The Death Penalty Is Not Hypocrisy, It's Justice

by Devin Nassar-Reis about a year ago in opinion

If an individual takes a life, theirs deserves to be taken.

The idea of punishment by death in cases of murder is not one of the newest forms of criminal justice. In fact, lawmakers have been sentencing people to death since the early 19th century B.C.E. in ancient Babylon, now modern-day Iraq. Death as a form of penalization for murder was even featured in the Code of Hammurabi, which is regarded as the first set of formal laws. Many other civilizations followed a suit, and many modern countries still use execution as punishment for capital crimes. Capital punishment is one of the most divisive topics, if anything. While a majority of individuals view it as justice, just as many view it as murder. Opponents of punishment by death also argue that the concept lowers the value of human life. That argument couldn't be further from the truth. In a video for PragerU, Dennis Prager states, "Of course, putting the murderer to death doesn't bring back their loved one, but it sure does provide some sense of justice" (PragerU, "Is The Death Penalty Ever Moral?", Dennis Prager, August 7, 2017). The death penalty is not hypocritical. The death penalty is just and fair. Just ask Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor who put Charles Manson behind bars.

Even though Charles Manson didn't lift a finger, the state of California wanted him dead.

The summer of 1969 was considered “the summer of love” all over the nation. Woodstock was in full swing in upstate New York. Protests against the Vietnam War were spreading like wildfire. All in the name of peace and love. One area of southern California was feeling the shock of one of the most prolific cases in the history of the United States, the infamous Manson Family murders. The entire country was left in both shock and fear at the horrific deaths of actress Sharon Tate Polanski and a handful of her friends, as well as grocery store owners Rosemary and Leno LaBianca. According to the Charles Manson vs. State of California transcript, released by Justia Law, these are portions of the opening statements that were given to the jury by head prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi in the summer of 1970:

“Mr. Stovitz and I, representing the prosecution, that is, the People of the State of California, expect to offer evidence in this case proving that on or before August 9, 1969, defendants Charles Manson, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel, together with Charles Watson, who is presently in Texas, entered into a conspiracy to commit murder. Whether or not a fifth person, Linda Kasabian, was a member of the conspiracy, will probably be up to you folks to decide. Pursuit to the aforementioned conspiracy to commit murder, in the early morning hours of August 9, 1969, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Charles Watson, murdered five human beings at the Roman Polanski residence, a secluded home at the top of a long, winding, driveway, located at 10050 Cielo Drive, Los Angeles.”
“As I’ve indicated, the Tate murders took place in the early morning hours of August 9, 1969. Later that same day, in the late evening of August 9, 1969, another defendant, defendant Leslie Van Houten, joined the continuing conspiracy to commit murder. Pursuant to that conspiracy, in the early morning hours of August 10, 1969, these defendants murdered Leno and Rosemary LaBianca at their residence located at 3301 Waverly Drive, in the Los Feliz, Griffith Park, area of Los Angeles.”
“What kind of diabolical, satanic mind would contemplate or conceive of these mass murders? What kind of mind would want to have 7 human beings brutally murdered?”
“We expect the evidence that to show that defendant Charles Manson owned that diabolical mind. Charles Manson, who, the evidence will show, at times has the infinite humility, if you will, to call himself Jesus Christ.” (Source: "People v. Manson", June 1970, California Court of Appeals, California State Law, US Law, Justia Law Database, Transcript)

The prosecutor was a firm believer in capital punishment, as he had publicly stated that he felt that like-minded individuals “do not deserve to live.” When someone takes the life of an innocent individual without a motive, other than to satisfy their sick and twisted desires, the families of the victims live in fear knowing that the killer of their son or daughter is still breathing. The victim’s parents deserve to have closure knowing that the killer of their child is dead and can no longer kill anyone else. As well as closure for the victims’ families, everyone’s tax dollars keep them alive. $49 billion in taxes alone keep monsters like Charles Manson breathing; even though he is dead, taxpayers in California paid for his medical care and other expenses, just so he was able live and breathe. Murderers do not deserve to live on the same planet and breathe the same air as the individuals they killed. Human life cannot be compensated for with money. The only true compensation that can be given is that taxpayers are no longer paying for them to live, closure for the parents of victims, and knowing that the killer has met their fate. Knowing a killer on a personal level doesn't just trigger emotions. It can permanently scar someone.

Two close friends of mine and their families knew two of the most infamous killers. Here are their thoughts.

Karen is like any other young lady her age. She likes going to the mall, plays video games, talks on the phone with friends for hours, posts selfies on Instagram, and gets good grades in school. She seems just like any girl her age, but she has a dark secret. Karen personally knew Marjorie Stonemann Douglas High School mass-shooter Nikolas Cruz. Although she doesn't like to talk about it, she sure had a lot to say. "He went to my school." She stated, "He liked me, but I was always kind of weirded out by him. He just made my skin crawl." She went on to say, "It's scary enough that a mass shooting happens literally five minutes from your house, but it's even scarier when you knew the person who did it on a personal level. He used to joke about killing people and talk about guns the way most boys his age talked about video games or girls they had crushes on. Even though nobody took him seriously and thought he was full of it, I knew he would end up acting on what he said eventually," Karen stated. "All I could do was just hold my daughter as she cried in front of the TV. I felt the same way she did. When your child knew someone so evil, so vile, all you can do is just hold them and tell them it's going to be okay. As a mother, that was all I could do in that moment," her mother, Maria added. According to The Sun Sentinel, Cruz "pled not guilty by reason of insanity," but that couldn't be further from the truth. (Source: The Sun Sentinel, "Odds Are Against Nikolas Cruz Insanity Defense," Paula McMahon, August 10, 2018) Maria went on to call Cruz's failed insanity plea, "the biggest insult to victims' families."

"There is no compensation for human life. You can't bring someone back to life. If you kill someone, you don't deserve your own life," Maria added. Her daughter couldn't agree more. When asked about Cruz's failed attempt to plea insanity, Karen replied, "If he maintains insanity, he's lying. Saying that he heard demons is a lie. Charles Manson said he was insane and he lied about that. Nikolas Cruz is not insane. He epitomizes evil. Even though they're both vile and evil, the only other thing they have in common is that they deserve to die, period."

Christa seems similar to any lady her age. She's very hardworking and fun-loving at the same time. Like Karen, Christa has a secret that's both dark and insane at the time. Charleston Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooter Dylann S. Roof not only lived down the street from her parents and siblings in South Carolina, but was a regular customer in her father's hunting and fishing supply store. "He used to come in every single day. My dad really didn't think anything of it. Nobody did," she added. Her younger brother, Jonathan, and husband, Jay, also had a few things to say. Jonathan stated,"We're from a town where everyone knows each other. Amber Roof went to my school and we used to hang out quite often, just like any other teenagers. Even though she and I were friends, he just weirded me out. He'd come in every day and I thought it was odd that he wouldn't buy anything. It was always when I was in. For a while, I just kind of ignored it, but I couldn't any longer. I'd go in the back room or just look for something to do around the store. He made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. He'd freak out when he would hear my car pull up, but I thought it was just him being a protective older brother. Here in South Carolina, it's normal for parents to pose with shotguns in prom pictures and jokingly threaten to shoot their sons' or daughters' prom dates. My sister and my mom posed with shotguns in pictures with all our families. But still. He creeped me out," he added. "Nobody knew that he was so evil and disturbed. Everybody knows each other, so your neighbor is kind of like a relative. Nobody knew about the real version of who he was," Jay said. According to The New York Times, he was sentenced to death; the decision was made "in three hours" ( The New York Times, "Dylann Roof Is Sentenced To Death In Charleston Massacre," Alan Blinder and Kevin Sack, January 10, 2017) Through Jonathan, I was informed that Dylann Roof's execution date was originally set for 2020, but that can be subject to change. Christa's, Jay's and Jonathan's opinions on capital punishment were pretty unanimous.

"When your sisters think you should die and flat-out refuse to defend you, you don't deserve to live. He deserves to die, period. Death is the only moral atonement for his actions," Christa stated.

"My parents' taxes shouldn't be keeping him alive, nor should anybody's. His death will be a favor to everyone in the state of South Carolina," Jonathan said. Jay's thoughts were right up there with his wife's and her brother's, but he was more direct with his approach to capital punishment.

"Even though I feel sorry for his sisters, I have zero sympathy for him. His complete lack of remorse is enough to have him put to death, that's for sure. Ted Bundy and Andrew Cunahan were executed right away in Florida. He shouldn't be alive for ten years minimum. Two final years minimum is more than enough. He needs to do us all a favor and drop dead because he doesn't deserve to live. If you take a life, yours deserves to be taken," Jay added. Knowing a killer on a personal level can both trigger negative emotions and scar anyone for life. Whether you know a killer or not, the thought of having been in the same vicinity as a monster is frightening enough. Just ask my mother and sister. (Source: Personal interviews with friends. I was unable to speak to Amber Roof directly, but speaking to someone who knows her personally was sufficient. Anyone mentioned directly has had their name changed to protect their privacy.)

My mother's grandparents knew Rosemary and Leno LaBianca. My sister attended Boston University alongside Boston Marathon Bombing mastermind Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Although their opinions on the death penalty starkly contrast, their input was valid.

My sister, Julia, is the woman every mother wants her daughter to be like. She graduated with honors from a world-renowned university and holds down a great job. She even played on and all-boys basketball team as a kid. Although everything seems bright and shiny from the outside, not everything is perfect for her. Julia attended Boston University alongside the mastermind behind the Boston Marathon Bombing, Chechen radicalist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Although the two never really crossed paths, let alone made contact with each other, hearing about the terrorist attack still triggered a variety of emotions for her. "It was really sad, and just horrible. Even though I didn't worry about potential contact, it was still pretty scary. I was more sad for the victims and their families," she said. Like Timothy McVeigh, he was sentenced to the death penalty for the attack. Unlike most people, she doesn't believe that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be punished with death. She also believes that deporting Tsarnaev back to Chechnya wouldn't have done much of anything to prevent the attack, as the semi-autonomous region is already a hotbed for state-sponsored terrorism; according to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the Chechen government has knowingly and willingly sponsored up to 11 acts of domestic and foreign terrorism since 1999, possibly more. The Boston Marathon Bombing was the most recent. (Source: Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Chechen Terrorism, 2018) Julia stated, "A lot of people say that the attack could have been prevented if the Tsarnaevs were deported. That wouldn't have done anything. It was right to keep and punish them in the United States. Unlike what most people think, supporting trials will actually be harder on taxpayers. Killing either of them won't do anything. Two wrongs don't make a right." Julia's opinion is not uncommon; her argument is actually very valid. Although two wrongs don't make a right, victims' families deserve closure.

Amelia, my mother, seems like any mother. She wants her children to be successful at what they do. Like the individuals I spoke with, Amelia has a connection to one of the most infamous cases in history. Her grandparents were friends with Rosemary and Leno LaBianca, two of Charles Manson's victims. "My grandmother was just beside herself," she said. "I was afraid to go to sleep at night," she added. My mother was seven-years-old at the time. To hear about something so traumatizing as a child leaves permanent scars. "Charles Manson was a genius, but he used it for evil. He used his intelligence to prey on the weak," she went on to say. With an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of 145, Manson's intelligence was in the "near-genius" category, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). (Source: Intelligent Intelligence Testing, Etienne Benson, February 2003) Did his intelligence play a significant role in Manson's killing spree? By all means, yes. "He told people what they wanted to hear. That's how he was able to get his followers to kill for him. His strategy was, 'Prey on the weak, tell them what they want to hear, and have them do my dirty work for me.' Easy as that," Amelia added. Unsurprising to my mother, Charles Manson had been watched by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for years. (Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), FBI Records, 2019, FBI Records-The Vault, Charles Manson) Unlike my sister, my mother is a supporter of capital punishment. "I didn't believe that people who did that deserve to live. I still feel the same way," she stated. "Most people blame the FBI. Is it the FBI's fault? No. The FBI did their job and waited for him to mess up. The only person whose fault it will ever be is Charles Manson's. He knew what he was doing, and he was well aware of how evil he was. He wasn't insane at all. He just wanted to save himself, and it failed," she added. My mother went on to say, "The victims' loved ones aren't gonna get their families, but there should have been true justice a long time ago. The state of California should not have abolished the death penalty. Charles Manson was the most human form of evil. He deserved to die." Although my sister and mother agree on most controversial topics, the death penalty isn't one. Both sides make their points quite clearly. In all honesty, capital punishment was justified in both cases. Dzhokar Tsarnaev and Charles Manson deserved a fate of death. Punishment by death is just and fair.

In conclusion, punishment by death is not hypocritical, but fair and moral. Capital punishment is not new. The Code of Hammurabi, the oldest set of laws in the world, states that murderers should be punished with death, which is justified. The death penalty for murder has been viewed as just since the dawn of civilization in the Fertile Crescent. Penalization by execution will never be viewed as hypocritical in the eyes of the law. Punishment by death is just both legally and morally. The death penalty is proof that Lady Justice doesn't always wear a blindfold. There is justice in this world.

Devin Nassar-Reis
Devin Nassar-Reis
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