Features — 27 March 2013 — by Janus

I have written five essays on the subject of the death penalty for murder, not for any other crime; certainly not for adultery, which is not a crime in any Christian democracies. I have been an advocate of this form of punishment for that specific crime because it would save lives, especially in the present climate, where people are killed by gang members in order to establish themselves with their comrades as vicious and ruthless.

All these years that I have been expressing these views, not once has any member of the clergy or the laity pointed out to me that they are contrary to the teachings of Christ. If they had, I would have given full weight to their counsel and considered revising my opinions. They have not and they cannot, because nothing I have written is contrary to the Christian faith.

Now, I am made to understand that the Anglican Church is in favor of the abolition of the death penalty. My understanding is based on a article in Amandala titled Anglican Community leads the charge to abolish the death penalty. A statement to this effect was made by Canon Leroy Flowers, Pastor of St.Mary’s Parish. To support his church’s position, Canon Flowers refers to an incident in the Bible, where the woman who was caught committing adultery sought Jesus’s protection from those who were going to carry out the sentence, imposed by Mosaic Law, which was death by stoning. How can that incident support a change in church policy on the death penalty? The woman didn’t kill anyone. If she had, she would have been tried before a judge. The state of Israel had courts to determine the guilt or innocence of persons accused of committing crimes. She was not brought before a court. Those who were going to stone her were the same as a lynch mob. Many were adulterers themselves and, Christ exposed them.

The woman came to Christ for protection. He represented sanctuary. Although Christ never spoke against the Mosaic Law, in His divine wisdom, He knew that adultery is not a capital offense, and used the incident to glorify the Father, in His judgment.

No murderer ran to Christ for sanctuary. I believe that if one had, his sin would have been forgiven on confession but, he would have been told to accept his punishment as atonement.

Rev. Canon Flowers is the Pastor of St.Mary’s but, Most Reverend Bishop Philip Wright is the Shepherd of the Anglican flock. It is for him to declare what appears to be a new church policy.

I have to point out once again that, contrary to the findings of studies done of European societies, there is a proven correlation between the death penalty, and the incidence of murder in societies like ours. The record shows that since 1985, when the last murderer was executed, the rate of murder has been increasing annually, reaching a record 144 in 2012. Young black males are becoming an endangered species. In certain areas of Belize City, if your son leaves home to go to a neighborhood shop, his family has no assurance that he will come back home alive. In this climate, for the prelate of a Third World country to support the policies applicable to First World countries, is to be out of touch with his own reality.

Last year, Amandala did a public opinion survey of Internet voters, and 89% of them were in favor of capital punishment for murder. If an opinion survey of the residents of Belize City (where most murders occur) was conducted by telephone, I think that support for the death penalty would exceed 90%. My view is based on the assumption that the vast majority of us are convinced that no other action by the government will achieve the desired objective, which is to reduce the murder rate and reverse the trend in violent crime.

A member of government says that convicted murderers may not be sentenced to death because, countries on which we rely for financial aid would discontinue their support. This means that those countries exercise control of our penal system. This means that their authorities think that they know better than our citizens how to deal with our social problems. In effect, they are saying that we are incapable of handling our internal affairs. Does this not amount to a form of recolonisation?

If a citizen can’t have a sense of personal security, while going about his normal business, what value can you put on his citizenship when his life has been devalued?

Many of us live and work in areas of the city yet untouched by the ever-widening circle of crime, while in other parts young men are being killed for no reason, or for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or for witnessing a crime being committed. We have to consider that for our personal safety, a way must be found to change this sorry state of things.

If a pebble were tossed into a pond, it would make small ripples, as well as, if a dollar was spent, the multiplier effect would do the same in the economy. But, if a murderer was sentenced to life imprisonment, there would be little or no effect on society, only to the murderer and his family. After fifteen years in jail, he would be converted from a human being into a vegetable. That is the effect that long incarceration has on the individual. Life imprisonment is not the appropriate punishment for murder.

If a large boulder was dropped into a lake, it would make waves, the same as if a million dollars were injected into the economy. There would be a significant impact caused by the multiplier effect. But if a murderer were executed, it would be like a promontory falling into the sea: it would send shock waves into the criminal element. It would strike fear into the hearts of murderers and those who would kill. Everyone in the society would pay heed.

For the death penalty to be truly effective, we have to make some changes in our criminal justice system. Murder is the unjustified taking of human life. We have to dispense with this business of degrees. Manslaughter is defined in the law. If it is not manslaughter, it is murder. There are many defences against a murder charge. That should be enough. Also, there are circumstances where clemency is called for, such as crimes of passion. What about this business of an automatic right of appeal? Where is the merit in that? Whose end does it serve? Not the society at large. Not the common good. It serves attorneys to earn more on appeals. It delays justice and adds to the burden of the state (which is us). Its purpose is supposed to be to prevent the execution of an innocent man. It is better that nine guilty accused be set free than an innocent man be convicted. Better for whom? Not for the society at large, not for the common good. Not for the primary ends of justice. The statistical odds against any innocent person being convicted in our courts are astronomical. None has been convicted before and none is likely to be. The scales of justice in our courts are heavily weighted in favor of the accused. We need go no further than this.

What is more, what about this notion of an innocent man? Diomedes searched, with a lantern, the whole world over trying to find an honest man. It would have been as difficult for him to find an innocent man. There are no innocent men, except, perhaps, saints.

Deserved punishment is justice, but undeserved punishment is redemptive. 2000 years ago, a Man who was totally and completely innocent, gave His life so that all men might have eternal life. If an innocent man were ever to be executed, his punishment would have redemptive power, but to prevent that happening, the justice system should not be twisted into a pretzel so that many murderers might go free.

Ninety percent of our citizens know that the appropriate punishment for murder is execution by the state. Ninety percent of us know that when we elect a majority party to be the government, they were not given a mandate to abolish the death penalty, and they have not done so, although what they have neglected to do has the same effect. Why should the nation continue to accept this state of affairs? For this reason: sober, thoughtful persons, in positions of trust, believe that to impose that penalty would offend certain countries, on whose good will we rely. We have a choice. Either the Scylla of continued murder and mayhem, or the Charybdis of disapproval by some of our benefactors. I think Charybdis is to be preferred because nothing can be worse than the total destruction of peace and order in our society, and that is where we are heading.

I don’t know what we would lose if capital punishment were reinstituted, but, these will be some of the benefits. We will be once again be this peaceful haven of democracy that people from all over the world will want to visit. It will bring the light of hope to our citizens who live in fear and darkness. Bringing down the murder rate will have a positive effect on all violent crime. The cost of internal security, the judiciary and penal institutions will go down. More of our best students will be drawn to the other professions, other than to law as they are drawn now. There will be a better climate for entrepreneurs to succeed. People would begin to come out of their homes at night and seek different forms of entertainment. The sports industry would thrive. And, finally, we will all breathe a collective sigh of relief and be thankful that we have leaders who respond to the collective will of the people.

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