Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Life and Death and what lies in between

Amidst all the controversy and widespread media coverage Stanley "Tookie" Williams was administered lethal injection at 12:01 am at San Quentin State prison and declared dead 34 minutes later. It never fails to shock me that we as civilized human beings still believe that we can set one wrong by perpetrating another wrong. We still have the death penalty and we believe that the judicial system is unfallible and can be trusted to mete out decisions of life and death. I am not here to judge whether Tookey Williams was innocent or guilty. It does not matter. Especially now. But the Williams who died tonight was not the man he was 24 years back when he was convicted. People may argue that remorse and apparent change of heart may not erase the wrongs that he did years back. I agree. However doesn't the judicial system determine punishment depending on whether the person is a threat to society as of now? Tookey had shown remorse while in prison by writing children's books about the dangers of gang violence. He felt the need to educate young impressionable youths about the things he believed had led him astray. And yet when it came to showing him the dignity of human life we failed.

I am not here to argue whether Tookie Williams should have been punished for the crimes he was convicted for (although he maintained his innocence right till the end). What outrages me is our desire to play God in deciding whether a man is deemed fit to live or die. If Williams is convicted and punished because of his action in taking away life, then what does it make the people who are taking the very same decision in deciding whether he should be allowed to live? Giving something a cloak of justice does not actually ensure that justice is met. Capital punishment is not the answer to seeking revenge in punishing a crime and I am proud of the fact that the death penalty is illegal in the European Union. The fact that the present Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger who hails from Austria was the person responsible for refusing clemency to Williams, has hit the Europeans hard and there has been widespread outrage and criticism of his human values.

And whether the judicial system is unfallible or not please watch the movie, The Life of David Gale, a brilliantly made hard-hitting masterpiece.

I am shocked. And I am disappointed.



Blogger Brown Magic said...

I agree.
State sanctioned murder is still murder. I don't want anyone to die because the society I am a member of, has decreed it so. Not in my name, bitches.

this is just vengeance and there is nothing just about that.

3:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey m !

thanks for visiting me !

i completely agree ! - its sad , very sad and negative indeed that things like this happen

I loved 'The Life of David Gale' and how beautifully they provided that justice is actually BLIND !

Makes you wonder really, if the government that WE voted in does any thinking at all !

5:04 PM  
Blogger NoviceProgrammer said...

Hi M,

Death penalty...for or against is a never ending discussion...atleast based on our current sensibilities.
I am not well aware of the case that you have talked abt...but (if you remember) cases like the one involving Graham Staines and his kids or the Dhananjoy Chatterjee case force me to rake my head to try and come up with valid arguments against the death penalty.
I m still glad that it doesnt happen as frequently in India as it does in the US...

10:37 PM  
Blogger greatbong said...

Well a lot of these lowlifes discover Jesus once they are in jail.(it helps a lot to show "remorse" in order to get the sentence commutted). Tookie-babu isnt the only one who has played this game.

Writing children's books, sprouting some sound bytes against the death penalty are all very nice (as also getting sympathetic chuk-chuks from people like Jamie Foxx) but what I cannot get over is how after he shot a guy with a shot gun, he laughed and mimicked the guy as he lay dying bleeding from his throat. This man is a sick, sad f*** ---always was always will be. Some things cannot be forgiven no matter how many crocodile tears be spilt.

Again I do not favour the death penalty only because for people like Williams, its too convenient (and heroic) an end.

10:42 PM  
Blogger Dipanjan Das said...

it's difficult to comment on this - because i agree with greatbong mostly. on the other hand 'the life of david gale' is one movie that hits one too hard. so unless the 'truth' is known, we're nobody to remark.

11:21 PM  
Blogger Wanderlust said...

hey,this article is truly thought provoking....death penalty is ofcourse of no good,it does not prove that the justice mete out is actually a just one...i totally agree, with regard to the fact that men often in the desire to act as powerful as god pass their own judgement,heedless to all ground of humanity.
i'll surely watch the movie you recommended and lthen let you know how i feel...for now don't be so upset n take care.

11:45 PM  
Blogger Priya said...

To be honest, M, if we read between the lines of your post title, that's where a lot of the debate really ensues from. Capital punishment or death penalty may not be "human" or justified always, but it is necessary in certain cases, I believe,like Arnab. Especially for criminals like paedophiles, rapists and the trigger-happy lot like Tookie. And if they remorsefully defend themselves as "mentally unfit", all the more reason they shouldn't be in society. However, a momentary lapse of reason, if recognised correctly, can be considered for pardon.

11:56 PM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ brown magic thanks for visiting and I totally agree with you.....murder is murder, no matter who metes it out.
@ true blue guy that movie hit me right where it was intended to. And more than justice itself I still fail to see where we are different when we punish someone for killing a person by doing the exact same thing.
@ siddharth I am not saying that heinous crimes like these should go unpunished or that we should forgive and forget everything. What I am trying to say is that for a person to be deprived his freedom, being behind bars and having a non-existential life is as good as putting him to death. If we are going to punish him by taking his life, then are we any different than the killer who takes a gun and decides who should live or die? I understand feelings like revenge and pain, but putting the power of deciding life and death in the hands of men is not the solution to stopping crime or meting out justice. It is just legalized killing.
@ great bong here we go again :)
Agreed that this man was no good and he deserved to die many times over for everything that he has done. Let me also believe for argument's sake that all his so called "remorse" and "do good" actions were for the sole purpose of getting sympathy and out of death row. Let's say he did actually commit every crime and never repented for leading the life that he did. What gives you or me the authority to decide that this guy should die to pay for all his action? The law you say? Someone should be responsible for setting the record straight and making sure these "low-lifes" are removed from our model society and not allowed to participate in more human like activities. Of course. And yes, I agree he had no right being part of a society which he failed to respect and uphold for the time that he lived in it. But a life imprisonment was not enough. Right? No we have to punish him the very same way that he punished innocent victims. And we did. May be we failed by a yard-stick because Tookie had it easy. Just a lethal injection that put him to sleep. We should have tortured him and let him die a slow painful death the way he killed his victims. That would have made it more even. Right? It is easy for you and me from the comforts of our cosy upbringing to condemn a man who is raised in the streets in the middle of crime and violence and pass judgement. And yes, I do not think we are any different than Tookie Williams when we decide whether he should live or die because we as a people think he is unfit to live amongst us. And yes I am disappointed in the human race as a whole....when we decide to go hunting and call it a sport because we think we can decide which animal should live and which should die; when the President comes out on Thanksgiving to pardon a turkey from the fateful butcher's knife; when we stand around a room and watch a man being put to death and then come back and find a million reasons to support that. Call me anything you want but I'd rather be a "human being" before I decide to be God.
@ dd Even if it were true justice would you agree that killing a man is the right way to punish him for doing exactly that-killing?
@ ashmi the one thing I agree on is death penalty is no good. Watch the movie. It is good.
@ priya capital punishment is "necessary" you say? And why or how? Is it going to stop anyone else from raping a young girl and slitting her throat and laugh while she lies bleeding? Is it going to stop anyone from kidnapping an innocent child and abusing him/ her? Is it going to stop anyone from pulling out his gun and going on a killing spree? Is it? We've had thousands of rapists and killers and sick maniacs put on trial. We've put people on death row and they've died because we thought that would put an end to all this mayhem. And has it actually stopped anyone from going out and doing the same thing? I think not. Open up the newspaper and you'll still read about rapes and child molestations and serial killers. So how is it a "necessary" measure to put a man to death for a crime that we are condemning in the first place? I just fail to see your reasoning.

9:46 AM  
Blogger satchisgod said...

Ah, another Dead Man Walking case? Dunno what to say. It takes a lot to take a man's life...eitherways.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

touche ! you are very thoughtful and insightful ! - you'd make a good lawyer if you aren't already one !

2:16 PM  
Blogger Rohan Kumar said...

I feel very strongly abt killing someone as a means of capital punishment too, oddly enough before I had reached the end of your post I was thinking abt recommending 'The life and times of David Gale' to you :)

3:11 PM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ biplab it surely does....I don't think I could ever fathom what can drive a person to the extreme end and kill someone. And then go rest in peace with himself.
@ true blue guy I really doubt if I'd make a lawyer, let alone a good one. For the most part I find it hard to put into words the emotions that run strong within. And arguing in favor of what I feel....it is usually a no win situation :) But thanks for even saying that....makes me feel like I could get across what I wanted to say, atleast this one time.
@ rohan great minds and the like :))

3:39 PM  
Blogger death said...

man is man's own death

9:49 PM  
Blogger Ron said...

I tend to agree with Greatbong. Having a so called change of heart while serving a sentence is fine, but that cannot excuse the hideous crimes he has committed in the past. I dont know too much about the case you have mentioned, but I do know about the Dhananjay Chatterjee case in Kolkata and the Graham Staines case. People who are capable of such inhuman (inhuman is too mild a word for their crimes) dont deserve humane treatment no matter how pious they become later in life.

When the Dhananjay Chatterjee case was at the centre of focus, every time there were discussions on whether he should be killed or not, the only thing I could think of was what that poor girl must have suffered in her last moments, what her family must have gone through, what they must be going through every day of their lives. Such a creature deserves no pity,it would be doing the victim's family a greater injustice by letting him off with anything less than a sentence of death.

8:11 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ death.....didn't quite get what you meant there :( I guess it was way too profound for me.
@ ron I understand what you are saying and I respect each person's opinion. However all I am saying is can one wrong undo another one? Did killing Chatterjee bring back the girl or lessen the pain and suffering of her family? Would that stop a second person from doing the same heinous crime? Yes, in our emotion we all would want revenge, but taking a person's life does not really solve the deeper problem. And I find it very hypocritical when we take someone's life simply because he took someone else's. And we call that justice. Well in ancient times maybe, an eye for an eye and all that jazz.....but in this age and time? you've really got to be kidding me!

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I realise that I'm commenting on a really old post but nevertheless. The thing is, in case of rape and paedophilia most convicted offenders when pardoned and let free have gone on to become repeat offenders and the justice system cannot keep them imprisoned forever in already overcrowded jails forever nor have they succeeded so far in rehabilitating them. I should know, having been a victim of molestation myself. And yes, my pain will be much lessened when my prepetrator is put to death and I will sleep in peace only the day that happens. So just like you point out that it is not easy to pass judgement on people who have grown up amidst poverty and crime and go on as a a result maybe to become a "Williams" similarly do not make assumptions on what would make a victim happy unless you, yourself have been subjected to a heinous crime. If you have and still feel the same, hats off to you.

1:31 PM  

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