Thursday, July 26, 2012

Does James Holmes Deserve the Death Penalty?

A scene from the makeshift memorial for victims of the massacre.

Last Friday, a deranged gunman killed twelve innocent people and injured countless others. Reporters have done an admirable job covering the cases' horrifying details, so I would like to instead talk about the next step: deciding whether or not James Holmes deserves the death penalty.

I mean, it's a worthwhile question to ask right? A man who has committed such an egregious crime must be punished with the utmost severity, correct? Or no?

You see, the death penalty is a complicated matter. In terms of its more simple definition, the death penalty represents merely the final step in justice. The solution to our greatest criminal problems.

Utilizing it should not be done without due cause, but there should be no hesitation once all the evidence has been made clear.

That is the argument you are likely to hear from those who support the death penalty.

For those against it, it's all a matter of principle. What does it say about a so called "civilized" society when we take a life in the same way as the criminals we are judging? Is it our place to determine whether or not someone lives or dies?

As you can see, this is a complicated matter. Both sides have merit, and both, I feel, have their applications.

James Holmes deserves the severest punishment possible under Colorado law for what he did; there is no question about it.

However, is it truly right to punish our criminals, even the worst ones, with an eye for an eye mentality? What does that say about us as a people?

My gut feeling is that James Holmes will get the death penalty, and I don't begrudge the victims for wanting that. I certainly have no pity for Mr. Holmes and hope he gets everything that is coming for him.

On a more existential level though, I wonder if the death penalty is the best solution in the long run. Sure, it gets us revenge, but it also leaves a bad taste in my mouth to know that we stooped to the same level as a criminal by taking a human life in order to solve our problems.

In the future, I hope there is a way for us to come up with punishments that have the same effect as the death penalty without inducing the aforementioned moral and societal complications.

What sort of punishment might that be? Who knows. In my mind though, there needs to be something done to solve the never ending death penalty debate. That way, we can begin dealing with our worst criminals in a decisive manner, without a doubt in our mind about the course of action we are about to take.

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