Thursday, March 18, 2010

Question of the Day

A guy is about to be executed in my state and victim's mother has given interviews to seemingly every local news source. In the interview that is running on the radio, she says that:

1. She forgives him

2. She's bringing her whole family from Texas and Ohio to VA to watch him die, and is "looking forward to Powell being executed"

Are those fundamentally inconsistent statements? To my thinking they are.

who has no problem with not forgiving someone who murdered someone you love, but if you're going to talk to the press about how you forgive them, you should actually do it.

And who thinks it is only fair to point out that this particular killer is a total piece of scum.


Joel Monka said...

I could construct a scenario in which these two statements are consistent. For example, if she believed that a)he is currently reconciled with God, and b)is certain to screw up again sooner or later, then she might want to hurry up and hustle him off to Jesus quick while he can still make the cut. But in the real world, the two appear inconsistent to me. I think it probable that she has not come to terms with her emotions yet.

Bill Baar said...

It depends on what one thinks forgiveness is all about. If one considers forgiveness as a pardon, I think this women would be contradicting herself.

If one considers forgiveness as an act that brings some kind of inner peace or closure to oneself (and I hear that a lot) and not about pardon, then I can see how some one could forgive and still tell the offender to take the punishment.

Pop psychology does a lot of damage.

Chalicechick said...

My impression, and it's a cynical one, was that announcing one's forgiveness was simply the fashionable murder-victim-relation thing to do. I have great admiration for other victim parents who both forgive and actually try to prevent the execution, but I don't believe in the death penalty and I get that this seems excessive to people who disagree.

For "Forgive," has:

   /fərˈgɪv/ Show Spelled [fer-giv] Show IPA verb,-gave, -giv·en, -giv·ing.
–verb (used with object)
to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve.
to give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.).
to grant pardon to (a person).
to cease to feel resentment against: to forgive one's enemies.
to cancel an indebtedness or liability of: to forgive the interest owed on a loan.
–verb (used without object)
to pardon an offense or an offender.


To my thinking, these definitions don't require one to ask the state to not execute the criminal. That said, I do think they are inconsistent with looking forward to the execution and attending it personally.

Who is reminded of the many arguments she has had with people who don't get that "civil disobedience" and "pleading not guilty" are inconsistent. Pleading not guilty and trying for jury nullification is one thing if you just want to save yourself, but actual civil disobedience requires pleading guilty. Hippies never want to understand that, though.

Bill Baar said...

Who is reminded of the many arguments she has had with people who don't get that "civil disobedience" and "pleading not guilty" are inconsistent.

I've wondered about that one too...

fausto said...

"To my thinking, these definitions don't require one to ask the state to not execute the criminal. That said, I do think they are inconsistent with looking forward to the execution and attending it personally."

Aye, there's the rub.

She's not just attending it, she's bringing her whole extended family in from out of town to be titillated by it, as if it were a carnival freak show. That's not forgiveness, that's gloating over revenge.

The Dancin' Hippie said...

As a parent I can easily differentiate between forgiveness and punishment. I certainly forgive my kids when they mess up, but they still have access to electronics cut off for a time, so I think it possible. But if there were true forgiveness, I don't think she would want to attend the event.

Regarding civil disobedience and pleading guilty, I'm less sure. I agree that if you commit an act of civil disobedience you have to be willing to accept the punishment for it. But the act of civil disobedience is done as a form of protest to bring about change and it seems that you options for challenging the charges is limited if you start off by pleading guilty. My legal experience is limited two two trips to family court to adopt my children and what I hear on NPR and see on TV, so I could be all wrong here and I'll gladly take a lesson if there is one to take.

Chalicechick said...


To my thinking, saying "As a person, I forgive him, but I understand that the state is going to punish him for his crimes and I think that is fair"
is one thing,

and saying "I forgive him, but I look forward to his death and plan to watch!" is another.

I get that it's a little different when "forgiver" and "punisher" are the same person, yet I'm assuming when you have forgiven your kids and punish them anyway, you don't look forward to the punishment or take pleasure in it, you recognize that it must be done and get it over with.

As for civil disobedience, it's easiest to explain if we start with a really simple law. If it is illegal in your state to paint your house green and you paint your house green, you are guilty, presuming you had no mental disease or defect that made you do it and nobody held a gun to your head and forced you. If you plead "not guilty" you are saying that you didn't paint your house green.

Now, one can argue that it is a stupid law, I certainly think that is a stupid law, but you did violate it and if you are trying to properly protest something, the protest should be the point of the trial and any arguing during the guilt phase is a waste of everybody's time.

To argue "I didn't do it, oh wait, now that I've been found guilty, I want to argue that the law itself was unconstitutional" lacks the gravitas of "I did it. Now that we have that out of the way, before you punish me, let's look at the constitutionality of this law."

At least, that was Ghandi's logic, although I don't doubt he said it better.


Eve said...

On pleading guilty and civil disobedience, it might depend on the elements of the crime. If the crime is defined as painting a house green, then yes, if you did that, you should plead guilty. But if the crime is defined as painting one's own house green, and you believe there is no such thing as ownership and refuse to recognize the laws that define your house as "yours", then maybe you'd plead not-guilty.

Or more realistically, if the crime is "disturbing the peace," and your sincere belief is that the police were disturbing the peace, not the protestors, you might want to plead not-guilty.

PG said...

If the house isn't yours, you can add defacement of others' property to the list of charges in the green-paint caper. Even public property like courthouses that theoretically "belong" to all taxpayers can be criminally defaced. Also, your individual beliefs are generally deemed irrelevant when determining whether you are justified in your otherwise-criminal actions; if I believe embryos are people, I can't use that belief to justify stealing excess embryos from a couple planning to dispose of them or donate them to research, and implanting the embryos in myself in order to "save their lives." The law deems embryos to be property, not people, and I am going to be prosecuted on that basis.

Also, there is no point in civil disobedience actions that are intended to change the underlying law by demonstrating its hardships, if no one actually suffers any hardships from the enforcement of the law. On the other hand, if you think the underlying law is generally acceptable and merely object to its being enforced against your precious self, then pleading not-guilty is reasonable.