he said that if she climb into the large plastic garbage bag that he would let her go home. instead he buried her alive. let me repeat that. AFTER RAPING A EIGHT YEAR FOR SEVERAL DAYS HE BURIED HER ALIVE!
here is another case that i am sure you have heard about. the Petits murder that happened in Cheshire Connecticut. now we all know they are guilty. there is no doubt they are guilty. they held that family for about what eight hours. left Mr Petit for dead tied to a chair in the cellar, raped Mrs Petit and the youngest girl. then they tied the girls to their beds and poured gas all around their rooms and all over the house and lit a match. the two girls were burned a live. yes i am sure they died of smoke inhalation first but the fear they must have gone through before death took them is beyond understanding. here is a family in their own home doing nothing wrong and they are attacked by two low life's. i can't even say that these individuals who did these crimes are human. its like the earth opened up and spit out these evil things. now we know the two cases i just mentioned that guys are guilty, there is no doubt about it. they chose to commit these crimes and therefore have giving up any rights to live. i believe in an eye for an eye. they should be dead already but instead they have more rights then the victims where giving. you can talk until your blue in the face against the death penalty but in certain cases like i just mentioned the death penalty is the only way. and they still get to live a long time after they are giving the death penalty. they say that two wrongs does not make it right and i say bull s--t. some crimes leave no doubt that the death penalty is the only option.

9/09/2010

 

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