Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls

Execution With a Garrote

A 1901 execution at the old Bilibid Prison, Manila, Philippines
A 1901 execution at the old Bilibid Prison, Manila, Philippines

Lady Justice With Scale, Sword

The Hangman's Noose

No man is an island, entire of itself ... Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. -- John Donne

It's great to be alive, to breathe fresh air, to hear the robins sing and see the rising sun, to be free, to be part of mankind.

Life, despite its trials and tribulations, is joyous; but it also is ethereal, evaporating, sooner or later, into, for the faithful, the heavens.

We Are Not Alone

Each of us lives his own life, but we are not alone. Ultimately, we must take responsibility for our own lives, for how we conduct ourselves in our short sojourn -- for the good and the bad. And each according to his belief, we must one day answer for our actions.

But, being human, we -- all of us -- are governed by what is commonly called "human nature."

When we hit a homerun with the bases loaded, get straight A's in school, make a killing in the stock market, complete a difficult painting or produce an A-one product on the job it's human nature that we feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. When we give a few dollars to the Salvation Army, or to other worthwhile charities, our hearts feel the warmth transmitted by the unknown beneficiaries of our largess.

Basking in Reflected Glory

If a friend or someone in the family hits the million-dollar Lotto, or wins a golf tournament or lands a job as chairman of General Motors, we bask in reflected glory. We didn't do anything, but, nevertheless, we feel good about it; our lives are somehow more meaningful, our spirits are somehow uplifted.

We reflect not only on the accomplishments of ourselves and our contemporaries, but even on those of our forefathers. Somehow we, as humans, are better, have greater intrinsic value, because people like Socrates, da Vinci, Einstein, Washington and Lincoln preceded us. Their lives are intrinsically intertwined with ours; our lives would not be the same had they not lived.

At 12:04 a.m. Tuesday the state of Washington snuffed out the life of Westley Allen Dodd. Dodd, a confessed, convicted child killer, was hanged.

He Chose the Gallows

Under Washington state law, Dodd was given a choice of death by lethal injection or death by hanging; he chose the gallows.

As one observer stated following the execution, Dodd's death will not end murder, rape or mayhem; his hanging will have little effect on such heinous crimes.

Although Dodd opted for hanging -- indeed insisted upon it and demanded that there be no appeals, no stays of execution -- it was not his wishes but those of society that were carried out Tuesday; the preferences of a convicted killer, unless condoned by society, are of little effect.

Reporter Expresses 'Surprise'

The journalist who witnessed Dodd's last moments and reported on them said he thought the execution would be "gruesome," but observed, "the quick and clinical way the state put to death child-killer Westley Allen Dodd today surprised me."

He obviously tried to be objective and detached, as any good reporter would.

But, as a human being, he could not but end his story with the stark, but telling declarative sentence:

". . . When I got back to my motel room,I threw up."

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Jan. 9, 1993. Little has changed since then. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages. To view my HubPages Profile Click Here

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Comments 84 comments

David-D 9 years ago from Tucson

This makes one think.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you, David-D. That's the best compliment I've gotten in a long time.


trish1048 profile image

trish1048 8 years ago

Hi William,

On the subject of capital murder, I'm on the fence about it. On the one hand, when our government sentences someone to death, it sounds like a good idea to be rid of an evil person. However, as you well know, the majority of those sitting on death row sit there for many, many years. We, as taxpayers, are paying to keep them alive. Depending on what prison they are in, some are living the so-called 'good life'. I recently saw one prison that was designed more like a vacation retreat, complete with spas, exercise rooms, computer access, libraries, etc., and it's design would make one drool. All modern, no bars, potted plants, it was sickening. What the hell are they thinking? I've even heard of people who purposely do something wrong just so they can go back to jail or prison, because it's better than their life on the outside. Where else can you go and get a free education, free meals, free medical, a free roof over your head and free clothes?

I also believe as far as appeals go, there should be a limit to only one, or perhaps two the most. The other thing is, what takes so damn long for an appeal to be carried out? Then, to add insult to injury, once the appeal process is done, sometimes the sentence will be overturned and the prisoner is commuted to just life behind bars. My thought is this: if sentenced to death, carry it out within one year, regardless of whether the appeal process is done or not. If the appeal still isn't resolved at the end of one year, oh well. Otherwise, just do away with the death penalty, it makes no sense.

On the other hand, do I believe the death penalty deters crime? Of course not. If the death penalty was enacted to cause fear in people so that they never commit another crime, we'd be living in a crime free society. I don't know what a good solution would be. Keeping someone locked away from society forever so that they can never hurt another person is about the best answer we have, even though it's a drain on the economy and the taxpayer. Rehabilitation is nice in theory, and I don't have statistics, but my thought is that a small majority of lawbreakers ever learn to change their ways, therefore, so many repeat offenders.

I agree with David-D, this is a very thought provoking hub, thank you for sharing it.


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

Damned if you do and damned if you don't - even if, theoretically, the death penalty makes a lot of sense, finally it's a life. And yet, in countries where there is swift retribution like in the Gulf states, the crime rate is definitely much lower. Yes, it does make one think!


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

My conception of a prison life is vastly different from what you describe, Trish. Those few who would find prison better than their life outside are in a very bad state indeed. Prisons are very bad places -- for anyone. Those "vacation retreats," or "country clubs" are reserved for people like John Dean and Martha Stewart. Our justice system in the U.S. is antiquated and definitely needs an overhaul. The appeals process developed as it is because good people want to insure that not a single innocent person be put to death. Unfortunately, that has happened many times. The lives of many have been saved by advances in our knowledge of DNA. My views on capital punishment appear in several of hubs, including one, written in 1994, titled "Death Penalty in OJ Trial? Unthinkable!"


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thanks for commenting, Shalini Kagal. In my opinion, killing is never a good thing. While it may reduce the crime rate in the Gulf states, the good people there pay a high price. Capital punishment makes killers of us all. If you want to teach a child not to violent, do whip him to within an inch of his life? Do we teach people that killing is bad by killing killers? I think not.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

Another thoughtful Hub by Mr. Torpey!

My state, Michigan, did away with the death penalty more than 100 years ago. Several other states are moving in that direction because of recent evidence that executions of innocent people are unavoidable. Aside from that consideration, the death penalty is a barbaric relic from the past. We are the only advanced country that still practices it. I wish many of the believers in the sanctity of life from the instant of conception would be consistent and support doing away with the death penalty.

 


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

I agree! Violence usually begets violence - however,when the crime is closer home, when someone you know and love is affected, then you wonder whether the criminal should be allowed to commit the crime again and maybe yet again. While I don't support the death penalty, circumstances could make people subscribe to it, wouldn't you say?


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Well said, Ralph. I agree entirely. The sanctity of life is inclusive, not exclusive: "Any man's death diminishes me."


Froggy213 profile image

Froggy213 8 years ago from On A Mountain In Puerto Rico

Being what I have been through in the last year I am of mixed emotions on this subject too Mr Torpey. As usual, you make us think and think. My position as a Christian says it is wrong, but I see such as I see in the world,especially crimes against children says that the death penalty does need to be.

Great hub again William!!


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

When someone you know and love is affected by violence, Shalini, it's understandable that the reaction is visceral. I'm sure all of us would react that way initially. But it isn't wise to make intellectual judgments vicereally. There are many other considerations, prime among them is the certainty that accused is indeed the guilty party. How we treat the lowliest among us, in my opinion, tells a lot about us as human beings.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you for your comment, Froggy213. Some crimes are heinous, and some criminals are cruel and unrepentent. However, I think that, as human beings, we must separate our emotions from our intellect. We need to think of the affect of the decisions we make on the future, not only of the criminal but of us as well. I don't think we want to stoop to the level of the criminal in the way we react. If we endorse violence by executing criminals, it will send the wrong message. While punishment should fit the crime, capital punishment is inhumane and unwise.


Misha profile image

Misha 8 years ago from DC Area

I am definitely with you on this William.


Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

The system is so imperfect and imperfectly applied it's really hard to support it, even if you do believe in capital punishment. Personally, life imprisonment without possibility of parole is a better option. The death penalty is barbaric, is not a deterrent, and ends up clogging our courts with appeal after appearl. So my arguments against it are both philosophical AND practical.

Thank you for this thoughtful piece.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Eventually, Misha, I feel certain the long overdue overhaul of the system will be accomplished. Thanks.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I agree, Mighty Mom. The system is fatally flawed. As it exists now, it could never be put right. Thenk you for your thoughtful and kiind comments.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 7 years ago from St. Louis

Well-written and thought provoking. I doubt, if it were me, I would choose hanging over injection. But then maybe I would: I've always been a bit dramatic. Thanks for this quality work (and the link)!


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you very much for the kind words, Christoph. I'm not sure whether I would choose hanging or injection if I were faced with execution. I've heard stories of executions going very badly in either case. I believe that most people think that executions always go off as planned, but that isn't necessarily the case.


crazyhorsesghost profile image

crazyhorsesghost 7 years ago from East Coast , United States

I have been on the Louisiana and Florida Death Rows to see people waiting to be executed and yes I very strongly believe that the death penalty should be abolished. It does not stop anything and recently there is more and more evidence that we have in fact executed innocent persons.

I interviewed Ted Bundy and talked with him on several occasions and much could have been learned by locking him away in a safe place and studying him. I do not think we accomplished anything by killing him or any other death row inmate.

We are a civilized people or we claim to be in America but we continue practices that makes our nation look like we are living in the dark ages.

The current court system in the USA does not work much less our current death penalty. If you doubt what I say just look at all the innocent people recently released after serving 20 or more years by DNA. And many of the local prosecutors who had locked these people up knew they were innocent when they locked them up. Many local prosecutors had manufactured evidence or ordered people to lie on the stand against these people.

And this is only the tip of the ice berg when you look at the American court system. Every day tens of thousands of people do not show up in court. This in its self is going to eventually make the system collapse.

But we as an American people stand by and let all these things go on and we don't try to do anything to change our current system which does not work. I have been involved in trying to stop the death penalty for a number of years and as long as there is any chance at all that we could possibly execute innocent people then we should not have the death penalty and I will tell you that I truly know and believe that we have executed innocent persons and in recent times. How the American people can allow this is beyond me.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

You've obviously been on top of this issue for a long time, crazyhorsesghost, and I congratulate you for your efforts to end capital punishment. Your Ted Bundy hub, which I just read, is well done and very interesting -- as are the many comments you elicited. Thanks.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

I believe that state of the art prison (looking like a country club) is in Chicago if I am not mistaken. Amazing! There are many people who will never live with amenities like that.

As to prison in general...I truly believe that if it is to be a place to hopefully make the inmates never wish to return, it should be more like that one in Arizona where they live in tents, wearing pink and listening to only good music. Also if inmates were made to work and at least help subsidize their costs of interrment, that would be an immense help.

If a life sentence really MEANT that...it could be a deterrent. As it is, because it is so expensive to house criminals, many are let out early only to return after commiting more crimes. Sad situation.

I agree with the general principal of eliminating the death penalty especially because of innocent people being put to death. Bad enough if they are unjustly incarcerated!

Very thought provoking hub.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

There are several "country club" prisons in the U.S., Peggy W., that apparently are reserved for celebrities or otherwise prominent or wealthy individuals who are not believed to be violent in nature. No prisoner, nowhere, lives in the lap of luxury. Even if it were confinement to a luxurious mansion in the islands, imprisonment is by definition the loss of liberty -- a high price that few of us would want to pay. Imprisonment is not and should not be retribution. It is designed to be confinement for the purpose of protecting the public from further harm. To force men to wear pink or to live in tents would be more like inflicting retribution if not torture. It's human nature to react violently to violence, but if we truly want to end, or at least reduce, violence we are better off finding more intelligent ways to respond to crime and especialy violent crime. While we may, in anger, want to impose capital punishment for especially heinous crimes, we should stop and think before acting rashly. By imposing capital punishment on criminals we are telling society that violence is a reasonable and proper way to respond to serious problems. Is that what we want to teach our children? Imposing capital punishment on those innocents who are convicted in error is especially shameful. I thank you for your thoughtful comments.


maven101 profile image

maven101 7 years ago from Northern Arizona

Equating capitol punishment with deterrence is a fools argument...Capitol punishment is a just punishment for taking another's life...It is not intended to restrain potential killers, rapists, terrorists...it is an application of justice...I agree, we take too long to provide this justice, and sometimes we may get it wrong, not often, but sometimes...that circumstance has been reduced to a large extent with DNA and other technical advances in criminology science..

I personally believe we spend too much emotional investment on the human trash that decided they would remove someone from this life because they had the power to do so...

Why should we have to provide a glorious gay lifestyle for someone like a Richard Speck that reveled in his imprisonment, after being convicted of killing 6 nurses..? Is that justice..? Sorry, I don't buy into the " intelligent " approach to these scum...

You have presented a strong argument for removing capitol punishment, and I respect your take on this, but your experience and knowledge is quite different than mine. I remain unconvinced that justice would be served without it in place...


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

The imposition of capital punishment is more about us than it is about criminals, maven101. Killers, rapists and terrorists are depraved. I refuse to become like them and endorse killing -- even if it is deemed to be "legal" or "justified." If we oppose killing by individuals, why would we favor killing by the state? Killing is killing. Favoring capital punishment forces us to teach our children that it is OK to kill if there's a good reason for it. John Donne has it right. Every time we kill via capital punishment we are diminished by the death of that criminal no matter how much we deplore the depravity of the criminal.


maven101 profile image

maven101 7 years ago from Northern Arizona

William...Using John Donne to support your straw man argument is quite a stretch...you have said " Favoring capital punishment forces us to teach our children that it is OK to kill if there's a good reason for it."...your argument goes from the particular to the general in this assumption...are you saying that there is NEVER an occasion for killing another human being..? If so, you live in a much different world than I, my friend...Larry


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

It's not so much the world we live in, maven101, but rather the world we'd prefer to live in. Death is inevitable for all of us. We gain nothing by rushing it.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

Out of curiosity where do you stand on going to war? Is there ever justification for killing in your opinion other than self defense?

Would you have had us going to war when Hitler was overrunning Europe?

Killing takes all forms for all types of reasons and there seem to be no easy answers.

I realize that I am probably throwing a curve ball into this discussion and taking it away from just the capitol punishment idea of this hub.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

War can be defined as the failure of international relations, Peggy. War should always be the solution of last resort, but when it is in self-defense and/or in defense of our friends and neighbors it may be necessary. I believe the U.S. involvement in World War II was a necessary action against Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo was unavoidable and, obviously, very sad indeed. Capital punishment, on the other hand, is neither necessary nor unavoidable. There truly are no easy answers, but we should never kill when there is a better option.


maven101 profile image

maven101 7 years ago from Northern Arizona

William...When you said " It's not so much the world we live in, maven101, but rather the world we'd prefer to live in. ", were you serious..? Either you believe in justice or you believe in grace...the one is pragmatic, the other Pollyanna..


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

The reference is not to grace, maven101, but rather to our free will to seek a better world by making better decisions. Do you believe our behavior and actions are without affect?


maven101 profile image

maven101 7 years ago from Northern Arizona

This is the same circular argument that has one group reaching for the unreachable of ultimate goodness ( human nature intrudes ), and the other group grasping that which is attainable and just...what makes you think your " ideas " are any better than mine..? In what sense are you equating " imagine " with reality..? There's an old Bing Crosby quote, " “There is nothing in the world I wouldn't do for Hope, and there is nothing he wouldn't do for me . . . We spend our lives doing nothing for each other.”... that pretty much sums up my feelings about Hope...Larry


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

Hi William,

I agree with your last sentence in response to me and hope others would also. "There truly are no easy answers, but we should never kill when there is a better option." That sums up reasonable thinking in my opinion.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you, Peggy. It's always wise to avoid rash, quick, easy decisions. As human beings, we are able to reason -- and we should.


opinion duck 6 years ago

William

There is more than capital punishment in trying to use criminal justice to protect us from the criminals. I think that the consensus is that capital punishment is not a crime deterrent but it should be more uniform across the country.

That lack of uniformity is also a major problem in making criminal justice effective. Murder is murder but across the different venues in the country, the sanctions and the processes eek out different results. It is not just murder but any felony that fails at criminal justice.

What I mean is that the sanctions for felonies including murder run the gamut across different venues. There needs to be a consistency to administering justice. The punishment should fit the crime and no more. This includes all the special circumstance in a case. Leniency should be considered where it is applicable.

The result of this consistency is that murder should always be the most costly to the criminal. Lesser crimes should have a tapering sentence to indicate that the crime is less than a capital crime.

I am probably not be clear about my point. A criminal act where the accused is found guilty and sentenced can result in a wide gap if prosecuted in different venues. This means that the same criminal act under similar circumstances can vary the sentence from say a few years to over twenty years.

This can affect the actions of a criminal engaged in a crime. If that crime is going to result in the twenty year term rather than the two year term, the criminal may aggravate the act if necessary to flee. This could result in murdering a victim of say a robbery. This would be in a case where the punishment for armed robbery is the as for murder. It also could happen if the criminal was on his third strike and going to jail for life.

I believe your point is to remove capital punishment period. Neither jail or the death penalty has worked well as a crime deterrent, but jail in death row has to be a bigger consequence for the criminal to think about. Of course most criminals don't think much, so that argument sinks under its own weight.

The justice system has the basic ingredients to better deter crime, but it needs to use a better and more consistent recipe.

With jails and prisons being over crowded and early release of the inmates is economically stimulated, the system needs to focus on the real bad guys and keep them in there as long as necessary. Privatizing jails and prisons for misdemeanors and non violent felonies should be considered to thin the crowd.

just a thought...


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I appreciate your well-reasoned opinion on crime and punishment, opinion duck; however, I am very much opposed to privatization of our prisons. I agree that uniformity of punishment would be desirable, but under the U.S. Constitution the state's rights provision make that extremely difficult. In some cases, federal laws make consistency less likely.


SOBF profile image

SOBF 6 years ago from New York, NY

William extremely thought provoking hub. It is my belief that capital punishment serves no purpose other than to satisfy the blood thirst of others. Should we put to death those involved with the execution of an innocent? Should anyone involved in a death be put to death? Where do we stop and who has the ability to define crimes punishable by death.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thanks for your cogent comment, SOBF. There's no doubt that violence begets violence.


lisadpreston profile image

lisadpreston 6 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

Great hub.I just dont understand people. I dont think i ever will. Some people are filled with so much hate and revenge it scares me.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I believe that those people who are filled with anger, hate and revenge are very unsettled and confused about life. Their insecurity leads them to lash out at others instead of calmly thinking about finding solutions to their problems. It's sort of a mob psychology practiced by an individual.


lisadpreston profile image

lisadpreston 6 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

yes. I loved the comment you made on my killing field hub saying that we are teaching our children that it is ok to murder as long as we feel justified in doing it. I wasn't aloud to really comment or be biased in that article too much. My boss knows how opinionated i am and I wouldn't be aloud to cover or write about executions for the newspaper if I was biased even on hub pages articles. Do you know how badly I wanted to speak what I really thought in response to a certain comment? I know it was the same one that you were responding to indirectly! Great Job!


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I appreciate your very kind words, lisa. While I was working for The Hour newspaper, I often told my fellow reporters that I would love to write two articles when I covered controversial meetings or hearings: The objective news account of what went on at the meeting, which is the one that was published, and the subjective story that would inform the public of what "really" happened. I believe the reporter's role is to write objectively (which I've written about in another hub titled "Objectivity Is Possible -- And Vital." But that's why I wrote the columns I've published here as hubs (To tell the "real" story as I see it.) But the subjective story belongs on the editorial pages of the newspaper, not disguised as "news" as we see on many right wing broadcasts.


lisadpreston profile image

lisadpreston 6 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

yes. I remember a time when news was not allowed to be opinionated at all. (taboo) But I noticed a big change when the former Bush Jr. ran for president. All of a sudden all the media were rebublicans (which I am in theory) and pro Bush,(which I am not, although he would be a blast to have a couple of drinks with and just hang out with) downgrading Kerry, who wouldn't even defend himself which makes me believe even more that all presidencies are planned. I lost all respect for television news after this. I never watch the news. If I dont get information from a press release at work, I have no clue as to what is going on in the world. Even here at the enquirer, they are republican and do not cover liberal ideas or stories or even democratic issues. Our own new president, when he is in town, we are not required to see him in person to report of him, but when Bush was here, we were required to be there in person.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

The right wing has pretty much taken over the Republican Party in recent history, lisa, as well as radio and television political broadcasting -- although there are some Democratic broadcaster now but the liberals have only a small piece of the broadcasting pie. I understand where you're coming from though, but I've been very disappointed in the Republicans' refusal to call out George W. Bush on his many bad decisions. I only wish we could get back to good, old-fashioned objective journalism.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

Revisiting this hub again. We are hearing more and more reports of criminals being released early from prison due to budget shortfalls. And many of them return to their life of crime. This is a disgrace! Why is it that non-violent people have to be imprisoned at all? If they were made to do many hours of community service (depending upon their crime as to the appointed hours) wouldn't this be a more reasonable sentence? It would keep the space inside of existing prisons available for the ones who would do bodily harm to people on the outside...and they would no longer have to be released early. One other thing...a life sentence should mean just that...and it does not, at least in Texas. Many jurors do not realize that.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

The problem, I think, Peggy, is that these decisions are made in some ivory tower. The whole system needs an overhaul. When is the last time we've been asked what we think about it? As the old saying goes, "The punishment should fit the crime." In my opinion, only violent criminals should be in prison. Embezzlers, dope addicts and the myriad other crimes should entail community service (beyond what is done now.) Instead of jail, those convicted should be required to spend a certain amount of time using whatever talents they have to help society (whether it's bookkeeping, management, labor or whatever is determined by the court.) Right now community service is too limited. At the same time, those convicted could be supervised (with ankle bracelets, if necessary) and made to report to the court regularly. These things could be worked out. I guess what we really need is a Congressional Committee to get the ball rolling by holding nationwide hearings on the subject. This is what we pay public servants for -- where are they? Leaving it up to prosecutors and the courts is getting us nowhere.


mwatkins profile image

mwatkins 6 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

This was a very sobering piece for me to read, but thank you for writing it. I watched a movie called "The hangman" with my husband once and I felt much like the journalist you describe. I also believe that some crimes are so incredibly heinous that I am left still wondering if it isn't a just reward for those crimes. Thank you.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I very much appreciate your thoughtful comment, mwatkins. Your comment, I think, gets to the core of the problem. It is human nature to have a visceral reaction to any heinous crime and to having feelings of revenge. The conflict in our thinking, I believe, when we realize that those feelings of revenge run counter to our own standards of behavior. What we really want, I think, is justice, not revenge. Capital punishment doesn't accomplish anything. Instead it aggravates the problem. What we really need to do, I think, is to prevent the offender from repeating the crime and, at the same time, discourage others from such offensive behavior. Without respect for all life, I don't think we achieve true civilization.


saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 6 years ago

Premeditated cold blooded killers and known serial killers should all be put to death, that is my conviction. All other killings, manslaughter and second degree killings should be examined carefully. I am for capital punishment when proof is 100% that he/she is guilty of cold first degree premeditated killings. Why should victims have to live with the knowledge that the guilty party is being taken care of in a prison on tax payers money. It's a sham and the justice system is wrong and overflowing with inmates who should have been buried a long time ago. As in Truman Capote novel of the true story of two men who took innocent lives. They were HUNG for their ugly crime and so they should have been.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Cold-blooded killers are despicable, saddlerider1. Anger and the desire for revenge is a natural reaction, but if one takes time to think it should be obvious that behaving in the same manner as the criminal is not the answer. We should not condone violence -- even against criminals -- because it only makes violence an acceptable means of redressing grievances. I read "In Cold Blood" many years ago, but what has society gained from the hangings? Their deaths and those of all the others that have suffered capital punishment have done nothing to reduce such wanton killings and never will. There's no question, however, that our prison system desparately needs reform. The movement toward privatization of prisons is very unfortunate and must be reversed.


tom hellert profile image

tom hellert 5 years ago from home

WTF,

crime n punishment go together or should I know of folks - that have said prison is more like summer camp and is not a deterant...

TH


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

The punishment should fit the crime, tom hellert. I've never been in prison, but I can tell you affirmatively that prison (even the "country clubs") is not summer camp. Neither prison nor capital punishment is a deterrent to crime. If prison were a deterrent you wouldn't see the kind of recitivism rate that exists. Capital punishment, by its nature, teaches that killing is OK as long as you have a good reason -- but there never is a good reason to kill anyone.


litlestarr profile image

litlestarr 5 years ago

I see much has been said on this subject. My feelings are... It seems like the death penalty is many times given when there is kinda of a doubt, or the Killer? only killed one person. What about when there is no doubt and the killer has wasted a whole bunch of victims? Then I think justice would be served with a quick execution. That monster just doesn't deserve to live. We don't want it back on the streets. There are just some people without a conscience. To call it an animal is an insult to the animals. Why let it live, cost us money, possibly escape (it has happened) Will the death penalty stop people from killing? It will stop that killer from killing.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Aside from the fact that your example is a rare case, litlestarr, capital punishment affects a far greater number of those convicted of capital crimes. I don't like anyone who kills any more than you do, but as much as we don't approve of their behavior they are human beings albeit very undesirable people. When we call them "animals" and "monsters" and fail to acknowledge they are human beings we denigrate ourselves as well. To feel anger at their crime is natural, but as human beings we have the capacity to think logically instead of behaving like animals ourselves. As John Donne said, "Any man's death diminishes me."


Jake Spence 5 years ago

mr. Torpey,

there is no recitivism bydead criminals. If you take a life you should forfit your own-Accidental deaths are the exceptions-Accidents being the key part point blank rane shooting to the head are NOT accidents they show intent and a disregard for life,if they dont care -why should we care about them?


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

It's not so much that we care about them,Jake Spence, but we care about ourselves. Because criminals show a disregard for life do you really think that we should mimic them and ourselves show an equal disregard for life? You ask why we should care. We should care because we are better than them. We care about life; about all life, but especially about human life. You don't show respect for human life, by taking human life -- neither despicably as the criminal does nor carelessly as the state does by taking human life through capital punishment laws.


litlestarr profile image

litlestarr 5 years ago

Bill I understand where you are coming from. But I do believe capital punishment is a deterrent. And as I said that killer will not kill again. If I were a cop, they wouldn't make it to the court room. I probably would not last to long. When a killer tortures and kills, he doesn't deserve respect. Most of the time the excursion is a lot more merciful than what the victim suffered. The jails are so full they are releasing what is considered "less guilty?" prisoners to make room. Now I ask you is that any way to run a prison?


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

We live under a Constitution that aims to protect us all from unjust government power, litlestarr, including overreaching by police. We don't want cops replacing the justice system. Nor do we want to mimic the behavior of deranged killers. There are ways to keep such killers from killing again. Capital punishment is cruelty on our part and works to make killing more acceptable socially -- meaning the killer won't kill again but others will because we have thereby endorsed killing as a tool of government.


litlestarr profile image

litlestarr 5 years ago

I'll remember that when I'm in a dark alley with a killer that got his wrist slapped and is loose to kill again. I don't know what happened to those 2 nuts around the Washington dc area that went around taking pop shots at people for the hell of it. And they are not alone this is happening more and more, because they get away with it. Sorry but yes, I'm angry. The government can kill in war, well this is war against crime. It's just Senseless killing, and that nonsense about someone being mentally incompetent, is BS, I believe someone that kills (not counting self defense, war etc) has got to be a bit unbalanced. I get angry at people but don't go shoot them. Most people control their anger short of killing someone that irritates them. And the thing about being ignored and picked, well most of us have been there at some time. Kids were always teasing about what ever. It's back to not taking responsibility and blaming someone else as people are doing more and more. Sorry but I don't think I will change my mind on this I think we have got to get tougher on crime. The streets are becoming unsafe. I mean road rage is another whole thing lately, if you cut off someone in traffic, they come over and shoot you. REALLY!


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

You can't end crime by doing the same thing criminals do,litlestarr. Anger and violence is the very thing we're trying to eliminate. Capital punishment won't end it.


litlestarr profile image

litlestarr 5 years ago

you are right there will still be evil people around, but it would get rid of a few. So what do you suggest? We just let them run wild? My family and I have been robbed and none of them caught. I don't have money to throw away, these things have a nerve breaking into people's homes etc... and that's the lessor stuff unless someone gets in their way and gets killed. We can't just keep putting people in prison, gets expensive ya know. Then they get parole and get out and start all over. Maybe you are nicer than I am.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Easy answers are rarely good answers, litlestarr. There is little punishment more severe than taking away one's liberty. Whippings, torture and capital punishment may make you feel like you are accomplishing something, but in reality it accomplishes nothing. What needs to be done is to keep criminals from repeating their crimes. Prison deprives criminals of their liberty. They do not need to be tortured. They need to be prevented from performing further criminal acts. If they are not violent, they need to repay society by using whatever talent or skills they have to serve society.


litlestarr profile image

litlestarr 5 years ago

Bill you are nice person, and I know that you would be traumatized, as would I, if you lost your freedom. The problem, in my opinion, is the really bad guys/gals do not think with a social brain. They don't care! Many of them are sociopaths, which I'm sure you know means they have no conscience. Normal people do not think like they do, and that's a lot of the problem. I could get into the fact that the disappearance of a stable family, the absence of moral teachings, the lack of responsibility and a zillion other social problems in the so called civilized nations have contributed to an increase in crime worldwide. I'm sure you will remember when Mary Mount disappeared in New Canaan. Way back then it was a shocker in the area. Now kids are missing everywhere and we take it with a grain of salt. Got to research that phase. And the term "gone missing" I started to notice that with Laci Peterson's murder. Don't remember it previously. It sounds like the missing person made themselves "go missing" Anyhow it appears we have different mind sets on punishment. One day at noon I was walking back to my office, about a block from the bank. Some thing jumped out of a car grabbed my purse and pushed me down. Jumped back into the car, he wasn't the driver, and was gone. This wasn't a back alley at night, it was a busy city street. I was lucky I wasn't hurt. But what a nerve, I could never imagine doing something like that. Of course he wasn't caught, at least not for robbing me. I'd gone to the bank to deposit a check. Took about $40 cash from it and had put that into my coat pocket. So all they got in cash was a few cents in the bottom of my purse. But I had the aggravation of canceling all my cards, etc... plus my house keys were in the purse, so I called Cheryl who was home with the kids and warmed her. I called police and the next day went to BPD and spent a couple of hours looking through a couple of boys of a bunch of sorry looking human beings. I spent 2 weeks on a jury of a murder trial. The facts we heard we thought he was innocent. At the end of the 2nd week the judge stopped the trial and said the guy had "copped a plea" we probably would have let him walk, because we didn't "hear" all the facts. How come the jury only gets part of the story? I won't even touch OJ, and Casey Anthony. Sorry to babble on here, but seems like the bad guys are winning.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

We have many problems in our society, litlestarr, and we all need to work on improving conditions for everyone. Those poor souls that you refer to need lots of help, but capital punishment certainly is not the answer. What truly is needed is "justice for all."


litlestarr profile image

litlestarr 5 years ago

Yeah, and even maybe some justice for the victims. BTW just curious, at the top of this article there is a picture of a black man in a chair. When I really looked at it, it appears there are a group of black men surrounding him. Obviously they are not from the KKK.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I've added a caption to picture, litlestarr. The photo is here simply to illustrate the cruelty of capital punishment.


litlestarr profile image

litlestarr 5 years ago

Cruelty of capital punishment, really! Have you read about the Tate murders Ted Bundy, School shootings, those victims have got to be terrified, how about these nuts that kidnaps girls and hold them for years? Garrido, 58, and his wife, Nancy, 54 Then there was Elizabeth Smart. There is case after case http://www.cleveland.com/nation/index.ssf/2010/11/... of cruelty to victims. I don't want to hear about cruelty of capital punishment. These days, they get a needle and go to sleep, just like when we have surgery. Only we wake up they don't.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Killing a human being is cruel, litlestarr, whether it's a violent criminal or Mother Teresa. You have a totally incorrect view of how capital punishment is carried out. Perhaps you would like to view capital punishment being administered in person -- or pull the switch yourself. It is definitely not like going "to sleep."


litlestarr profile image

litlestarr 5 years ago

I'm sorry but I can not feel sorry for a sicko that tortures and kills. Someone that takes a child and rapes and brutally kills, no, nothing will convince me that devil should get mercy. Perhaps God can pardon and forgive, But He's God. I'm only human. And to say there is no difference between Mother Teresa and an evil killer, nah, I can't agree. Are telling me if some sicko had one of your daughters and was hurting her and the only way to stop him from killing say Beth is if you killed him, you wouldn't pull the trigger if you had a gun?


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

You are not expected to feel sorry, Linda, for any criminal -- or madman. Executing a wanton criminal endorses killing as a way of solving difficult problems. Aside from being abhorrent to any civilized person, capital punishment sets a very bad precedent and teaches our children that killing is OK as long as you fell justified in taking someone's life. Sometimes, as in war, there is little or no option, but that is different from killing criminals or anyone else as a means of punishment. Killing is killing, Linda, whether it is Mother Teresa or Jack the Ripper. Attempting to stop an attacker, as in your example, is totally different. Whatever happened to "Thou Shalt Not Kill?"


linda palucci 5 years ago

Bill, I disagree,in The commandment "thou shalt not kill" (found in the KJV Bible translation of Exodus 20:13), is better understood in the New King James Version Bible which states:

"You shall not murder." (Exodus 20:13, NKJV throughout) I think the message would be if you murder someone you hang or what ever method. The killing of the murderer is a lot less violent than the victim suffered.


Leptirela profile image

Leptirela 4 years ago from I don't know half the time

oh dear :( what a sad world we live in


linda palucci 4 years ago

yup, Leptirela I do agree


JimQ 4 years ago

Just as the writer says we bask in others' glory. The same with keeping convicted killers in our midst -- I don't think we're bettered by basking in what they throw off.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 4 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

We all must live with reality, JimQ. But if we execute heinous killers, I don't want to bask in what we've done!


CucharaDave 3 years ago

..."As one observer stated following the execution, Dodd's death will not end murder, rape or mayhem; his hanging will have little effect on such heinous crimes."

Westley Allan Dodd was a serial killer and child molester. He molested over 50 boys below the age of 12, some of them as young as two. In 1989, he molested and stabbed to death Cole Neer and his brother William. He also raped and murdered a 4 year old child, Lee Iseli. The fact that these details were left out of this discussion demonstrates the bias exhibited by the anti-capital punishment point of view.

Dodd stated "I must be executed before I have an opportunity to escape or kill someone within the prison. If I do escape, I promise you I will kill prison guards if I have to and rape and enjoy every minute of it." While in court he said that, if he escaped from jail, he would immediately go back to "killing and raping kids."

What Dodd's execution absolutely DID have effect on is that HE will never rape, torture or kill another innocent child. Prisoners, even murderers who we would imagine to be held under the tightest security conditions, DO occasionally escape and DO kill again. There can be no question that Dodd would have done the same.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 3 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thanks for commenting, CucharaDavid. You don't reduce killing by killing. Why would we want to mimic the behavior of killers if we truly want to reduce or end that heinous crime?


CucharaDave 3 years ago

Well, for starters Will, we're not "mimicking behaviors", because we're not randomly murdering innocent people for the fun of doing so. We're not taking an innocent convenience store cashier into the back room and blowing his head off for 50 bucks. We're not raping children, strangling them and dumping their bodies in a ditch to cover our crime. We're not murdering entire families just so we can take a shopping excursion with their credit cards. If you can't see the difference between cold-blooded murder of the innocent and retribution for those who had so little regard for the human life they took, and all the destruction to the families left in their wake, I'm afraid you're not really trying. Surely, following your line of thinking, by imprisoning these poor souls, we only create an atmosphere of "hostility and resentment", and therefore we shouldn't punish them at all. Perhaps if they'll just agree in writing to be more thoughtful in the future?


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 3 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

The crimes are certainly heinous, CucharaDavid, but that doesn't mean that we have to become killers. Dodd was obviously not of sound mind. Killing him makes us killers, but it only encourages violence as a solution to injustice. We should be doing all within our power to prevent such grievous crimes in the future.


CucharaDave 3 years ago

They certainly are, Will, which makes it all the more puzzling that the specific details of these heinous crimes are so rarely mentioned when we're making an argument against capital punishment- much like when you attempt to portray capital punishment with that turn-of-the-century photo from a third-world country using the garrote. As for the "sound mind" concept, it's a given that MOST murderers are lacking in that area. I think you would have to better understand the thought processes of the killer to appreciate the fact that they would have laugh at the efforts of people like yourself to to be 'humane' to them when they would take your life with as little hesitation as Dodd took the lives of those children.

To suggest that execution of murders 'encourages violence as a solution' is to suggest that Dodd killed because of his displeasure with the concept of capital punishment. Perhaps when we can find a way to prevent the abuse that so many murderers experienced as children we'll be on the road to a solution for the future. In the meanwhile, we need to deal with the reality that murderers need to be permanently removed from civilized society, not just warehoused until the opportunity presents itself to kill again.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 3 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

The details of murder should be unrelated to the issue of capital punishment, CucharaDavid, unless you're looking for revenge. Whatever the circumstances capital punishment is counter productive. Neither is the feelings or opinions of the convicted murderer germane to the issue. Society makes those decisions without consulting the convicted murderer. The fact that executing convicted criminals encourages killing in no way suggests any motive for killing. Murderers should be prevented from killing again, but do not need to be "permanently removed" from society.


CucharaDave 3 years ago

Well Will, I would agree completely that if watering down the brutality of the people you're so intent on protecting is your goal, then keeping the details of their acts to a minimum is just what the doctor ordered. I think however that the "feelings" of a murderer who vows to continue killing in or out of prison if given the chance to do so is absolutely germane to the decision making process. But tell me, if you can do no better than penning them up, given the possibility of escape, what IS your plan to prevent them from killing again? Individually, capital punishment is anything BUT counter productive. In fact, it has a 100% success rate- not a single person has died at the hands of an executed murderer.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 3 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

It's the culture of violence we have today that you apparently fail to understand, CucharaDavid. Capital punishment and the lust for retribution by many is what feeds the violence which we see today (such as the crazed killing of our children as we saw recently in Newport. Connecticut.)


CucharaDave 3 years ago

I believe it's YOU who fail to understand the culture of violence, Willie. You clearly don't understand the mindset of those who kill for the sheer enjoyment of the act. I would love to see your evidence that capital punishment encourages murderers; I was always under the impression that the crime comes BEFORE the execution. The Newtown (not Newport), CT tragedy had no connection to capital punishment whatsoever, although I hope it finds a connection in the near future.

But speaking of current tragic events, and back to your flawed concept of imprisonment of murderers vs. execution, it was only yesterday in Webster, New York, that William Spengler set fire to the home of his sister, who is still missing, then shot 5 firemen who responded to the blaze, killing 2 and seriously wounding 2 others.

Spengler, it seems, was a convicted (and then paroled) murderer who spent 17 years in jail after killing his 92-year-old grandmother in 1980.

Undoubtedly, someone borrowing from your infinite wisdom, concluded that William Spengler had "learned his lesson" and that we should let him go. A note found with his body read, "I still have to get ready to see how much of the neighborhood I can burn down, and do what I like doing best, killing people". Once again, had a cold-blooded murderer been executed, INSTEAD of being released back into society, the families of the volunteer firefighters who died yesterday would not be suffering the first of many Christmas Days to come without their husbands, their fathers, their sons.

Quite a system you have there, Will.....


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 3 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Firstly, CucharaDavid, thank you for correcting my brain freeze on Newtown. I know the town fairly well. I have no idea why I typed Newport. I must have been dreaming of beautiful mansions (I know Newport, too.) The tragic killings in Webster, N.Y., are very sad, indeed. The killer was obviously not of sound mind. I'm not familiar with he judicial system, which has many flaws in it, missed the boat on this one. Why he only received 17 years in his murder case I don't know, but apparently his mental condition was not understood. His case certainly raises the question of the need to evaluate the mental condtion of parolees before sending them into the community, but it does not justify the execution of everyone convicted of murder or of anything else. It does, however, bring in to question the value to society of keeping people locked up for years and then sending them out into society.

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