Thursday, May 04, 2006

Will death-penalty abolitionists please stop trying to make us feel better about the Moussaoui verdict with silly and incoherent arguments?

An editorialist in USA today states:
The jurors' decision to send Zacarias Moussaoui to a stark, solitary cell for life - rather than to a quick execution - was a victory of rationality over emotion. Seeking vengeance against the only person charged in this country in the 9/11 attacks is understandable; the jury exacted it in a manner more fitting and severe than a death sentence.
If execution is "quick" while life imprisonment is more "severe," then why isn't life imprisonment the more vengeful sentence? What is this writer arguing, that we should coldly and dispassionately extend the criminal's suffering for as long as possible? Here he is on the harshness of prison:
Prisoners there are confined in cells,12 feet by 7 feet. Each has a cement bed, toilet, desk and stool. Most inmates stay in solitary for 23 hours a day. They shower, sleep and exist alone, their meals pushed through a slot in the steel door. No one has escaped the 12-year-old prison.

This is the appropriate hell for a man who mocked the families of 9/11 victims during his trial, who all but invited an execution to achieve his sick ambition of martyrdom.
So why the later mention of details that suggest that Moussaoui's crime was not so bad? The editorialist writes:
Defense lawyers argued that Moussaoui, who was in jail on immigration charges on Sept. 11, 2001, was merely a "hanger-on and nuisance" to the hijackers. Judging by the verdict, several of the jurors believed that was true. Three found his role in 9/11 was "minor." Three believed he had limited knowledge of the attack plan.
So maybe he should get death. Isn't that less "severe"? He concludes:
The case proves that even terrorists can be tried in the regular justice system, and that America can fight the war on terror with vigor but without losing its ideals.
What "ideals" would those be? Death penalty abolitionism? Dispassionate "appropriate hell" selection? Mercy to nutty, second-tier terrorists? Get real.

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