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American Justice: The Use of the Death Penalty: When Should the Victims or Families Have a Say? [64*15]

Updated on August 13, 2015

Should the Victims (or Their Families) Have a Say?

CNN JUST reported that Texas had executed long-time criminal Mark Anthony Stroman for the murder of Vasudev Patel, allegedly as one of a set of 9/11 revenge murders or attempted murders. What I found compelling about this article wasn't that Texas executed another person, you will find executions in Texas are a matter of routine; nor am I personally against the death penalty itself for I am not; I do think that the death penalty is applied in an haphazard, inconsistant, and biased way left entirely too much on the prosecutors oratorical skills to evoke passion in the jury. Instead, it was the strong plea by one of the other intended victims, a devout Muslim and for whom Stroman was not being put to death, by the way, who was shot in the head but, nevertheless, lived, to spare Stroman's life. That is what made me ponder and write this hub.

While I do not oppose use of the death penalty, I oppose strongly its imposition in any case where there is any possibility the jury got it wrong. As we all well know by now there are hundreds of innocent men, and a few women, alive today because of the Innocence Project that would otherwise have been mistakenly killed by the State because the jury thought they were correct; there is no way to know, of course, how man innocent men and women have actually lost their lives in the pursuit of American justice. I will leave that for you to ponder.

There are many issues that make great fodder of hubs regarding the imposition, the mechanics, the ethics, and the unintended consequences that surround the death penalty. This one has to do a little bit with the imposition and unintended consequences.

Death Penalty in China


The Victim

MARK STROMAN allegedly shot Rais Bhuiyan, a Bangladeshi, in the head as part of his revenge attacks; Rais survived but lost sight in one eye. It is Mr. Bhulyan, a devout Muslim, who sought so exuberantly for Stroman's life. He even established a website to campaign for his stand and filed a "friend of the court" brief in the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, supporting Stroman's requested stay of execution; it was denied.

Why did Mr. Bhuiyan do this? He says because (taken from the CNN article):

"I -- and here I act as a spokesperson for the other victims' families as well -- have been denied our proper voice in the proceedings," Bhuiyan said in the court documents. "We do not wish to see Mark Stroman executed for his crimes. For myself, it is clear that nothing would cause more devastation and pain to the life I struggled to rebuild after the attack than for Mark Stroman to be killed."

I read this a few times; now, hopefully, you have read it a few times.

How much weight should courts give to victims and victim's families wish to have when it comes to the imposition absolutely irreversible death penalty? What are the unintended consequences on those people when those wishes are not met? Is the State victimizing these near helpless individuals all over again in its Fundamentalist faith-based, blinders on, head-long rush for supposed justice in the name of the actual victim? I think these are all questions that deserve a lot of explorations.

Another Chance to Easily Express Your Opinions

Do you Favor the Use of the Death Penalty in America

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Do you believe the Death Penalty is Applied Even-handedly in America?

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Considering the Finality of the Death Penalty, Do You Believe There Should be just One National Criteria for What Qualifies or Should each State be able to Set Its Own Rules?

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    • SammySammo profile image

      SammySammo 6 years ago from Boston, MA

      I'm glad to link to you. I am not sure If I have done so correctly--I just used a raw link, I didn't make it look pretty, but it's in there. =)

      I'm not sure what my stance is on the superego's power to control neural impulses, and my only defense would probably be that that person's superego was also wired to resist such impulses. Nevertheless, I think a person in that situation, who has had voluntary control over their actions, would be the type of person who would benefit from some kind of therapeutic action.

      Regarding victim's choice, it's actually a topic I've heard little about, and I think I did misunderstand it through my initial skim of your article. I think the point that the victim (or her family) would suffer more from an additional unnecessary murder is a good one. Yet I think the victim's wishes are too removed from the situation, and I think this would too often promote revenge or even inflict more suffering on the person to have to decide a person's fate. I think anyone would battle with the decision, with outliers requesting the death penalty and some requesting the criminal live. I think probably most of why I'm against victim's decision is because of how strongly I feel against the death penalty.

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 6 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Sammy, first, let me say that you do me a compliment wanting to link to my hub, I appreciate it and will return the favor.

      Next, let me say you make many profound statements and thoughts, the responses to which deserve their own hub outright, so, I will keep my comments brief and only touch on a couple of the myriad of facets of this question you touch upon.

      As to the victims input, be it the person themself or immediate, effected family. The main motivation I have there, which hit home in the article I read which promted me to write mine, was the continuation of the crime in terms of its impact on the victim(s). In this particular case, one of the principals that was hurt by the murderer was very much opposed to executing him and to do so would cause this victim further pain and suffering for no other reason than the State feels compelled to do so for no particularly good reason other than that was the sentence handed down. Beyond the empathy for the victim and my desire for the State to not continue to inflict harm in cirtain circumstances, I don't much hold with the victim having much say in the punishment either.

      While I agree with your fundemental assumption that for a person to do real evil, then something must be "wired" wrong in the mind, I do not agree that, in and of itself, is absolution for the crime; they couldn't help themselves because that is the way they were built. There are always circumstanses of mitigation and exaserbation (sp). I think that in most of instances of evil acts, while the actor may have been predisposed toward that action because of neural make-up, the superego is sufficiently strong in most people to control those impulses. Where the person doesn't, it is a voluntary choice for some short-term, perceived gain or pleasure. I will agree, however, there are, nevertheless, many instances where the person truly didn't have sufficient control to prevent the act and; in those cases, different courses of action need to be taken in terms of addressing the crime. I will go further and say there are many who are incarcerated in a normal prison who, while still in need to be constrained, shouldn't be in that kind of environment but one more suited to healing.

    • SammySammo profile image

      SammySammo 6 years ago from Boston, MA

      I just wanted to let you know that I wrote a Hub built on my comments I wrote here but I mentioned your Hub in the text of mine. If you'd like me to remove the link just let me know! I just thought I'd share why I wrote the Hub with whoever reads mine and direct them here as well.

    • SammySammo profile image

      SammySammo 6 years ago from Boston, MA

      It just seems so risky to me to convict someone of the death penalty. Who can be 100% sure that they committed the crime? And if they are 100% sure, how can they be sure, without studying and testing and attempting, that the person isn't capable of changing?

      But when we're 100% sure of the person's guilt and 100% sure that they can't change (if we can ever be that sure), then that's where your idea of victim's choice comes back. How do we decide whether the person dies or remains in prison forever? It seems like people desire the harshest punishment to fit their sense of justice. Some people believe the death penalty is worse, while some believe life in prison is far worse than just being killed and ending their suffering then.

      I don't know that the victim should have the right to decide what happens to them, especially since their decisions are already compromised by the same structures compromising their ability to respect human life. We still need to look at which option most respects their life. But in this case, a case where the person cannot be rehabilitated, this person's quality of life must seriously be questioned in the same way that we question the elderly and terminally ill's quality of life before performing euthanasia. What kind of life can this person lead if they can never get better? What kind of life can this person lead if they sit in a prison cell and constantly have to live with urges that mainstream society rarely encounters? Even further, what kind of life will their family lead, knowing their family member is suffering because of something they cannot help? I think, in a sense, that it is the same as a euthanasia decision. I think the family and doctors {who have proven this person has unchangeable neurocircuitry) should discuss together the ramifications of this person continuing to live--not on society, but on himself and on the family.

      It shouldn't be seen as justice--it is sad that humans die. It is sad that some people are born with the need to kill. It is sad that some people grow up in environments that change their brain structures to favor killing. How can we fault people for the way their brains are wired? How can we fault someone for being unknowingly shaped to do something? I don't think we can. I don't think we have the right to say that these humans are bad--that they don't deserve to be here--because in a sense they do. In so many ways these people have been given an unfair roll of the dice coming into this world. In so many ways, they lives should be respected, for their lives were tainted by broken decision-making and negative environments. In so many ways, they should be pitied, and not hated.

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 6 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Thank you for reading my hub and your wonderful comments Sammy. You probably make the best case against any sort of death penalty I have heard to-date and is something I need to consider in my own views.

      There is no question the death penalty does not deter others from murder in any significant way although I suspect it does stop killing in a few cases; it doesn't make any sense otherwise.

      The death penalty is simply revenge for the living and a sense of justice, which is where I come down at the moment. A person who commits a callous murder simply, in my view right now, has given up his or her right to live and the People via the State, have a right to demand the Christian "eye for an eye".

      I don't think there is any question these kind of murderers are people which are beyond rehabilitation so the alternative to the death penalty is life without parole; the effect is the same, the person is removed permanently from human society. Ironically, today, the cost of either method is about the same given the process to complete an execution.

      Bottom line though, because of the panoply of misjudgements by jurys and sometimes callous and criminal activity of the prosecution to first convict then kill the person they want to find guilty, I believe the death penalty needs to be off the table except in certain, extrordinary circumstances.

    • SammySammo profile image

      SammySammo 6 years ago from Boston, MA

      I think it is always wrong to take a life. Our brains are wired the way we are wired. In many ways, I think it's difficult to fault the victim with 100% responsibility. I'm sure if we look at neurological activity, we would find a difference between those who kill and those who do not. Something is wired differently, whether it is the way they think, the level of neurotransmitters, or the connections between emotional regulation and action. I don't believe we should kill. I am 100% in favor of a rehabilitative "prison" system.

      Unfortunately, humanity isn't perfect, doesn't have the resources, and doesn't have the ability at times to have such a prison system. In any case, the death penalty is wrong. We have no right to take what belongs to another. We have no right to take another person's life.

      Studies on the death penalty have even shown that states without it fair better criminal-wise. I'm sure there are confounding variables, such as that states that don't have the death penalty are states were less severe crimes happen. But I think a person's life belongs to them.

      The death penalty seems to be a form of either protection for society or an example to society. But the death penalty does not seem to deter crime in states were it has been approved. And we can protect society without killing criminals. There is no justification for it.

      And I know some people want a sense of justice or revenge, but how does taking a person's life from them make you feel better? Human minds work differently, as I've said, but even IF I ever felt I wanted a criminal brought to justice, I know I could not live with myself if I were responsible for his death penalty conviction.

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 6 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Hi Cooldad, thanks for the comment. Personally, I don't have much issue with the death penalty but must nevertheless agree with you as a practical matter. Until we figure out how to impose it justly, in all cases, then I can't support it. If we were able to apply it fairly, making certain the person being killed is the right one, and we don't spend a quadzillion dollars getting to that point, then death vs life of torment in jail comes down to a cold, economic decision ... which costs us more.

    • cooldad profile image

      cooldad 6 years ago from Florida

      I think sentencing should be delivered without emotion. If you let the victims have a say, they are obviously and understandably going to be clouded by their emotions. And that can detract from the law and delivering just sentences. There should be distinct guidelines set and followed by the court to sentence someone to death.

      Personally, I don't believe in the death penalty. I think putting someone in prison for life is far worse punishment than being put to death. Death is their way out of their sentence.

      Very interesting hub and interesting poll results.

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 6 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      I understand your point, Danielleantsz. Thank you for the compliment.

    • danielleantosz profile image

      danielleantosz 6 years ago from Florida

      The chance that an innocent person could be put to death is the reason I am against the death penalty. The risk that one innocent person could be put to death is just to great. Well written and thought provoking hub!

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 6 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Thanks for the comment Stump Parrish. Fundamentally, I agree with you ... until I read the part of Bhuiyan's statement that I italicized. That is what got me thinking, and why my hub is so uncharacteristically short; I am not sure what to say about it.

      Victimizing the innocent, victim family mememers in this case, because of the impersonal actions of the State has always been a big philisophical issue with me. Of course, the side I am representing in that statement are those opposed to the taking of human life ... any human life, not just fetuses. You also have the other side who will not feel any closure until the murderer is dead.

      Just how do you deal with that? I don't know yet.

    • Stump Parrish profile image

      Stump Parrish 6 years ago from Don't have a clue, I'm lost.

      I'm going to go with my first instinct and say no. The victims dont get to decide if it the death penalty is an option before the trial and I dont think they should have a say after it. I am aware that their have been mistakes made in the past but not in this case. The survivor I assume identified the shooter and it would have taken a lie from him to keep the shooter from being convicted. Thelaws of our country are as fair as they can be considering that humans are involved. The jury has spoken and unless there was provable mistakes made, they based their decision on the evedience presented. Their decision should be respected as being final. However we have seen how much this means to a lot of people with the Casey Anthony trial. The cries for vigilante justice are disgusting in my opinion. Add to this that some people have begun to threaten people with the same name and have tried to kill those who look like her and you get an example of why the general public shouldn't have a say in these things.


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