Penalty: Cruel Vengeance or Justice Served
James H. Lilley
Is the death
for a savage, cold-blooded act of murder cruel vengeance or justice served? The
debate over Capital Punishment has been argued on local, state, and federal
levels and still rages on almost daily. Our nation has served up the death
penalty in many forms from hanging, to electric chair, to gas chamber, and even
firing squad. Over the years each of these methods was damned as cruel and
inhumane treatment of the person who had committed a crime of violence. So,
along came lethal injection as an alternative to these cruel methods of
carrying out a death sentence. Suddenly there was an outcry over the way the
needles were inserted into the arm of the condemned, because surely they were
Is the discomfort of lethal
injection any more painful than a flu shot, or giving blood? All require
insertion of a needle into the arm, or vein. Does the act of voluntarily taking
a flu shot, or donating blood make the pin prick less painful than death by
lethal injection? Or, does death ordered by the court for a violent crime
somehow increase the level of pain for the condemned? Then came the argument
over the dosage, the drugs employed, and were they acting quickly enough to
ensure the condemned didnt suffer. Excuse me, but what horrible pain was being
inflicted upon this person whod been sentenced to death for violently taking
the life of another?
take a look at the death penalty from another sidethe side of the real victim,
their family and friends. Granted, not all victims of a violent crime that
leads to their death are pillars of the community, or innocent casualties.
Still, this does not make them a lesser victim. Many suffer grave indignity and
are often tortured for hours on end before they are finally killed. Some years
ago in Washington, D.C., a few drug dealers had their own methods of dealing
with rivals, and were quite brutal in their form of execution. The death
penalty imposed to send a message to others that thought of infringing on their
territory was death by suffocation. The method used, was biding the intended
victim tightly to render them helpless and then wrapping their entire face and
head in duct tape. Imagine if you will the sheer terror of lying there
helpless, while someone very calmly begins wrapping your head just above the
eyes in duct tape. Think of how youd feel as the tape wound lower and lower
until there was no way to breathe in lifes precious oxygen. What would your
suffering be like in the final moments of life? Still, this was a death
sentence imposed and carried out by a cold-blooded killer, not a court of law
after a trial and lengthy appeal process.
far too often
the people who cry loud and endlessly to stop the nations death penalty have
never spent a single moment of their lives at the scene of a brutal murder.
Theyve been far away, sheltered from the blood, gore and stench of death.
Theyve never spent hours walking through the spilled blood, spattered brains,
and broken body parts trying to make sense of what happened, and collect
evidence to catch a killer. And, surely theyve never knocked on a door and
told a family member that a loved wont be coming home because somebody stuck a
shotgun against their head and pulled the trigger. If they had done any of
these things, the images would still be quite clear, because theyre etched
forever in the minds of those whove been there. The sights, the smells, the
sounds, and the screams never really go away. And, just when you think that
last ghost has left you a sweat-drenching nightmare will rip you from your sleep
and remind you of where youve been.
first murder scenein fact, I can remember all of them. Not that Ive been to
as many as a Baltimore City, or Washington, D. C. homicide detective, but death
is the same, whether in the big city or the suburbs. I was a rookie, not long
out of the academy, when I went to my first murder. The victim was lying at the
bottom of a stairway, his feet still resting on the third and fourth steps, his
head on the landing turned just a little to the left. At first it looked as if
hed just fallen down the stairs, but the very large hole in his throat told the
tale of what had happened. He toppled backward down the stairs after being
struck in the throat with a single blast from a 12 gauge shotgun. He was killed
by his drinking partner who accused him of sneaking an extra drink from the
bottle of whiskey theyd been sharing. A strange and senseless motive for
murder Id say.
a woman in
her mid 80s being terrorized by a prowler for several weeks. As it turned out,
the prowler was simply plotting a time to return and commit a far more sinister
act. On a Friday evening he returned, cut the telephone lines to her home, and
attempted to break in. When she fled from her home and crossed the road, praying
to find help, he pursed her. There under a pine tree, in her neighbors yard,
the woman was raped and beaten to death with the arm of a wooden lawn chair.
In the fall
of 1987 a
seventeen year old girl was working alone in the Highs Store at the Wilde Lake
Village Green in Columbia, Maryland. A young man she knew well came into the
store to commit a robbery. But she was unaware that hed been receiving
instructions from a prison inmate telling him how to avoid arrest for his
crimeleave no living witnesses. He pulled a heavy bladed knife from under his
jacket, and chased her about the store until he cornered her in a back room. He
began slashing at her with the knife and, as would be expected, she tried to
ward off the attack with her hands. Her hands, arms and wrists were slashed
repeatedly until she finally fell to the floor. While she lay bleeding on the
floor he stabbed the knife deeply into her abdomen, ripped across and down,
disemboweling her. He then went to the front of the store where he waited on
customers as she lay dead only 30 feet away.
of a mother
who kills her baby by stuffing the infant in a microwave and turning it on. And
a year ago in Virginia, a husband and wife, along with their children, were
murdered during a home invasion robbery. And, almost everyday we hear of
murders taking place near and far. Gunmen open fire in a shopping center, or
children are killed in schools, and workers are slain by disgruntled employees.
Hostages are killed during a botched robbery, or a parent kills their children
in order to strike back at a spouse over a pending divorce. The list goes on
Go back to September 8, 1992, and
the carjacking murder of Doctor Pam Basu in Howard County. Doctor Basu was
accosted at a Stop Sign by Rodney Eugene Solomon and Bernard Eric Miller,
savagely punched and kicked, and dragged from her car. While being pulled from
her car, her left arm became entangled in her seatbelt. Solomon and Miller
jumped into her car and began driving away. Yet Pam Basu wasnt concerned for
own welfare, but that of her 22-month-old daughter, Sarina, who was in the car.
She cried out, My baby! My baby, as the car pulled away from the Stop Sign.
And, it isnt that Solomon and Miller didnt know there was a child in the car.
Only moments earlier they had walked by the Basu residence and saw Pam placing
Sarina in the car. They laid in wait for her at the Stop Sign, pulled her from
the car, and sped away with her child inside and Doctor Basu trapped beside the
vehicle in the seatbelt. When they reached Gorman Road they stopped the car,
ripped the car seat out and threw it and Sarina on the side of the road. They
again drove off, dragging Pam Basu beside the car and before they finally
stopped and removed her dead body from the car, they had dragged her for 1.7
miles. At the trial of Bernard Eric Miller when a witness to the crime
described in vivid detail the body being dragged beside the car, Miller looked
over his shoulder at friends seated in the courtroom and smiled.
If you look at the few
murders described here, youll not find even the smallest degree of mercy or
sympathy for the victims, regardless of whether they were members of the
criminal element, or law-abiding citizens. Each met with death in a violent,
heartless manner. Each and every one of these victims suffered from the pain
inflicted upon them. The pain they endured was far greater than death by lethal
injection. Lethal injection is no different than humanely destroying a beloved
pet by the same method. The person, like the pet, lapses into a deep sleep and,
as the drugs continue to surge through the body, the body shuts down until the
heart and breathing stops, and all bodily functions cease. Its far more humane
than being beaten to death with the arm of a wooden lawn chair, or slashed and
hacked to death with a knife. Lethal injection is certainly far more merciful
than being dragged to death, or suffocated with duct tape. Yet, those who
oppose the death penalty would have us believe that the persons responsible for
these cold, calculated acts of violence are the ones that are really the
victims. They showed no mercy, and in many cases, these killers showed no
remorse for the violent act theyd committed. But the courts are expected to
show compassion, because of the possibility that the damned soul might feel some
pain and discomfort when put to death by lethal injection. I believe they
should receive exactly the same consideration shown to their victim.
OMalley staunchly cries that the death penalty isnt a deterrent to crime.
Well, it sure deters one person from ever committing a crime again, and it
eliminates one more burden from the taxpayer.
are those who
argue that even the most violent of offenders can be reformed and/or
rehabilitated and turned back into society. This is absolute insanity to
believe these people can be changed to such a degree that they will be able to
function normally in society. Time and again, violent predators have been
released from prison, over the objections of prosecutors and doctors, only to
kill again within days or weeks of their release.
those who scream that the death penalty is a violation of Gods law and Gods
wishes. To those I say, youd better go back and read your Bible a little more
carefully. Certain parts of the Bible, Genesis for one, clearly shows that
people who anger God also suffer Gods wrath. Plainly translatedanger the Big
Guy and Hes going to strike you dead, and he employed His own version of the
death penalty on more than one occasion. Remember, He turned Lots wife to a
pillar of salt for merely looking over her shoulder after she was instructed not
to look back. Certainly this makes any argument that God opposes utilization of
the death penalty moot.
admit that not everybody who takes a life deserves to face capital punishment
for their act. The taking of every life is not a cold, premeditated act, and
therefore the person taking the life shouldnt face the death penalty. A life
can be taken accidentally, in self-defense, or by means other than a calculated
crime of violence. But, those who kill without remorse, those who seek to
inflict as much pain as possible on their victim, or kill without fear of
reprisal for their actions, should face the ultimate penalty. Bluntlyand most
are afraid to say itsome people just dont deserve to live.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James H. Lilley is a former Marine and Police Sergeant with
the Howard County Police Department (Maryland). He worked in the Uniformed
Patrol Division, Criminal Investigations Division, Forensic Services (CSI) and
Drug Enforcement Division. His Street Drug Unit was featured in the book
"Undercover" by Hans Halberstadt and published by Simon and Schuster. Some of
his awards include The Medal of Valor, Four Bronze Stars, Four Unit Citations
and the Governor's Citation. He is also an 8th Degree Black Belt in Shorin Ryu
Karate and the first American to be promoted to the rank of Black Belt by Mr.
Takeshi Miyagi. James Lilley is the author of six books: A Question of
Honor; The Eyes of the Hunter; The Far Side of the Bridge; Just Retribution; A
Miracle for Tony Clements; and, Death Knocks Twice.