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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Life is Beautiful, Let the Bastard Live

In the book of Isaiah, chapters 2 and 65, is described a world wherein peace prevails- no wars, no bloodshed, no violence. The lion shall lay down with the lamb, swords into plowshares and all that. It must be in the future, as I know of no point in history when this was the case, and it certainly isn't now. Presumably this better world will know no rape, murder, capital punishment, nor any aggrandizement of evil.

Paul Warner Powell is not a household name, at least not for households substantially outside of Prince William County, VA, and for this you should be thankful. Of all death row inmates, Powell is perhaps the least sympathetic character. Have you seen “The Green Mile?” Picture “Wild Bill.” There is no insanity or mental disability defense, nor any mitigating circumstance to reduce or remove culpability. Rather, his crimes represent the embodiment of unqualified evil. I won't glorify his actions any further by offering more detail than necessary, but for the record, what he was convicted of was raping and killing a 16-year old girl, and raping and attempting to kill her 14-year old sister, severely injuring her in the process.

Although appalling on the human side, his case is interesting from the legal perspective. He was initially convicted of the crimes, but the verdict was overturned by the VA Supreme Court. Following this, he wrote a profane, taunting letter to the Commonwealth attorney who initially prosecuted him, in which he basically admitted his guilt for the crimes, believing that his “double jeopardy” rights would protect him from further action. He was wrong; this time the trial went a little better for the people of VA, and he has been awaiting his appointment with “Ol' Sparky” ever since. If things go as planned, this appointment will occur at 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, 18 March. Happy belated St. Patrick's Day!

Like most death row inmates, Powell has applied for clemency from VA Governor Bob McDonnell, who, incidentally, argued for the people of VA during Powell's appeal process. Right now I'm thinking of a letter he wishes he hadn't sent. Although there is still time to change his mind, McDonnell, not surprisingly, has indicated that he does not intend to intervene. Meanwhile, Powell's legal team has been seeking some sort of injunction to move the clemency decision to another authority, citing conflict of interest on the part of the Governor. As for the likelihood of this happening, let's just say I hope Powell paid them in advance. But also, I hope they do fail. But Bruck, I thought you said you wanted him to live! I do, but not on a legal technicality.

Those of you who know me personally or have followed my rantings know that I am adamantly pro-life. I believe that there are just about zero excuses for killing another human, and revenge, punishment, closure, convenience, poverty, and population control are not among them. About the only circumstance in which I favor execution is where a convicted murderer shows a credible threat and propensity to keep killing. An example of this would be Ted Bundy. A counterexample would be Timothy McVeigh. I don't believe Powell rises to this level; in fact, I believe his fellow inmates would be a bigger threat to him.

I would like to clarify a couple of things: (1) I don't support commutation or parole for Powell. In fact, “breakin' rocks in the hot sun” for a few decades would be appropriate IMHO. In any case, he can't ever be free again. (2) I fully support and agree with the verdict and sentence handed down by judge and jury – Powell certainly earned execution.

So Bruck, why do you want the Governor to grant clemency? Well, if you think about it, and if you haven't, I suggest you do so now... okay, done? Mercy is the only productive response to evil. Love is the only way to quench hatred. Returning evil for evil is at best a stop-gap solution, applicable only to desperate, immediate circumstances, and even in such cases, who really wins? Evil begets evil. Where does it end?

In our society, there are very few actual opportunities to show mercy, legally, ethically, and practically. I'm not going to recommend self-destructive behavior, nor any substantial increase in risk or sacrifice on the part of myself or my neighbors. But we have before us just such an opportunity. And what would happen were we to capitalize on it? A life would be preserved, and with it a chance for redemption. I know this seems unlikely, but things could, and probably would, change over the next 20 or 30 years to allow just such a thing. OTOH, if events proceed as planned, another life will be ended, and, as indicated by Powell's lack of convincing remorse, the population of Hell is almost certain to increase by one.

Supposedly the execution will bring about closure for Powell's victims' family. To be sure, I doubt that any of us can imagine the trauma that the victims' family, and particularly the girl who survived, has experienced, and will undoubtedly continue to suffer. Certainly I can't put myself in their shoes, nor do I presume to influence their perspective. I'm just sayin'... I doubt that a dead perp vs. prison for life will make them feel any better.

So... to summarize, we have an opportunity to break one link in the chain of evil by showing mercy where none is deserved or expected, and in doing so, at least one person maintains the opportunity for redemption. Therefore my message to the Governor is:

Let the bastard live!

1 Comments:

  • At 9:37 PM, Blogger plf5403 said…

    http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=exodus+21:22-21:27&version=nrsvae

    Love thy enemy as thyself, but let justice reign.

     

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