Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Death and Taxes...and Hate Crimes

It’s hard to be a liberal, hippie, pretentious, New York Jew sometimes…

Tuesday morning, I saw the news that DADT is officially no more, and I thought that it was going to be a good day.

Then Tuesday evening came, and I was bombarded by this: Lawrence Russell Brewer is scheduled to be executed for the 1999 Murder of James Byrd. Mississippi teen Deryl Paul Dedmon was indicted for capital murder for his alleged involvement in the murder of James Craig Anderson. Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis’s final appeal for clemency was denied by the parole board. Thus starts my long diatribe about the death penalty and hate crime laws, and you have to suffer through it…I guess you could just click to another page or turn off the computer and get back to work, but you’re not going to do that, are you? Sucker. :-p

First, the Brewer case is pretty cut and dry: three white men in a pickup truck picked up a black pedestrian to give him a ride, but instead took him to a remote area, beat him to unconsciousness, and tethered him to their truck and dragged him to death. What was their motivation? Byrd was black. They were found guilty, and sentences were doled out according to degree of involvement. Brewer got a death sentence.

Next, Dedmon and a group of six other teens threw back a few drinks, and then allegedly went out to look for a black guy to beat up. Anderson was the unlucky contestant in the worst game show ever. The teens were said to have beaten him severely, and then after the other teens drove off, Dedmon allegedly returned and struck Anderson with his F-250, killing him. Everything was caught on film thanks to the motel security camera where there incident took place. The DA on the case plans to seek more indictments in the case.

Finally, Troy Davis sits on death row in Georgia after having been convicted of the 1989 murder of police officer Mark McPhail. Seven of the witnesses who testified for the prosecution have either recanted or contradicted their stories, and there is still no physical evidence linking Troy Davis to the murder. Regardless, the parole board denied his pleas for clemency. After years of appeals and three prior scheduled “death dates”, he is scheduled to die 21st September.

There are slews of resources for information on all of these cases, so I won’t bore you with any further details. The latter case makes me question the validity of the death penalty as a means of punishment at all. We are one of the last Western influenced countries to still have the death penalty on the table as a punishment option. Other countries banned it for many reasons, including the fact that it is barbaric, it has been used disproportionately for convicts who are not of the majority race/ethnicity, and the simple fact that NO JUSTICE SYSTEM IS PERFECT. The possibility of inadvertently sending an innocent person to death is very real. It probably happened, and so long as we have a death penalty, it will probably happen again. The second we stick the needle in the arm of an innocent person, everyone who had a hand in sending that person to death is guilty of murder as well. Should we then send the judge, jury, prosecutor, lying witnesses, botching lab techs, errant detectives, and executioner to the death chamber as well?

Let’s not forget the race issue. Sure, proportionally, the racial majority of people on death row is white, but when it comes to interracial murders, 16 white-on-black cases compared to 253 black-on-white murders is not fair. Neither is the fact that in general, nearly 75% of victims in ANY death row murder case are white. Does this mean that white victims are more important than other murder victims? I really do feel for the families of victims of murder, and I don’t expect them to ever get over the death of their loved ones easily. Killing the killer seems like karmic justice, so long as the person being killed actually did it. Revenge is a bad path to closure, though. Lex talionis always leads to more violence. “An eye for an eye…ends in making everyone blind.”

All that said I do not feel sorry for Lawrence Brewer or his cohorts. He is also to be executed on 21st September. If it turns out Deryl Dedmon and his group are guilty, which is likely, I feel no pity for them. If you do a crime in a state where the death penalty is a possibility and you get sentenced, as much as I don’t like the punishment, I just have a very hard time feeling sorry for you. You knew the possible consequences. If I go into your house and you specifically say anyone with muddy shoes on in your house will get their feet chopped off, but I wear muddy boots anyway, it doesn’t matter if I think it’s a harsh consequence. I know the rule.

My issue with the prior two cases is the hate crime legislation that is involved with it. On one hand, the Bird/Shepard Act was basically the “Hey, Sorry We Let All Those Black Lynchings Go Unpunished; We Good Now?” Act. It somewhat evened up the punitive repercussions of hurting someone based on ethnicity, gender, religion, and sexual orientation. Before that, someone would plea out and get a comparative slap on the wrist, if the person was punished at all. There has been a LOT of strange fruit hanging from sycamore trees throughout America’s history that went unpunished.

On the other hand, isn’t EVERY violent crime a hate crime? If it’s a crime of passion, there is a degree of hate involved. Even in a bar brawl, the motivator is that for a second, One person hates that other person enough to punch him in the face…or maybe his rugby-for-p***ies team lost, and he needs to take out his drunken disappointment about his penis size on someone’s face. But even then, dude hates his own penis size! Also, I know of only one case where a hate crime statute was levelled at assailants against a white victim.

So, I’m at an impasse. Hate crime laws and the death penalty: are they fair? Should they be re-examined and possibly abolished? The baser instinct in me says, “F*** it dude. You knew the rules!” However, the logical thought in me thinks that since the justice system is run by people who can possibly err, we cannot have such an absolute punishment as the death penalty, for we will (and probably have) errantly kill an innocent person. On hate crimes, one side of me hates bigots to the point that any extra suffering they get is well deserved. The other side of me thinks that the evening out of the punitive playing field is fair, but the wording is just not right.

All that said I have a special hate in my heart for rapists and child molesters. If you rape someone or hurt a child, I hope someone chops off your junk and sodomises you with it while a pair of syphilitic horses f***s you in your eye sockets. If you do it to any of MY friends, I will hunt you down and make you watch your d*** dissolve as I pour sulphuric acid on your lap while a trained donkey kicks you in the back of the head and kidneys. YES that’s the animal in me talking, and NO, I won’t tone it down. Domino, mother***er. >:-o

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