The best thing for a murderer is to die. And, since he has no right to take his own life, the best thing for someone who has taken the life of another human being is to be put to death. Then, if he has a conscience, his suffering will be over and the pain caused to the family of his victim and his own family will come to an end. That is if he has a conscience.
To understand how killing someone without justification affects an ordinary person who commits this crime, I recommend that you read Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.” It is the story of a man who killed and was immediately contrite. He suffered the tortures of the damned because, his guilt weighed so heavily on his mind, with the passage of time, as to become unbearable. Dostoyevsky’s murderer’s suffering was so intense and his fear of discovery so great that he was sure that he was always being closely pursued. In the end, he had to confess his crime or he would have lost his mind. Dostoyevsky’s thesis seems to be that a normal human being cannot help but destroy himself if he commits the act of murder. But, what about abnormal human beings, who have no conscience?
Some soft-hearted people (to their credit) believe that they are being compassionate when they propose that the proper punishment for murder is life imprisonment, not realizing that they condemn the murderer (who has a conscience) to a lifetime of mental and spiritual suffering. What good is it to have a human being confined for the rest of his life to suffer when the proper punishment is to put an end to his pain and, at he same time, end the pain of the family of his victim? But these vicissitudes apply only to normal individuals.
These same people contend that the commandment, “Thou shall not kill” applies to the State. This view is patently absurd. The action of the State in executing a murderer serves two purposes: justice and the saving of human lives by deterring other murderers. Those who support life imprisonment as the penalty for murder are indeed soft-hearted (which is to their credit) but, they are also wrongheaded (which is not).
We have to be concerned with two other kinds of murderers. These seem to have no conscience for, it does not appear that they have been disturbed in the least by it, in their death dealing careers. Are these people really human?
There is also the individual whose profession is to kill other human beings for financial gain. The more successful he becomes at it, the higher his financial rewards. He is respected by his associates and an object of fear to everyone else. He loses all human feelings. His conscience is dead and he becomes a monster.
What about the murderer who does not have a conscience, or if he had one in the beginning, it has ceased to exist, after the second or third murder? Such a one has lost his humanity. He may go through the motions of living, such as eating and drinking and associating with other human beings, even loving and being loved but, in the most important way, acknowledging that every human being has the right to live and serve God and his neighbours, he is already dead.
Such a condition applies to the members of gangs whose purpose is to commit crimes, including murders, for personal gain or some other anti-social objective. Strangely, a gang member who has killed more than once can live and be human within the gang itself, but not outside. The gang is the support system which sustains him, even in jail.
Nothing or no one change the character of such an individual after he has become accustomed to an existence similar to that of the predators in the wild animal kingdom. Only a bolt from heaven, like the conversion of St. Paul, can change the behaviour of such a person.
I was talking to a member of my family who does not support the death penalty for murder as the answer to the serious crimes situation. He contends that it would have no effect because, in Belize today, the murderers who are apprehended and charged are rarely convicted. He pointed out that the defence is superior to the prosecution when cases reach the trying stage and, very often, a case cannot be made because witnesses are not forthcoming. They are intimidated and even killed. Yes, things have indeed reached this sorry stage but, I am convinced that it would not have come to this, if there was no moratorium on capital punishment.
In any case, it is the duty of the State to protect its citizens against monsters in human form, and, it is up to our political leaders to find appropriate answers to the serious crimes situation. And, it is the duty of the citizenry to give thoughtful consideration to the measures proposed by the government to this end, bearing in mind that any initiative is better than no initiative at all.