Tuesday--June 25, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 286
Who's In Charge Of Death?
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
ZERO, New York City, June 25--The Supreme Court flipped to the other
side of death's coin yesterday. It took the decision of who is going
to die out of the judge's hands and put it back in the jury's.
The problem is that a
dozen years ago the Supreme Court upheld the right of judges to be the
"final factor" in deciding whether a convicted criminal should be given a
life or death sentence. Now, that's changed.
Juries hold the gun, not the judge.
Focus of the issue is who is in
charge of meting out a death sentence--the judge or the jury?
In Arizona, where the case originated, juries have no say in the
sentencing. It becomes the privilege of the judge to issue a life or
death sentence. Many other states provide an "advisory" system,
where juries recommend to the judge either life or death, and the judge
Arguments against juries
holding the power of life over death claimed that some juries were swayed
emotionally from issuing a death sentence, whereas a judge was more immune
to letting his "feelings" decide the ultimate verdict.
Opponents chastised judges for
being inured by their job to the coldness of making decisions such as a
death penalty, and may, in the absence of any emotional concerns, look
purely at the black-and-white letter of the law. Another
argument against judges holding the "noose of death" in their hands was
political. Judges seeking reelection were sometimes prone to
issue a death sentence so they would not be considered "soft on crime,"
the argument goes.
Stephen Bright of the Southern Center for
Human Rights collected statistics from Alabama showing that judges
overrode 83 cases where the jury had recommended life and ruled for the
death sentence. In only seven cases, he reports, did the
judges switch from death to life sentences.
As of April 1, 2002, Death Row
USA, which monitors those
given the ultimate sentence, reports there are 3,701 people awaiting death
in the 40 United States jurisdictions that provide the death penalty as
punishment. Ninety-eight percent are male and nearly half are
white and half black, 45.3% and 43% respectively.
What I find of concern in the
Supreme Court's decision is the flip-flopping between who is ultimately
responsible for another's death--the public or the government?
Under the decision
above, ultimately a jury should decide the fate of Osama bin Laden, not a
military tribunal, or a judge.
The ultimate act of
Terrorism is holding the gun in your hand and deciding who lives and who
dies. Some might consider this the ultimate act of Vigilance.
I find it interesting
that the U.S. government, via the Supreme Court, has put the
responsibility for "killing" back upon the people. It is a
moral hot potato for sure, but ultimately, if we follow the formula for
Vigilance--Courage Minus Fear, Plus, Conviction Minus Intimidation, Plus,
Right Action Minus Complacency--we end up at a destination where our
children judge us, and their children's children judge us.
The Vigilance Formula includes in its
last quotient the element of Right Action. Right Action is not
a moral decision made by peers to be judged by peers. Were
that the case, all Right Action would be those actions most expedient at
the time they were made, and would be vulnerable to pressures of the
times. Lopping off bin Laden's head and sending it around to schools
throughout America might seem a fine idea to some seeking retaliation
against his heinous crimes, but perhaps two or three generations from now
its suggestion would repulse the most right of the right wing.
Right Action in the Vigilance Formula
is designed to remove us from the present in our decision making and
thrust us forward in time to our children's children's children
generation. What is right for them?
This kind of decision making is
difficult for most of us to comprehend, let alone make. Yet if
we look at all decisions a society makes, the only ones that really count
are those that protect and insure the safety of our children far out into
the future. Decisions founded on political, social, economic,
religious or righteous convictions, excluding all children in their
chemistry, are just selfish decisions that fit the moment.
The Supreme Court just made one of
those selfish decisions. It turned the "killing of others"
over to the people. A dozen years ago it took it out of their
The same is true regarding abortion.
Prior to the decision that a woman could "kill" her child because it was
"her body" and "her choice," society stepped in to protect an unborn child
from the indiscriminate Terrorism by his or her parent.
This was not a Vigilant decision.
It did not consider what was right for the children's children's children.
Few mothers who underwent abortions by choice would brag to their future
children, "you'd have a brother or sister, but I killed him or her because
I didn't want it."
The Death Penalty issue is another
similar issue. A parent now who sits on a jury must decide the
life or death of a person--must vote to end his or her life, or, against
such a penalty. Since juries are charged with the responsibility to
render a verdict based on the law, and not on their emotions or feelings,
there can be no Right Action in deciding the death of another.
If the question can't be raised in the Jury Room, "Will this person's
death help or hinder the future generation of our children, and their
children's children's children," then all the Supreme Court has done is
ducked the real issue--Vigilance. It has acted again in a
Complacent manner, putting the responsibility for Terrorism on the
shoulders of the people.
Personally, I think laws that
allow the killing of others are wrong. I don't think the
children of either today or future generations glean any evolution of the
human spirit by witnessing society killing either unborn babies or persons
convicted of crimes--however ugly and horrible those crimes might be.
And I'm speaking as a "killer," not a
dove. I was trained to kill. I killed.
As a U.S. Marine, I was even paid to kill. And, in Vietnam,
there was no reservation about killing women and children, old and
young--anything that moved in what was called a "free fire zone."
I've also witnessed executions. I've
seen a Korean soldier with the Blue Dragon Division accused of rape.
The trial was held in the middle of the camp. The Vietnamese girl
bore witness against the soldier in front of all the other troops.
The commander rendered his verdict on the spot. The soldier was put
on the bed of a truck and the commander blew out his brains.
It was all about discipline. The Korean Marines wanted their
people to know if you did the crime, you did the time--eternal time.
What I have become is not soft, but firm in
my beliefs. I believe that unless one can justify to the future
generations of children the acts we take today, that such acts which are
not justifiable are illegal and immoral acts.
Terrorism is not just about bin
Laden's attacking America. It is about America attacking itself.
When we allow the killing of others--whether on death row or by sucking
out an embryo, we tell our children and their children's children that
"killing" is justified--that Terrorism is justified.
There are as many people on death row as
were killed on September 11, 2001. While we offer sorrow for the
dead at Ground Zero, we turn our heads and shield our eyes to those we
have condemned. We teach our children there is a line between
the human and inhuman, and those who stand on inhuman side can be killed.
Annually over 1.5 million babies are killed
through abortion. We do not grieve nationally at the loss of
our most important asset, a loss 150 times greater than what occurred on
Terrorism often takes the shape of
ignorance and neglect. Or, as the Supreme Court has
When you think of Death Row, or Abortion,
think of Right Action. What do we tell our children's
And when Osama bin Laden's head comes to
your kid's school, are you going to be there cheering or jeering?
To June 24--Outhouse Terrorism
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