A Longshot

Since we’ve dealt with the death penalty a little bit today and wrung our hands over the need to balance the scales – well at least I wrung my hands over it some – it seems only fair to take note of this simultaneously appearing story, also from today. 

Web synchronicity, doncha know.

And of course I think it’s worthwhile to look at the picture:


So it’s fair to ask the question.  Let’s assume that he did it, that he killed the 11 and 7 year old white girls.  I mean it’s a big assumption, conviction or no, but let’s run with it.

Does it seem sensible, or even sane, to speak about killing him as achieving some sort of “balance” of some kind of “scale”? 

Like I said in the last post, I can think about the scales and the crimes and about balancing it all out pretty well, and fit it neatly together in my mind where justice is done perfectly.  In the abstract.

But this is not so abstract.  And it’s only a photo.  Imagine the impact of meeting him personally, shaking his hand or listening to him talk.  Or breathe.  Knowing that you’ve decided that the right thing to do is to snuff all that out.

And of course the fact that it’s a 14 year old boy makes a difference emotionally, but how much difference should it make rationally?  The age of reason used to be fixed at about 7.  Historically, 14 year olds were regarded as well past the age of reason and often punished just like adults.

But, you know, it just seems wrong.  And age – at least once you’re past the age of reason – is a difference of degree, but not of kind. 

And since it’s life and death we’re talking about we ought to make principled distinctions before we go down that road, and difference in degree doesn’t cut it.

Finally, there’s this:

Experts say it is a longshot. South Carolina law has a high bar to grant new trials. Also, the legal system in the state before segregation often found defendants guilty with evidence that would be considered scant today. If Mullen [the judge – ed.] finds in favor of Stinney, it could open the door for hundreds of other appeals.

Yes, it’s a “high bar to grant new trials”, and not just in South Carolina.  And I’m sure the legal system “before segregation” (sic) often found defendants guilty with “scant” evidence, because it often does that “after segregation” – that is, today – as well.  The implication to the contrary is fatuous, and is a very good example of the poor quality of journalism with respect to legal matters that Ken at Popehat has been recently lamenting.

And a “floodgates” argument?  Meh.

Just thought I’d make those other points.  This is really a post about the death penalty, but I didn’t want people to think I was obsessed with death penalty abolition.  Like Gamso is.


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Filed under Media incompetence/bias, wrongful convictions

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