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Deadly Idiocy: Killing Killers Who Want to be Killed

The sheer stupidity and bloodymindedness of the death penalty crowd is on view in the decision to seek the death penalty for a guy who caused a train wreck while trying to kill himself. It's a little like giving money to a convicted bank robber, isn't it?

You really know the state killers have lost it when they call for the death penalty for someone who was just trying to kill himself in the first place.

That's what prosecutors are doing in the case of Juan Manuel Alvarez, the 25-year-old Californian who apparently parked his SUV on the tracks of a Los Angeles commuter train line earlier this week in order to commit suicide.

Alvarez, according to news reports, lost his nerve and left the vehicle as the train approached, and escaped injury, but the resulting crash, which derailed the train, ended up killing 11 riders and injuring many others.

Death penalty aficionados, including L.A. County's vote-hungry District Attorney, see killing Alvarez as the logical punishment for his horrible misdeed. Under the Old Testament eye-for-an-eye logic of state killers in this great Christian Nation, it's kill and be killed.

But what exactly is the punishment when you kill someone who was trying to do that to himself anyway? If anything, after causing so much suffering and pain and loss of life, Alvarez probably wants to die more than he did before the tragedy. In any event, he certainly wanted to die badly enough to try to do himself in. All the state will accomplish by injecting him with their deadly cocktail of toxins at the end of a high-profile legal process and millions of dollars in legal costs will be helping him to do what he didn't have the courage to do himself.

Hurray for the death penalty!

In fact, many of the nearly 4000 people currently on death row are there because they wanted, after a fashion, to die.

For all the right-wing blather about how without a death penalty, some killers will eventually return to society to kill again, it is arguable that more people have been slain and will be slain because the death penalty tempts weak-willed people to kill as a way of ensuring that they themselves will be punished with death.

Leaving aside whether it is even right to punish?particularly to punish with death-- someone who is so whacked out that he tries to kill himself by parking in front of a moving train, what point is there in killing him for doing it? What he really needs is psychiatric help.

Naturally, someone who commits such a crime, causing even if unintentionally, the deaths of nearly a dozen innocent people, needs to face consequences of some kind. And society needs to be protected from a person capable of such an outrage. That's what prison confinement should be for.

But killing him, while certainly protecting society from any future idiocies by Mr. Alvarez, may well encourage more such kamakazi acts by other disturbed individuals like him.

Far better to lock Mr. Alvarez away for a long time, so that others of a similar mind may ponder the idea of spending years behind bars, without so much as a rope to hang themselves with.

For the rest of this column, please go (at no charge) to This Can't Be Happening! .

homepage: homepage: http://www.thiscantbehappening.net

add a comment on this article

... 28.Jan.2005 08:40

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The "justice system" and the psychiatric system both have ideological envelopes big enough to accommodate everybody the cop machine pulls off the street. Is there a difference between people who "should be" in prison and people who "should be" committed? No, it's just a turf fight between two different priesthoods, the judges and the doctors.

The doctors seem to be a little less sadistic, but I'd rather not get locked up by either team.