Friday, September 28, 2012

The Death Penalty Upsized

Nearly a week after Jill Meagher was reported missing, police arrested a man who led them to her body which was buried in a shallow grave 50km outside the city of Melbourne. Adrian Ernest Bayley has been charged with the rape and murder of the 29 year old Irish born ABC employee. Her family and friends are devastated, and the Australian community shocked and angry.

Talk of retribution naturally arises as people struggle to understand what drove a seemingly normal man to commit such a heinous crime against a beautiful and innocent woman. Details of this crime will follow in the days to come but the full story will not be known until Bayley's trial, and perhaps not even then. Inevitably the perennial discussion about capital punishment re enters public fora. There are those who want this rapist and murderer to be executed but is the death sentence a just punishment?

An eye for an eye sounds appealing as a fair punishment, and is the Bible verse most often quoted when it comes to the death penalty debate, but I don't believe that capital punishment, state sanctioned execution, is ever justified. The argument goes like this, "He took a person's life so he should have his life taken." What about a mass murderer? How many times should Martin Bryant, for example, be executed for murdering 35 people in the Port Arthur massacre? What punishment could atone for the loss of those lives, not to mention the ongoing trauma suffered by the 21 survivors, and all the friends and families of the victims? Adrian Bayley raped Jill Meagher before he murdered her, so should we rape him before strapping him down on the lethal injection table? Who would volunteer to be the state's official rapist? The victims of the disturbing Snowtown murders were tortured in extreme and unusual ways before they were killed. To be fair, shouldn't we do the same thing to the convicted murderers in this case? If so we need a state sanctioned murderer, rapist and torturer  Any volunteers? The money will probably be very good.

I understand the anger people feel, I feel it too, but we mustn't allow our actions to be dictated to by our emotions. Who wants to live in a society where life is so cheap? Where someone decides that someone else's life should be terminated? Where the punishment exactly fits the crime? Think about what a society that would be. Ultimate justice is in the hands of the only true and righteous judge, the perfect one, the God of Heaven. We may never see perfect justice in our life time but we may be sure of its reality.

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