Two Prongs of a Badly Bent Fork
In the last week of May 2014, I read a number of news articles that truly perplexed me. They concerned the issue of capital punishment in the United States, focusing primarily upon the potential cruelty of lethal injections.
A recent incident in the State of Oklahoma, regurgitated in the press as a “botched execution,” appeared to inflict a miniscule amount of pain to the condemned man as he appeared to suffer a heart attack before meeting his maker. Perish the thought that a merciless condemned murderer might suffer pain for a few moments for his crimes at the hands of the State—the only authority sanctioned to perform executions—when his victim suffered for hours.
For several decades there has been a push by fanatical and well-organized anti-death penalty advocates on U.S. soil and in Europe to end capital punishment no matter how contemptible, evil, heinous, or vile the murderous act committed. This pacifistic campaign effort has been operating on two prongs of a badly bent fork. The first prong is invested in judicial activism where sympathetic lawyers volley endless appeals before judges who prolong executions by very liberal interpretations of the sixteen words contained in the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which state as follows:
“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
The second prong engages the general public and media with propaganda tactics, generally painting either the condemned in a brighter light, or vilifying the method of execution as hopelessly flawed (as recently witnessed in the Oklahoma incident.) Who can forget the 2005 media blitz surrounding the execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams, notorious co-founder of the LA-based Black criminal street gang known as the Crips. Anti-death penalty advocates, with the help of a sympathetic media, pointed to Tookie’s “change of heart” while languishing on death row (due to legal appeals) for twenty-four years. A children’s book penned in prison by Tookie seemed as good a reason as any for mercy in his case. The reason why Tookie was on death row appeared immaterial in the face of the insurmountable evidence of his changed life.
In actuality, Williams was convicted in 1981 for brutally murdering the owner of a 7-11 store in Whitter, California, along with a family of three, using a shotgun during a robbery. Witnesses testified at trial that after the murders Tookie gleefully bragged about how one of the victim’s begged for mercy before being shot to death. Here is one nauseating example of how media bias from the Los Angeles Times, attempted to sway its readership to oppose the death penalty in California:
Meanwhile, second-prong grassroots pacifists continue to attack the State and the pharmaceutical companies (who provide the lethal doses for State executions) by aggressively engaging in boycott and harassment campaigns. This battle tactic has effectively shut off the lethal-injection suppliers from State prisons where executions are carried out by the rule of law. Now a number of states have refused to reveal the sources of their lethal-injection drugs, and lawyers have been appealing those refusals to the courts ad nauseum.
I label this two-pronged pacifist approach to capital punishment “a badly bent fork” because it deviates from common sense and subverts decency under the guise of compassion and forthrightness. In watching the antics of the anti-death penalty crowd over the past several decades I have come to the conclusion that this contrarian movement (while genuinely passionate in the cause it espouses) is insidiously evil. Not only do its participants call “evil” good (as in the case of Tookie Williams), but they also call “good” evil. This perversion in reasoning not only tolerates evil, it expressly condones it. And so the camera subtly shifts ever so lovingly from the faces of the dead victims and their grieving families, to the tearful images of heartless murderers whose only crime is wanting to live. Such a manipulation of facts is evil as well.
According to anti-death penalty advocates, the State is evil for killing humans under any circumstances. Such an advocacy begs the question of whether or not the State has the right to maintain peace and order in a civilized society. For, as has been witnessed in the past, vigilantes continue to rise up and take the law into their own hands wherever and whenever lawlessness reigns. If there is no State to enforce the rule of law, there is no law. In the case of capital punishment, anti-death penalty advocates ask the rest of us, as reasonable people, to lay aside our humanity and be merciful to evil. In their minds all killing is evil. But the law recognizes that some killing is not evil at all, in fact some killing is entirely just and justifiable.
And I know there are people of faith who believe the death penalty is evil. Many erroneously interpret the Sixth Commandment of the Old Testament Law, which reads, “You shall not murder,” and twist it by stating the commandment is “You shall not kill.” Others forget that our American system of justice mirrors biblical teachings, which include execution for certain crimes. The point I make here, is that for the ordinary citizen, a higher authority must exist in order for law and order to exist in society. Submission to that authority was a principle Jesus adhered to, even at the cost of his own execution. And the inclusion of State execution, in order to establish a reckoning for certain evils, was God’s idea long before mankind codified it.
We all must be careful to protect the innocence of our fellow citizens. That is why the American system of justice goes to great lengths to establish guilt or innocence. There are checks and balances, rules of evidence, an appeal process. However, our system was never designed to protect, tolerate, or condone evil. To do so only promotes unrest and lawlessness and the eventual downward spiral and collapse of justice in America.
May the LORD keep you safe. May justice be served. And may good always triumph over evil.
(copyright 2014, Gregory Allen Doyle)