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The Defendants

The Defendants

Lately, it seems, we’ve done a lot of calling for the death penalty and imprisonment without parole. It could be that we are just particularly hard on crime and pessimistic about rehabilitation. Or it could be that it is a sign of the times and this is what the times call for. And as we’ve had occasion to point out more than once over the past several weeks, it isn’t just here.

Witness the sentencing in New Delhi, India last Friday of four men to hang for the horrific (again, an adjective we’ve been using a quite a bit) rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on a public bus.

And without wanting to appear flippant for so serious a matter, we say, Hooray for Judge Yogesh Khanna.

It is nearly beyond the scope of imagination to grasp that four so-called human beings could do something like this to another human being. In the plainest of terms, the young woman and a male friend were coming home last December from a showing of the movie Life of Pi -a film, by the way, that demonstrates the interrelationship of all living creatures – when these four men lured them onto the bus they were joy-riding around the city. They beat the man senseless, then turned to the woman, taking turns raping her. Then, as if that weren’t enough, they penetrated her with a metal rod, causing the massive internal injuries from which she later died in a hospital.

When Judge Khanna announced the death sentence, 20-year-old Vinay Sharma, the youngest of the defendants, broke down in sobs. We wonder if his sobs were as loud as the sobs of the innocent victim he and the other three thugs tortured to death. We wonder if they were as loud as those of the thousands upon thousands of women who are sexually attacked in India every year in what can only be described as an out of control pandemic.

If any society is serious about law, peaceful order and the life and dignity of its members, there are certain actions that simply cannot be tolerated or condoned, or we lose all moral perspective. Some acts are so horrible and so sadistic and so lacking in any redeeming human quality that their perpetrators must be purged permanently from that society as a statement of moral values.

And if this crime does not meet those standards, nothing does. If that is the case, then we have no standards and we have no society.

Tara Rao, director of Amnesty International India, issued a statement saying, “The rape and murder of the young woman in Delhi last year was a horrific crime, and our deepest sympathy goes out to the victim’s family. Those responsible must be punished, but the death penalty is never the answer.

“There is no evidence that the death penalty is a particular deterrent to crime, and its use will not eradicate violence against women in India.”

As many of our police officers say, it may not deter crime, but the recidivism rate for those executed for murder is very low.

We appreciate the views of those who do not believe in the death penalty under any circumstances, but we respectfully disagree. There is only one response remotely proportionate to a crime like this; only one action that can validate the values of a just society. And the wise and compassionate Judge Yogesh Khanna has let us know what it is.

2 Responses to The Punishment Fitting the Crime

  1. watson says:

    Some crimes are more horrific/ evil than others. The worst I’ve heard about in the last 10 years comes out of the UK, that of…sadist murderer Claire Nicholls…..It took 6 ME’s working round the clock to catalogue the 127 injuries inflicted on the victim in a torture slaying.
    Again in that case it was an evil dominant psychopath with prior record leading a group of 3 criminal ‘followers’ (plus 2 children) who became a mob to do the horrific crime to the captive victim over several weeks.
    Do I think such people should be killed?….Absolutely (not the children) and without a single doubt. ‘Monster’ does not adequately describe them….and if the ring leader (Claire Nicholls) had been locked up/ executed for her prior crimes…the last and worst crime would not have happened.
    The problem as always as I see it in the US is….how do we legislate…’good and fair’….capital punishment laws…so we don’t execute the innocent wrongly convicted along with the monsters? Just because that’s hard and would require some court reforms, doesn’t mean it can’t be done…and the monsters should go.

  2. Cornerstone says:

    Rape has been such an epidemic in India lately that it’s great to see someone taking a firm stance against it. I’d heard horror stories for decades of the treatment of women over there and was glad when the Internet seemed to shine a light on that and other countries and open up an avenue for their women to see that it wasn’t acceptable in many places. And just when it seemed things were getting better, the backlash became extreme. But then, in my opinion, the U.S. has seen its own form of backlash concerning women as well, particularly this year with conservative and fundamentally based legislation. I was happy to see the new Pope make some statements about tolerance recently. I hope his message resounds around the world.

    On an only feintly related note, I just heard that France’s Senate, the charge led by Chantal Jouanno, has just banned child pageants, saying, “I have a hard time seeing how these competitions are in the greater interest of the child” and expressing fears of hypersexualization. I strongly agree, especially considering how many issues girls already have with body image, and taking into consideration that it is an activity that mostly feeds the narcissism of the mothers of these girls. That is not to paint every participant guilty, but overall, I agree it is hard to imagine it is in the best interests of the child.

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