Tuesday, December 14, 2004


I guess I wasn't the only one who found Scott Peterson's smarmy smirk annoying. Apparently the jury, and the crowd that cheered when they heard about the thumb's down, did too. I have no idea if the guy actually killed his wife, although I think he probably did because he was pretty much leading a second life that would've been made very difficult by the presence of a wife and child. But you know, there is no hard evidence. There's just all that circumstantial stuff, the fact that the case was pretty much tried in the media, and the fact that, we've all seen lots and lots of pictures of that smirk on his face.

And it's an annyoing smirk.

It makes me think that he's arrogant, and narcissistic and a liar. Whether he committed murder? I don't know. I wasn't in the courtroom and I haven't really followed the case, but I do know that the death of Laci Peterson and her son was an event so sad and devastating that people want to see someone punished. I understand that. I do.

But what if he didn't do it?

What if he's just an arrogant asshole who was cheating on his wife? The death penalty in this case, well in every case, feels like vigilante justice. The cheering crowd outside the courtroom, the sobs of relief inside the courtroom from her family, like somehow, killing someone who you think killed your loved one is going to make you feel better? And the fact that Scott Peterson is pretty much, on the face of it, an unlikable guy, a guy it's easy to hate even, makes the bloodlusty cries even more righteous.

I guess it's in our history, perhaps even in our genetic code, death as "justice" and spectator sport. The Romans in the arena would watch people be torn to pieces by lions, or by warriors on the whim of Ceasar's thumb pointing up or down. In England people were hung at the gallows and in France their heads were removed via guillotine before massive crowds screaming for vengeance or just enjoying the spectacle. When the wild west was being settled cattle poachers, thieves and robbers were likely to find themselves strung up on the nearest tree with the "posse" who caught'em gathered round to watch the death throes of the body as it dangled and jerked.

When people are executed now in the states that carry on this barbaric practice there are still witnesses although death is administered by lethal injection, a process which mimics that which use to put animals "to sleep." Not much action there, not like you'd get from the electric chair, or the gas chamber, or a firing squad - Gary Gilmore's preferred method of being launched from the mortal coil. But there are usually mobs outside the prison where the executions are carried out, some protesting with their candlelight vigils and others celebrating the death of the "animal" criminal.

It's really quite immoral, and as I said barbaric. The moral thing to do once someone's guilt has been agreed upon, because let's face it, very often people are found guilty sans any evidence to prove them so, so once the jury and the media have agreed that the person is guilty then I think the right thing to do, the moral thing to do, is to let the victim's loved ones pull the trigger, or push the button, or whatever - but they should be the ones to carry out the act that ends the accused's life.

That would truly be an eye for an eye as it says in the bible - our guide to morality.

Personally I couldn't do it. Not even if I saw someone shoot and kill someone I loved right in front of my face. In that moment motivated by fear and anger, yes I could defend myself or strike out in revenge. But in a cool and calculated manner, the way that Scott supposedly plotted and carried out Laci's murder? No, I couldn't do that, and I don't think that most people could, so I have a problem with the state doing it for me. I am not in agreement with this particular form of punishment. There's just too much room for error.

Granted someone who cannot live within the agreed social behaviors of our society cannot be allowed to run free and continue wreaking havoc, but death is letting them off easy. What about bringing back the penal colony, like the one featured in that movie Papillon? What about finding an island somewhere in the middle of shark infested waters and just dropping off the thieves and murderers and rapists about 50 feet from shore with a couple bags of seeds in a baggie? If they survive the swim to the island then they can go about setting up house with all the others who couldn't live within the social contract that guides human decency. There would be no guards, no structure, no system to protect them from each other. The only surveillance would be from a boat that circles the island about 100 yards off to make sure that no one builds a raft and escapes like Steve McQeen did.

It would be Lord of the Flies meets Extreme Survivor. I'm sure that if some network executive could figure out a way to mount cameras and recording equipment for remote video recording, they could turn it into a super successful reality show, because you know people would tune in! They could edit very special episodes where the most loathsome criminal gets his comeupance when a mob of other dastardly criminals descend upon him and not only kill him, but cook him and eat him too! And for the Fear Factor fans I'm sure there would be lots of bugs and snakes and creepy crawlers for the lawless to contend with. It's the kind of TV just made for those who love reality programming. I bet it would kick American Idol's pansy ass.

And going someplace like that would probably wipe that smirk off Scott Peterson's face.

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