Equal Justice: Not Equal, Not Justice

The Scales of Justice

Was His Suspension Justified?

Darryl Strawberry given one-year suspension -- Simmons/News Photo
Darryl Strawberry given one-year suspension -- Simmons/News Photo

One human being fires a handgun point-blank into the heart of another ... causing fatal injuries. The gunman is arrested, tried by his peers and convicted.

In this scenario, Americans would differ significantly on the question of capital punishment, but few would disagree with the premise that the gunman should receive equal justice under the law.

Capital punishment? Life in prison with no chance of parole? Or, 25 years to life, with or without eligibility for parole after 20 or 25 years?

Mitigating Circumstances?

What would be a fair sentence? Who should make the decision -- a judge? Parole Board? Governor?

What about mitigating circumstances? What if the "gunman" were a woman? A 9-year-old boy? A 21-year-old "punk" with a long criminal record? An 85-year-old cancer ridden man in a nursing home? A prison inmate?

Good questions, perhaps; but, really, are there any good answers? How much thought does "the system" give to these questions -- or to questions of equal import on other, similarly complex, controversial matters?

The answer: Very little!

What thought, what consideration is given to these questions? By whom?

Hit Or Miss Legislation?

Lawmakers on occasion specify punishment in legislation, often on a hit-or-miss basis, sometimes leaving judges some "flexibility." At times, as in New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller's drug laws, mandatory sentencing is ordered, eliminating any such flexibility.

Crime and punishment has always been a complex subject, and it rarely has been administered well. The dungeons and torture chambers of earlier centuries have pretty much disappeared, but our society has a long way to go to reach an intelligent, fair and just solution to the problems we face today.

Capital Punishment Not the Answer

Capital punishment -- simultaneously barbaric, inhumane and ineffective -- is still advocated by large numbers of people. It is not, and never will be, the answer.

Neither is crowding large numbers of criminals into jails and prisons for varied numbers of months and years, releasing the majority of them into the population after long periods of nonproductive incarceration that aggravates, rather than improves, the social and economic skills that ex-cons need to become useful citizens -- that is, if anyone would give them a responsible job in the first place.

The question of how to handle crime and punishment goes beyond the justice system. The same kind of problem arises with discipline in our school systems, with recalcitrant children in dysfunctional families and with pilfering and drug use by the employees of some businesses.

Major league baseball has the same kind of problem.

The recent one-year suspension of New York Yankees designated hitter Darryl Strawberry, for instance. He was 37 when he failed a drug test in February; that's "old" for a baseball player. His one-year suspension likely means the end of his career. If he were 21, however, it would be little more than a bump along the way.

What's needed in order to find a workable solution to this whole problem is a far wider public debate on these issues.

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on April 13, 2000. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages. To view my HubPages Profile Click Here

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Abolition of Capital Punishment in the U.S.

I saw this tragic murder on television.

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Comments 40 comments

ColdWarBaby 8 years ago

Ultimately the only thing that will solve this conundrum is the evolution of humanity. We have the inherent capability to eliminate "criminality" from our species entirely. I'm doubtful that we will survive long enough as a species to achieve that level of civilization however.

Meanwhile, we'll just have to muddle through and hope for the best, which is what we generally do anyway.


William F. Torpey profile image

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

At the rate we're going, ColdWarBaby, the "evolution of humanity" will take many centuries -- if we achieve it at all. Too many otherwise good, intelligent people are so insecure that they apparently must find some category of people that they can look down upon. It's not possible to feel superior to any person or group and still to look upon them fairly.


compu-smart profile image

compu-smart 8 years ago from London UK

I wish i knew the answer to these dilemmas!

I dont agree with capitol punishment on the grounds that many people are wrongfully convicted, but if its 100 proven without a shadow of a doubt, i think people should be treated as individuals and i agree that mitigating circumstances should always be used for leniency depending on the situation surrounding the crime!

as coldwarbaby mentioned, the only solution is the "evolution of humanity" which starts in the home and parents should take more of a responsible for there child actions from a very young age and if they cannot do this then i think parants should account for there children's behaviour especially at a young age!


William F. Torpey profile image

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

Juries are instructed that capital punishment convictions are required to be made "beyond a reasonable doubt," compu-smart, but even that tough standard leaves room for error. In any event, I maintain that imposing capital punishment forces all of us to descend to the level of the criminal. Parents are ultimately responsible for a child's upbringing, I agree, but the structure of our society diminishes the role of parents (kids spend more quality time with teachers, clergy and others than with parents.)


Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

Good Hub. One of the best immunizations against crime is, as you implied, solid parents.


William F. Torpey profile image

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

Parents definitely need to spend more quality time with their children, Lisa -- especially working parents. Too many parents want to shuffle off the children to somebody else (like school teachers or coaches), or something else (like TV or computers.)


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

One of the downsides of careers for women outside the home is that their children are cared for by someone else. My mother taught school before marrying, but never worked outside the home after that and she and no one else cared for her four children. My wife worked as a statistician at the same company where I worked. We met and married and she continued to work until our first child was born and then quit. Later, she worked and continues to work as a high school math tutor.

Now, few families seem to be able to make ends meet on the salary of one spouse. That's unfortunate, in my opinion. Several other countries have much more generous family leave provisions than we have in the U.S. Too bad for us.


William F. Torpey profile image

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

Before WW II, Ralph, the father was the family breadwinner. During the war, women had to work, as my "Rosie the Riveter" mother, did. But women's pay was far less than men's pay. Gradually women earned more, but, even today, there remains a gap -- and the glass ceiling still largely remains. Now it takes two incomes per family to make ends meet. But, if women abandoned the work force and returned home to care for their children, men's salaries, in my opinion, would immediately nearly double -- so once again one salary would be enough to sustain a family. Unfortunately, it's not likelyl to happen!


qwark profile image

qwark 7 years ago

Hi William:

In my "hub" concerning televised executions, I used the words: heinous, premeditated, kill, perpetrated and innocent.

When one considers those words, seriously, one "knows" that the only LOGICAL justice required is to "delete" the "guilty," permanently, from a society trying to earn it's place amongst all "SUCCESSFUL" forms of life.

I must, "civilly," disagree with the premise of this "hub" as it relates to "Capital Punishment."

Qwark


William F. Torpey profile image

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

Society has been executing criminally for centuries, Qwark. How are we doing? Have we solved anything?


qwark profile image

qwark 7 years ago

Hi William:

We are executing "criminally?" Pls explain.

Sure we've solved a problem everytime we "eliminate one of them. :-)

Qwark


William F. Torpey profile image

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

Sorry, Qwark, that was a typo -- it should have said "criminals." Yes, we eliminate "one of them," but executions make violence acceptable which encourages even more violence not to mention the inhumanity (even to criminals.)


qwark profile image

qwark 7 years ago

Hi William:

Thanks for responding.

When has violence not been acceptable on this planet?

When has violence encouraged more violence when violence is natural to every facet of life on this planet?

In fact, where in the universe is violence not absolutely part and parcel of existence?

There has not been a time in human history that man has not praticed inhumanity to man. That inhumanity will continue long after you and I are gone.

I'm sure Your reply will be "we must start now," or " a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step." My response to that is, if we protect and nurture the criminally predisposed human, we are doing a great injustice to our species in it's attempts to become "successful."

The human animal is the only animal that defies natural logic: the strong and adaptable shall survive.

Why do you think "capital punishment" is "inhumane" to the guilty?

Qwark


William F. Torpey profile image

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

Survival of the fittest may be necessary for the animal kingdom, Qwark, but humans, we hope, have risen above that to something we loosely call "civilization." When violence is common it becomes a part of the culture. Inhumanity to man persists, it's true, but that doesn't mean we should accept it and perpetuate it. I never suggested that we should "protect and nurture the criminally predisposed." But we should treat human beings like human beings -- even if they don't behave like human beings. If we kill because they kill...if we torture because they torture... then we become like them. Is that what you suggest?


qwark profile image

qwark 7 years ago

Hi William:

We ARE animals.

when you say: "Survival of the fittest may be necessary for the animal kingdom.," are you intimating that we are not animals?

Please present to me a time in our history when we humans could be considered to be "civil."

You are so right when you say you use the term "civilization" loosely.

I think it's time that we begin to act in concert with nature with the goal of survival in mind. To do that, we must seriously play natures game. Abide by her demands and play to win.

Allowing the abysmally flawed murderer to be entertained, fed, cared for and given a soft bed to sleep in for years...as opposed to "deleting" him immediately is illogical.to the max.

Again thanks for chatting and sharing your thoughts.

Qwark


William F. Torpey profile image

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

We are animals, Qwark, but we don't have to act like animals. We do have a civilization (sort of.) We have minds, ethics and sometimes even morals. We have an opportunity to be better than animals acting only on instinct. If we don't destroy ourselves through outright tyranny or Hydrogen Bombs, maybe, just maybe, we can work together to produce a world of peace and prosperity -- without undue violence!


qwark profile image

qwark 7 years ago

Hi william:

...the operative word is "maybe."

We won't see it in our lifetime.

Those animals which operate on "instinct," function with nature. We are animals which operate on both instinct and willfulness, therein lies our problem.

As a "new species," we are playing, like a baby in a crib, with things we have no understanding of.

Ethics have to do with "right and wrong." They are "relative."

I have written a "hub" on those subjects. It's called: "Encore."

The "possibility" that man will "work together to produce a world of peace and prosperity -- without undue violence!" does not exist.

Execute the murderer! It is "natures way."

:-)

Qwark


William F. Torpey profile image

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

Wilfulness is not our "problem" Qwark, it's our opportunity to do what's right. Animals kill because they know no other way to find the food they need to survive. We can survive without killing, if we chose to do that. We choose to make killing (murder) illegal. We can also choose to make executions illegal as well -- and we should!


qwark profile image

qwark 7 years ago

Hi William:

Killing is right and natural!

All life is TOTALLY DEPENDENT upon it's ability to "kill."

All life from it's beginning kills to survive.

Even the "god" thing from biblical scripture flies into human like rages and jealousy and "kills" it's own (alledged) creations by the tens-of-thousands.

We kill "willfully" for the same reasons...but our willfulness is akin to the evolved anomaly: consciousness. Consciousness is the mother of imagination. Imagination, in the ill conceived minds of lesser evolved human creatures (the majority fall into this category), can and will be devestating to all life on this planet.

We must DESTROY all facets of humanity which display character which is detrimental to the continuation of innocent and progressive human life.

Those who have been found guilty of "capital murder," lose their right to life. that is "Natures" way. Who are we to oppose it?

Qwark


William F. Torpey profile image

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

Killing may seem "natural," Qwark, but that doesn't mean it's right. We do not have to accept that premise, and I, for one, do not. If killing is "natural" then we should make make murder legal. Then we could all play "wild West" and carry two guns on our hips.


qwark profile image

qwark 7 years ago

Hi Torpey:

Murder? Murder is defined in English as: "the crime of unlawfully killing a person with malice and aforthought." '

Your reply: "If killing is "natural" then we should make make murder legal."

Yes! I agree that we "humans," who are concerned with the survival of our species, have and should "LEGALLY" murder with malice and aforethought those who commit the "ILLEGAL" act of murder upon an innocent human being. But,for a human to be allowed to "murder" indiscriminately, would be insane and contrary to the laws of "nature." That would be in direct opposition to the social mores of a young and advancing "civilization!"

What has caused we humans to advance to become the ruling force upon this unique planet is 'socialization" and "language." The strong and adaptable among us have survived! The way of the "natural" is "the weak shall perish!" We must not coddle the criminally weak and infirm. Once they have proven they are a detriment to the forward progress of human life, nature demands their elimination! It does so at all levels of life.

Right and wrong are "relative" to cultures and societies"

"Killing" on this planet, is a natural process of "life."

I would beg gov't to give me the man/woman who murdered that sweet, innocent little girl this week and threw her body into a dumpster which was emptied into a landfill in Georgia. I would guarantee he would have his life ended in the same gruesome manner hers was!

Tell me that this "beast" should be allowed to live! If they would televise his/her execution, my neighborhood would be invited to the happiest "tailgate" party I could conjure up!

His /her death would be saluted with laughter, tears,

hallelujahs and amens!

Qwark


William F. Torpey profile image

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

You say,qwark: "Once they have proven they are a detriment to the forward progress of human life, nature demands their elimination! It does so at all levels of life." Do you then favor "eliminating" the frail, the elderly, the lame, the mentally challenged? How about those that cheat at golf? Look at you cross-eyed? Really!


qwark profile image

qwark 7 years ago

Hi Torp...

"Do you then favor "eliminating" the frail, the elderly, the lame, the mentally challenged? How about those that cheat at golf? Look at you cross-eyed? Really!"

I don't think any of those described in that sentence fit the definition of: "...the ill conceived minds of lesser evolved human creatures..." "...humanity which display character which is detrimental to the continuation of innocent and progressive human life." "...Those who have been found guilty of "capital murder,"..."...those who commit the "ILLEGAL" act of murder upon an innocent human being."...etc., etc., etc..

Pls give me a logical reason that the murderer of that little girl I mentioned should not be "destroyed" poste haste.

Thanks for replying.

Qwark


William F. Torpey profile image

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

Destruction of the murderer would do nothing to benefit human development, Qwark. In fact, as I've said, capital punishment does the exact opposite. It teaches us that it's OK to kill if we believe we have a good reason. Killing, by a murderer or by the state, is not only inhuman it's barbaric.


qwark profile image

qwark 7 years ago

Hi Torp..

Respectfully, we "humans" are barbaric!

You use the world "inhuman" in ref to killing? We "humans" have been killing, murdering, torturing, maiming and destroying life since our beginning. How in the world can you come to the conclusion that killing is "inhuman?" It is probably the most "human" thing we do!

We are genetically programmmed to be the earth's prime predator.

We spend generations inventing and perfecting ways to kill OURSELVES more efficiently and with no compunction.

Destruction of all "murderers," (murderer defined: to kill brutally) would most definitively benefit "human development!"

If we evolved as a benevolent, altruistic, caring, loving, magnanimous life form, we wouldn't be discussing the subject "killing." We would epitomize the portrait of social amenity and civility!

Your view of what man should represent is idealism to the extreme. The odds of man becoming what you visualize him as being, do not exist.

Speaking realistically, we humans have evolved to a pinnacle of savagery and barbarism.

Our "salvation" as a species can only be realized if, indeed, we could come together in concert to concentrate on survival.

I define Your "idealism" as naught but "HOPE" which is just desire with an expectation of fulfullment.

If mankind doesn't concentrate on synergistic action to save itself, it is doomed to experience catastrophic failure.

C'mon, lets get real! Stop "HOPING" and revert to "ACTION!"

Destroy all of humanity which opposes logic and reason and acts contrary to the survival and viability of all life on this unique little planet we call "HOME."

Sincerely!

Qwark


William F. Torpey profile image

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

Human history surely leaves a lot to be desired, Qwark, but it's not unknown for one human to sacrifice his life for others. If life is worth living at all, there's no greater purpose than to make life better for those who follow -- and you don't do that by Mr. Spock-like logic.


Jim Bryan profile image

Jim Bryan 7 years ago from Austin, TX

Great Hub William.

I have done a 180 on my views on "so-called" Capital Punishment as I have aged. Once the blinders of youthful idealism faded, I realized how susceptible to corruption our system can be at times. This corruption has, and could again, be used to falsely imprison and execute innocent people. When that happens, our society, and "We, the People" become responsible. By extension, in the case of Capital Punishment, we become murderers ourselves.

That to me, is unacceptable.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

Great hub. Man's inhumanity to man should slow to a complete stop. Justice or the right to appeal to justice is too often bought. Some are buying better chances for their "favored justice".


William F. Torpey profile image

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

Thank you, Micky Dee, for your comment. I agree on both counts. As a society, we still have a very long way to go.


lisadpreston profile image

lisadpreston 6 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

An excellent hub. The death penalty should be a thing of the past. We are no better now then we were with the Salem witch trials and we know what a farce that was. Murder is wrong, yes, and crime is wrong but why are people always out for revenge? This country murders people everyday legally through wars but that seems to be ok. What example is that showing our citizens? It tells us that it is ok to murder if you feel justified in doing it. Crime could be reduced drastically if we could eliminate poverty. Most people steal because they have to eat and take care of their families and feel they have no other solution. America is rich and there is no legitimate reason why some should be forced to rob and steal in order to survive while others have billions of money sitting in the bank to rot. I dont think anyone gets up in the morning and out of the blue, thinks to themselves, "Gee I think Ill go kills someone today," or "I think this would be a good day to go rob someone". Lets face it, prisons are big business, and our government doesn't want to eliminate crime because if they did, they would. This society will not evolve until we start placing our values on people and animals instead of money and fame.


William F. Torpey profile image

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

Thank you, lisadpreston. We are definitely on the same page. I couldn't agree more with your very thoughtful comments. Someday, it is to be hoped, all people of good will may give this issue further thought and dispel the notion that violence can be diminished by more violence.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

Had to come back and refresh. Thanks


Moulik Mistry profile image

Moulik Mistry 6 years ago from Burdwan, West Bengal, India

Equality of justice is a daydreamer's stratagem - there cannot be any equality amongst the human animals...


Moulik Mistry profile image

Moulik Mistry 6 years ago from Burdwan, West Bengal, India

Excellent hub - I loved the way you justified yourself in arguing about the long arm of justice. But most arguable point whether death penalty should be done away with. I think until and unless you can decide on the ongoing violence all around world, you can't take decisive stand on this...


William F. Torpey profile image

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

"Some men see things as they are and say, "Why?" I dream things that never were and say, "Why Not?" -- George Bernard Shaw.

Inequality of justice is certainly widespread in this world, Moulik Misty, but we don't have to accept it as the way of the future.


William F. Torpey profile image

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

Sorry for the typo Moulik "Mistry."


mquee profile image

mquee 5 years ago from Columbia, SC

This is a topic that deserves to be dicussed over and over again. It is obvious what we are doing now isn't working. Another appalling situation is the number of wrongly convicted people who have had their lives ruined. Great topic.


William F. Torpey profile image

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

Thank you, mquee. The number of wrongly convicted people is just one more reason to oppose capital punishment.


Ron Roppo 4 years ago

I did see that horrible execution on TV. In reality we do the same thing all we do differently is spend Billions to do the same thing. I think it's a state issue but I do think there has to be more control on making sure the right person gets punished. I think in some states it makes a difference more so than others. it is cruel and barbaric and so is the the crimes that were committed we are a civil sort and there was a time we did abolish this punishment it was brought back for a reason why I'm not sure. The wrongly accused is my main concern and we are a democracy so maybe we should put it to vote like abortion let the people decide rather than nine that were appointed.


William F. Torpey profile image

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

I appreciate your thoughtful comment, Ron Roppo. Capital punishment is indeed barbaric -- as is capital murder -- but the best way to insure that no innocent person ever be executed is to ban capital punishment without exception.

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