Friday, March 27, 2015

Justice vs. Vengeance

If you or a loved one has ever been a victim of violence, you are probably already aware that our “justice” system is anything but just. You may have even given some thought to retaliation. Vigilantism, after all, just might be the most exacting (just) form of revenge and possibly the most appropriate response to some of the more heinous crimes committed against ourselves and our loved ones.

Capital punishment has been a controversial subject since before the term, “capital punishment,” was created. Saved for such offenses as murder, rape, theft, espionage, and a host of other crimes, proponents for capital punishment consider it to be the best consequence for the perpetrator. 

However, isn’t capital punishment similar to public stoning or lynching? What’s the difference between throwing a stone and flipping a switch? And with the discovery of DNA’s accuracy in identifying perpetrators, many “criminals,” previously unjustly accused, were sent to death row or worse – executed. How many deceased criminals were wrongly executed? The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, “estimate that if all death-sentenced defendants remained under sentence of death indefinitely at least 4.1% would be exonerated. We conclude that this is a conservative estimate of the proportion of false conviction among death sentences in the United States.”

Maybe family members of victims should decide the punishment, but aren’t families of victims more likely to react emotionally when making their decisions? Before DNA evidence, we depended on blood type and finger prints and we executed prisoners based on that archaic system of “reliable evidence.” Today DNA proves that the blood or body fluids belong to the perpetrator, usually with 99% accuracy, but are we convinced that the evidence wasn’t planted? Even if you don’t watch many crime shows, you know that convictions have taken placed based on evidence that was either wrongly handled or completely fabricated.

And what about future scientific evidence? We don’t even know yet what might prove or disprove crimes in the future. Supposed your child was raped and murdered by a convicted felon who had just been released from prison and that you were given the ability to impose your own punishment. You decide to sentence the perpetrator to death.

Twenty years later, evidence surfaces to prove that the person you sent to death row was not involved in your child’s rape and murder at all. Furthermore, he was proven to not have any involvement in the previous crime for which he had been incarcerated. Without anyone’s knowledge, except for the person who bamboozled him, the man who was sentenced to death, the man who owned his own business, the man who hired his killer, with no knowledge whatsoever about the deranged psychopath’s propensities, decided to give the poor man a chance, but then was set up by this disgruntled employee who sought revenge due to reasons no sane person would ever understand – the employer forgot to refresh a new hand sanitizer dispenser. How would you feel if you discovered that you put the wrong person to death?

Incarceration is costly and our court systems are sending people to prison who have committed crimes that don’t deserve death sentences or even life sentences, while criminals who commit worse crimes run free because either they have money or they have connections.

Until and unless we know with certainty about a crime that has taken place, we should reserve justice for the final bow and let Karma take over. 

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