Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Dateline: April 12, 2008 Location: Deep inside a prison cell in Florida

Do you think the title, "Communiques From a Dead Man,' is too morbid for a blog? Or does it fit? If you read the first one, April 5th, you'll probably understand my thinking process, but since this isn't meant to be "Aunt Delilah's Southern Cooking Recipe Blog," perhaps you'll indulge my quest for the dramatic.

Which is worse, life or death? I admire the Abe Bonowitz anti-death penalty folks who go to the executions with their signs and tirelessly lobby to abolish capital punishment, but when you are serving "life in prison," you develop a different mindset.

What was that Oklahoma City bomber's name? Timothy McVeigh. A real idiot. 167 counts of premeditated murder. It would be hard to find a better poster boy for the death penalty, hanging, firing squad, electrocution, stoning, whatever your cultural choice. But there was another argument against giving McVeigh the death penalty - it was too good for him. Why should he enjoy a quick death and release from his punishment when we could put him in a concrete cell, never to get out, to grow old and sick and decrepit, to be alone with his conscience, to reflect on his crimes, to eat prison food forever, or until he dries up and dies, an empty husk of a man. That would be a far worse punishment than a quick, painless death.

Those people are right. I've known a lot of men who have served twenty, thirty, forty years and more - some are still serving time with little hope of getting out. Most of those men have been dead for years - they just keep walking around, eating, sleeping, existing, turning inward. After a time, in many cases, it would be better for society if they didn't get out, but according to statistics, 98% will one day.

So many people have been wrongfully prosecuted and convicted and later cleared, thanks mostly to DNA tests, that the anti-death penalty advocates' point is clear - it is a great societal wrong to kill an innocent man, so keep them alive just in case. As for me, I believe it is a grave societal wrong to keep an innocent man in prison for life, present company included. What do you think?

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