Saturday, 8 November 2008

This is the best time in history to have the death penalty


I say again, this is the best time in history to have the death penalty.


Because death penalty decisions have never been subject to so much scrutiny and debate. Look at Indonesia - under Soharto, Amrozi and his pals would have been arrested, tried in about 1 day and shot the next. These days, the country has moved on to the point where they have trial layers galore, appeal followed by appeal, tremendous media scrutiny and possibly even a small group of human rights groupies calling for clemency. Every aspect of the case has been picked at, reviewed, pulled apart and analysed. Every decision has been reviewed, argued and reviewed again. The forensic evidence has been looked at by forensic scientist after forensic scientist.

If there was one hint that just one of the bombers was innocent, then the media, Amnesty, the legal fraternity and Sweden would be all over the case like a rash. Cases have to be absolutely and utterly watertight these days in order for someone to go from being a suspect to fronting a firing squad. There is no room for error. None!

Today, we have DNA evidence.

We have CCTV.

We have oodles of other forensic techniques. Juries have watched months and months of cop and CSI drama shows, and are thus familiar with these techniques.

We have a media that is intensely sceptical about the death penalty, if not downright against it. We have human rights groups coming out of our ears. We have battalions of lawyers that oppose the penalty, and will work death cases for free.

So if we were to re-instate the penalty today, we would be more certain than ever before that if a person is tried and convicted, then they are guilty. Many of the errors that were committed in the past could not be committed today. I am not saying that the system is fault free, but it provides enough certainty for me to feel comfortable with pulling the lever on someone found guilty of murder.

Many, many arguments have been made for why we should not put people to death for heinous crimes. I will not repeat all of them here. But one that is always made is, "what if we hang the wrong man?" It was fair enough to say that in 1950, but I don't see that argument being very powerful today.


kae said...

Yeah, but I don't think that those who watch CSI and other such programmes realise that much of the content is crap, and what isn't never happens in the timeline shown.

Boy on a bike said...

Most TV content is crap. I don't think many people would view Boston Legal as a realistic view of lawyers. I hope. The West Wing is a fast paced, sharply written drama about politics, but it is about as close to reality about the political world as Star Trek is to the work that NASA does in space exploration.

The Hollowmen, with its focus on tedious meetings, six inch thick reports, boredom, inertia and public servants totally disconnected from reality was much closer to the truth.

Writers have to take a great deal of poetic licence in order to make a drama work. William Goldman provides the best take on this in his book "Adventures in the Screen Trade", explaining why this is so.