I am personally against the death penalty. I am not a libertarian because I believe in a welfare state for people who fall on hard times, myself having once fallen on a hard time, but I do believe that the long arm of the law should be far shorter than it is.
Recently in Oklahoma there was a “botched” execution of a man named Clayton D. Lockett. Lockett was just about as disgusting a human as one could possibly be. Reprehensibly, he raped at least two women and separately participated in a gang rape, murdered his victim, and advised his co-conspirators to bury one of his victims alive. The intense hatred he showed for fellow human beings is disturbing and clearly he should be completely removed from society.
When faced with such evil, it is tempting to wish the absolute worst on those who commit such acts. It is desirable for some to justify, for example, that pedophiles be raped in prison as to experience the degradation and humiliation they inflicted on innocent children whose lives will forever be altered as the result of the ugliness done to them. It is tempting to be hateful toward those who commit atrocities against fellow human beings. But when examining the id behind these attitudes, I believe we must move a step forward beyond the base actions of these disturbed individuals.
To meet a violence with a violence does not necessarily render the initial violence justice. In some instances, it does. Self defense, for example, against violent attack is a justice as it seeks to neutralize initial harm. It could be argued that to render a past violence with another act of violence is just a crude act as the original violence. Though, there may be merit to using violence against individuals who have done bodily harm to others, in non-state capacities. That is to say, assaults in prison against those who have inflicted harm against innocent children may be morally soluble (I would not argue that rape should be used against any individual, even against pedophiles. Just simple prison curb-stomping is suitable) because the harm inflicted by simply being in prison may not be enough worldly justice to meet the harm done to those children. When delving into what true senses of “justice” are, sometimes the corners are not neatly folded and the pages neatly tucked. Sometimes the chaotic element is necessary.
However, I think the more important question should be, what kind of society are we when we murder murderers? Is there an offense for which we should allow the state to end the life of an individual? Treason is often argued as a valid use of lethal state power against an individual. I am on the fence about this, but willing to make an exception for my anti-death penalty holding because this would put an entire nation of people at risk. However, I would like to point out that our Founding Fathers were lucky the whole America thing worked out, because they were certainly British treasonists.
Back to Mr. Lockett, he did not die an easy death. From all accounts, the death cocktail used malfunctioned and he got fucked up as a result. Listening to NPR today, I learned that people have caught on fire from electric chair malfunctions, people have been decapitated in hangings, and overall I ended up feeling very squeamish during my car ride. Is this justice? The state sanctioned mutilation of prisoners? Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that states have been acquiring these drug cocktails through the black market, or even other countries. That is most definitely not justice; if you cannot show legitimately how something was acquired when using it during an act of state power, the state action is not legitimate and cannot be just.
Mr. Lockett should not have been able to live a good life after what he inflicted on his victims. This world should have shown him as much suffering as he could encounter. That is just. Whatever he would have ended up enduring in prison is just. However, the way he died only seems to make us, American society, look bad. Prisoners should be treated as human beings because even though they have trespassed against their fellow humans, a civilized society should be act in better ways than to equate justice with the very same actions the convicted perpetrated.
Mr. Lockett, may you have the rebirth you deserve.