Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Another execution

Some of you may remember my post on the old POL blog about the execution of Philip Workman. Workman's death got worldwide attention because of his poignant last request that a pizza be given to a homeless person on his behalf. Workman always had a fair amount of public sympathy because of the circumstances of his crime, and because he came across as a fundamentally decent, if messed up, human being. Sympathy didn't save him in the end, but I'd like to think it matters that people cared about his death and saw it as an injustice. Maybe sympathy for him pushed us just a little way toward ending our attachment to state murder.

The State of Tennessee killed Daryl Holton last night, and I suspect it would have gone completely unnoticed except for the gruesome fact that he chose the electric chair over lethal injection. Holton's crime was mind-numbingly awful. He killed his three young sons and their half sister, quite deliberately and methodically, as an act of revenge against his ex-wife. He was mentally ill, and completely lacked Workman's ability to inspire sympathy. Even the director of the state's most important anti-death penalty organization didn't sound that sorry to see him leave this earth, reportedly saying “We want it to be as humane and painless as possible.’’

I wouldn't presume to criticize Stacy Rector for those words. What would any of us say when obliged to comment on such a sad, repulsive event? But the truth, of course, is that electrocuting a man can't possibly be painless or humane. The horror of what Daryl Holton did doesn't diminish the cruelty of his death one bit. He was murdered, deliberately and methodically, just the way he murdered his children.


helg said...

A male Medea, so to speak. (I bet he did feel some pain killing them as well...)
Revenge is a terrible, terrible thing: one way or another.

BitterGrace said...

"A male Medea" is pretty apt. And he does seem to have felt something like remorse about his children. He had further plans--among other things, he had built incediary devices to firebomb his ex's home--but after killing his kids he just turned himself in to the police.

Anonymous said...

Apart from the victims' friends and families, I cannot understand how complete strangers can be so happy about the execution. Great crowds of self-styled "victim advocates" gather at the prison and actually celebrate when the death is accomplished. What business is it of theirs that Horton is killed? What causes them to cheer as though their team had scored a touchdown? Why couldn't they be satisfied with locking Horton away forever? There is a vicarious re-enactment of something brutal and primal at work here. I'll never understand it, and it gives me the willies.

Anonymous said...

Hi BG,

I'm thinking along the same lines as Bozo - **Apart from the victims' friends and families, I cannot understand how complete strangers can be so happy about the execution. **

For me, if my daughter was murdered , then I would want the murderer killed. Forget forgiveness in that scenario. Something like that is so personal - it's between the killer and the victim's family.I would not want it to be a media circus because of that. I just hate when people jump on the band wagon because of the hype. They (generally speaking) are not there for the right reasons such as a family member or close friend would be.

Such a tough topic. I feel sympathy for both parties in this case you mentioned but I feel that way because it has not affected me personally or directly.

Dawn (p.s. my blog is not working, so I had to do the anonymous thing.)

BitterGrace said...

Yeah, Bozo, I think those people should give you the willies. They are indulging the nastiest part of human nature. Opportunities for out-and-out lynchings are pretty rare these days. Cheering a legal murder is the next best thing as far as they're concerned.

Hi Dawn--I honestly don't know how I would feel if someone close to me were murdered. I'd like to think I would still be against execution, but who can say who hasn't been there?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's a difficult subject. I used to be for the death penalty when I was in my late teens through my 20's. Then I went over to the other side somewhere in my late 20's to now. And then sometimes I literally on the fence about the death penalty. No one wins, that's all I know.