Thursday, November 24, 2005

Further reflections on the death penalty

I've seen a number of bloggers and MSM journos make the point that Van Nguyen is after all a convicted drug trafficker, and that the anti-capital punishment people are distorting the situation by trying to portray him as an innocent victim and sacrificial hero.

As so often, there are more than two possible points of view here. One of the best books ever written about a murder trial in this country is Ken Inglis's The Stuart Case, about the trial and conviction of the Aboriginal labourer Rupert Max Stuart for rape and murder in rural SA in the late 1950s. After the movie about the case, Black and White, was released a couple of years ago, a new edition came out with an 80-page update by Inglis. Essential reading for anyone interested in the history of race relations, Adelaide, or Australian law.

Inglis takes pains to point out that most of the people who campaigned (successfully, eventually) to save Stuart from being hanged thought that he was probably guilty. They were campaigning against the death penalty, not trying to prove Stuart's innocence. The case was further complicated by the fact that Stuart had been mistreated and evidence contaminated from the moment he was arrested. Two of the people actively involved in the campaign to save his life were the young Don Dunstan and the young Rupert Murdoch. Go figure.

Neither Van Nguyen nor Stuart is anything like as clear-cut a candidate as the subject of the last legal execution that I remember thinking about: US rapist and serial killer Ted Bundy was put to death in the late 1980s. Now THERE was a case to make a good soft-left pro-choice feminist wimp sit down with the Scotch bottle and spend a hard couple of hours keeping vigil and trying to work out what she really thought.

And I did.

It's wrong.


reverendtimothy said...


I'm not for or against the death penalty, but "It's wrong" isn't helping me make up my mind...

Pavlov's Cat said...

Okay, sorry -- I was simply describing the conclusion I came to, rather than preaching (hehe) as such. It's wrong why? Well, because last time I looked, deliberately taking the life of another human being was called murder, no matter what that person had done.

And even if you think legal state-sanctioned murder is okay, I also think that it brutalises and diminishes those who order it, those who condone it, those who carry it out, and those who watch.

reverendtimothy said...

Thankyou for summing it up so concisely.

It seems everyone else on the Internet is jumping on the "OMG ITS LIEK BAD!" bandwagon at the moment, but I'm not hearing too many convincing arguments. I read lots of words, but not a lot of meaning.

Particularly your sentence: "I also think that it brutalises and diminishes those who order it, those who condone it, those who carry it out, and those who watch." made me wonder... Could I press that fatal button? Would I feel it was just?

In this case... probably not.

reverendtimothy said...

Hahaha @ preaching :-P

sexy11 said...