Sunday, 10 April 2005

That old Ferengi legal tradition

Monday’s Telegraph carries a report that the Saddam loyalists in the Iraqi insurgency may be willing to give up their fight in exchange for Saddam not getting the death penalty. (þ: memorandum)

Meanwhile, the real Olympic bomber, Eric Rudolph (not to be confused with Richard Jewell), avoided the death penalty for his mid-90s bombing spree in Alabama and Georgia this week by revealing information, including the location of weapons caches, to federal authorities.

Of course, if monsters like Saddam and Rudolph aren’t going to get the death penalty (even if they deserve it—an argument that could easily be made for both men), I’m not at all convinced that anyone else should get it—even putting my philosophical problem with the death penalty aside.


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“Of course” doesn’t follow at all here. “Of course” monsters like Saddam and Rudolph (or the Unabomber, or anyone else) wouldn’t cop a plea for life without parole if death were off the table from the beginning.


Well, if these two folks deserve to be put to death—and I can’t think of two people who more deserve it than Saddam Hussein and Eric Rudolph—and we don’t put them to death, how can we justify putting someone else to death whose crime was less egregious (say, a drug dealer who killed a cop during a no-knock search—a horrible crime, to be sure, but not a premeditated scheme for mass-murder)?

Then again, maybe that’s an argument never to make plea bargains with people who are eligible for the death penalty, which means (in these cases) a bigger insurgency and bombs blowing up in western North Carolina.


The fact that not all (or even most) murderers get what they deserve is not a reason why none should. Unless, of course, your goal is to make our criminal justice system equally bad for all – in which case all murderers should be let free since O.J. was.

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