Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why I Oppose Capital Punishment for Grossman

In response to the overwhelming sentiment that Mr. Grossman should be executed - I feel I must expand a bit on why I believe it would be an injustice in this case.

I should first state that as a matter of general principle I am opposed to capital punishment except for very special cases - like serial killers or mass murderers. I do not feel there is any moral justification just because the state of Florida has given its own parameters in mandating it. Their parameters are not my parameters.

The death penalty is not evenly applied in this country. The poor are far and away more likely to be executed for a capital crime than the rich.

And although it is not relevant in this case - it has been shown that in far too many cases innocent people have been convicted for capital offences, condemned to death, and executed. New and advanced DNA technology has proven this many times. In fact former Illinois Governor George Ryan was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for halting executions in Illinois for precisely this reason. Many condemned prisoners were saved when new DNA technology proved them innocent!

Secondly, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I cannot in good conscience advocate execution of the death penalty for an individual where Halacha would not allow it. If Mr. Grossman would have planned and gleefully murdered the Gadol HaDor in a slow torture -mutilation type rape/murder - and then showed no remorse - he would not have received Misas Beis Din. That can only be applied with Kosher Eidim and Hasra'ah. This was not the case here. Obviously.

And then there is the fact of his mental state at the time. He was not in fully in control of his mental faculties. He was on drugs at the time. That is no excuse - but to me it is enough of a factor to eliminate full awareness of what he was doing.

Then there is the fact that the crime was not pre-meditated. He did not set out to kill anyone that day. But if I recall correctly Florida statutes allow the death penalty anyway in murder cases where a felony is committed. Or in cases where law enforcement officers are the victims.

Law or no law - for me this is not a moral position to take. It is somewhat arbitrary. Why should the murder of members of only one profession be given the death penalty and not others? I completely understand their motives but I do not consider it morally just to single out for execution only murderers of one type of victim.

And then there is the matter of his remorse and that he has been a model prisoner. Does that not count for anything?

It is for all these reasons that I oppose his execution. I am not asking for his release. That would be an even greater injustice. But I am asking that his sentence be changed from the death penalty to life imprisonment.

That said, I agree with those who said that our own public service agencies should be as concerned for non Jewish prisoners in situations like this as they are for Jewish ones. But that does not mitigate the need to act here.

Finally as I said - my heart goes out to the family members who have suffered the loss of a loved one in such a horrific way at the hands of this man. But executing Grossman will not bring her back. Nor do I think it would make their loss feel any less deep.