Thursday, May 04, 2006

Moussaoui's Fitting End? 

Moussaoui, the crackpot terrorist wanna-be who somehow failed at killing himself, once again failed to secure his own demise, being sentenced to 6 life sentences without chance of parole. The trial proceedings had devolved, a la Saddam's kangaroo court, into a serious of ranting Moussaoui diatribes, as he tried desperately to secure a delayed rendezvous with his forty anxious virgins. It was Judge Leonie Binkema who had the last word, and the last laugh, when she triumphantly and forcefully delivered his sentence:
"Mr. Moussaoui, when this proceeding is over, everyone else in this room will leave to see the sun ... hear the birds ... and they can associate with whomever they want," she said. "You will spend the rest of your life in a supermax prison. It's absolutely clear who won."

She said it was only fitting that he will be kept away from outsiders.

"Mr. Moussaoui, you came here to be a martyr in a great big bang of glory," she said, "but to paraphrase the poet T.S. Eliot, instead you will die with a whimper."

At that point, Moussaoui tried again to interrupt her, but she spoke even louder over him.

"You will never get a chance to speak again and that's an appropriate ending," she added.

Despite the fitting rebuke, I still have to wonder if Justice has been served. Now, of course, my tax dollars will continue to keep this man alive for as long as he can survive maximum security prison (I'm sure even solitary has its share of misguided patriots with hidden shanks). The sad truth, however, is that even if he were sentenced to death, my tax dollars would still be paying to keep him alive for the next decade and a half, as we waited out an absurd number of mandatory appeals, technicalities, delays and possible reprieves. Someone so clearly guilty, if not as clear an embodiment of pure malice and hatred for our very way of life as has come before our system of justice since the DC Sniper, will be forever shut off from society, true, but will he be removed from it? He himself, in the last of his witness stand homilies, declared "America, you lost. I won."

The real injustice is a system of punishment that has lost touch with its purpose as a both penal and reparative system, rather than a social experiment and breeding ground for legal technicality and liberal pet causes. The death penalty, in the end, is no different from a life sentence, when it takes two decades and 2 million dollars to carry out. At some point, the deterrent is lost, the victim forgotten and the criminal faded, and a quiet protest is all that marks the passing of a man who once threatened a whole country. So in some sense, this sentence is perhaps more just, since it dispenses with the gentle process of fading from the limelight, and thrusts the isolation, although not the end, upon Moussaoui without the delay a death sentence would mercifully afford him. Moussaoui is wrong: America won today. But until we reform our criminal justice system, it remains the latest in a series of hollow victories.

Great post. Nice to see you back on the blog.
I dunno. Sometimes I wonder if there really is any justification to use the death penalty in the developed world. It's value as a deterrent is a big trade off for ending someone's life, and the idea of retribution doesn't seem right. I can see it if there's no other way to ensure a pathological criminal doesn't commit a crime again, but does that reality exist in the developed world? I dunno.
Anon., you leave an interesting topic open for discussion, one which I didn't really touch on all that much in the content of the post. The nature and worth of the death penalty, I was attempting to argue, is irrelevant when it becomes so far removed from the timeframe of crime and conviction. At this point, it wouldn't have made much difference if he had been sentenced to death, whether or not he deserved it. That is where the real problem lies, in reforming a system so focused on the rights of the criminal that it begins to lose sight of the society it is meant to serve.

That, of course, is the argument for the death penalty in the first place. With the rise of the criminal justice doctrine that prescribes to reforming the criminal first and foremost, it is easy to forget that they weren't arrested to be psychologically corrected: they were arrested for violating the prescribed norms of our society and causing harm to themselves and others. This is the task they must answer for, and it is the task of the criminal justice system in America to see to it that they answer for it, and no longer pose a threat to society. The Death Penalty, then, should be carefully weighed for its gravity, but not dismissed out of hand, as it is not hard to envision criminals so beyond the scope of correction and change that they seem to embody pure evil, or at least a pure malice toward the society that contains them. What then, to do? Just some thoughts.
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