This horrifies me in a very real way. Sure, it’s none of my business: not my country, not my state. I’m sure nobody in Texas is waiting with bated breath for little old me to weigh in on their judicial system.
But how in the name of ANYTHING can people claim this is right, just or in any way fair? Ridiculous. I accept that accessories to the crime do deserve punishment, as often they are involved in the planning or more importantly assist in the execution of a crime. Is driving the getaway car the same as pulling the trigger? Isn’t there some room for doubt that while Kenneth Foster was driving the car and committing other crimes, he didn’t realistically expect his accomplice trying to rob someone would end in a fatality? Of course, anything is possible, but are we really to be punished for every theoretical outcome of a situation. The case seems shaky at best, and yet here it is in its final throes. Why not commute the sentence to life imprisonment since Foster himself did not take a life directly. The man who did has paid with his life, so surely the pro-death penalty thinkers ought to be satisfied with that?
Yet it seems to be about more than settling a score or making things even on the cosmic balance sheet, it’s about vengeance and as with any bloodthirsty act, the greed and power of it get too much. I cannot claim to be any kind of legal scholar, but the shocking enthusiasm of Texas courts for this kind of legal ruling is well documented without my tuppence worth. It’s all part of that peculiar “red state” mindset so confusing to us, the lily-livered liberals of Europe (and I’m not really a liberal). Now nothing involving David E. Kelley and lawyer characters is exactly the most credible of sources, but watching the season 1 finale of Boston Legal with James Spader and Kerry Washington railing ineffectually against the dramatised immovability of the Texas courts and their apparent love of the death penalty, I could have shouted myself at the injustice of it.
This is such a permanent step. I’m against the death penalty generally because there is no going back. Every system is fallible, in courts and police departments that are overworked and underfunded, perhaps corrupt or simply negligent, we have not as yet managed to resurrect anyone outside of a fairy story. Life imprisonment is at least something that can be halted should new evidence come to light. Time may be lost, but a prisoner may be compensated for that, imperfect a solution as that might be. You can apologise and make reparations for an incorrect prison sentence; the same cannot be done with a corpse. For a system of law based so firmly on checks and balances, only the frankly remote possibility of a gubernatorial or presidential pardon can halt this after appeals have failed, and that can only be a failure of what the constitution set out to do. Can they not allow that prosecutors and police officers and judges might just be imperfect at times too? Of course not, the same people can’t understand that the Second Amendment and it’s gun-toting proviso was intended for a time before regulated armies and police departments, so what hope have we here?
I’m no fan of religion, but when it’s pretty much universal in all of them that only God has the right to take life, and many of the people baying for inmate blood identify themselves as Christians, surely this disparity ought to be seized upon? Again no, the rules are flexible for believers on this, and not when it comes to a life-ruining unwanted pregnancy.
I despair, I really do. There are few people I know more openly pro-American than I, but issues like this make me fervently glad to be on this side of the Atlantic.