Thursday, March 17, 2005

Torturous Execution

I hope Professor Volokh doesn't mind. He's a pretty credible guy in my eyes, but on the topic of torturous execution, well...

Prof. Volokh thinks it's a good thing that the Iranians allowed a condemned child killing monster to be torturously executed, with family survivors participating in the act with whips and knives.

I am in favor of torturous execution if, and only if, competent psychological evalutation determines that the survivors of the victims would find it ultimately cathartic after thinking very, very hard with benefit of a clinician's perspective. In other words, if you think you want to torture someone to death, get a good second opinion.

I am not one who would find catharsis in torturing anyone to death, no matter what they did to my loved ones.

My uncle Jack told me a story one time. He lived in a beautiful but poor, violent and corrupt country where life was (and is increasingly) cheap. He had a young acquaintance who was a policeman. It seems that (in contrast to the United States where there still remains enough wealth to indulge all sort of legal niceties) down there extrajudicial execution was used from time to time.

It was my uncle's friend's job to perform some of these killings. The young policeman was a former soldier, a veteran of the country's long insurgency, and no stranger to killing.

One morning around six my uncle got a phone call from his young friend, who sounded agitated and asked if he could come over. Of course. The young policeman arrived a little while later, and his first request was for a drink. So my uncle and his friend had a few stiff scotches for breakfast while the policeman settled down.

What had upset this hardened killer so much was an assignment he'd gotten, to kill a monstruous recidivist involved in some awful crime against children. I don't recal the particulars, but the young policeman had become so incensed by the nature of the crime that he had decided to perform the execution with a knife rather than a bullet.

That's what had shaken up my uncle's hardened-killer-friend. No matter how much the monster deserved it, and no matter how accustomed to killing my uncle's friend had become, it shook him up to be so up close and personal in the act.

No, my satisfaction at the death of a monster would stem from its finality, not its gruesomeness.

Now, if only we could get Prof. Volokh's colleagues to SPEED UP THE DAMNED PROCESS, then we might find some deterrent value in capital punishment. Why, oh why, cannot that judge and cop killing rapist in Atlanta be executed in a week or a month? Why do animals have to languish in prison for decades on my nickel?

Yeah, I know, human life is inherently precious. Right.

Humans are animals; when you get a mad one you put it down.

Don't do it by torture, though, because the act will probably warp the surviving torturer, increasing the damage the bastard already did.

Finally, what if your child got warped into a monster somehow? Would you not still love your child, irrespective of what he'd become? What about the pain of that other innocent, the parent, say, of the tortured monster, feeling the pain of their loved one, monster or not?

Torture is bad unless you can maybe save someone's life. Otherwise, just kill the bastard in the least costly and deterrence-enhancing way you can think of. Otherwise, if given my chance, I'll execute the way Uday did, with an industrial meat grinder.

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