25 May 2016 11:53 PM (politics)
May 25, 2016
The Honorable Loretta E. Lynch
Attorney General of the United States
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear Madam Attorney General:
To my distress and anger, I read that you would seek the death of Dylann Roof. No society that calls itself civilized has cause to resort to capital punishment. Mr. Roof has done terrible things, but that makes no difference. Lethal force may be needed to defend the innocent or to apprehend the guilty, but no just end is gained when a nation, in calm deliberation, kills its citizens.
Capital punishment yields no deterrence. This is uncontroversial. The President who appointed you has said as much. President Obama instead supports the death penalty in the case of crimes “…so heinous that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage…”; this statement is fatuous drivel unworthy of a man of his intellect and learning. Justice built of outrage is justice built of tar and feathers and angry mobs and hangman's knots. Let it be excised from the world.
To the jury's decision in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev you said “…the ultimate penalty is a fitting punishment for this horrific crime and we hope that the completion of this prosecution will bring some measure of closure to the victims and their families.” This cannot be applied consistently. There is nothing that makes the families of victims of mass shootings, terrorist attacks, or hate crimes more deserving of ‘closure’ than the families of victims of more ordinary forms of homicide.
One person affected by Mr. Roof's crimes has said that he will feel at peace when Mr. Roof's body is lying cold in the ground. Another would like to be the one to push home the plunger for a lethal injection. These desires are understandable products of grief, anger, and loss; they can be excused, but they can never be respected. They have no place in the application of the law.
To do violence to someone, no matter their crimes, who has been caught and caged and rendered harmless is unspeakably vile. When you seek to kill a criminal, you make yourself the spiritual sister to every policeman who has beaten a suspect in handcuffs, to every prison guard who has kicked an inmate in shackles, and to every war criminal who has tortured an enemy prisoner.
You say that “The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision.” If the actions of a criminal can compel you to such a shameful act, then you ought to renounce any claim you make to serve justice.
With sincerest conviction,