"Thinning The Herd"

By Steven Kivel

"Sometimes, you just have to thin the herd". Dennis Miller speaking in favor of the death penalty.

When I was young, I was against the death penalty for all the wrong reasons. I thought it inhumane. I was aware that it doesn't work as a deterrent and killing one person won't bring another back.

After the birth of my son Christopher I became aware of other factors. Susan Smith put her two children in her car and sent them into the water as they cried for her to help them. "Does Susan Smith Have To Die?" People magazine would ask. My simple answer, YES. HELL YES ! for certain ultimate actions there needs to be an ultimate consequence.

Tim McVeigh? Toast him! He blew up a day care center. O.J.? Okay fine, toast him. The Menendez Boys, shoot them, reload, and shoot them again. How about the Ramseys? Well toast them both, okay they have yet to be charged with any crime, but I don't care. They are both clearly guilty of exploitation of their daughter in those pedophilic pageants. Then they obstruct justice, causing mind numbing delays in the criminal justice process. Yea, in my book, you toast them.

Okay my problem is clear. Of the people I mentioned, only McVeigh is facing this ULTIMATE CONSEQUENCE. The Menendez boys, and O.J. were released (after first trial) and the Ramseys are cozy in there homes, behind their walls of green and gold. I have no problem with the death penalty as long as I'm the one imposing it.

The clarity of the ultimate consequence becomes muddy when the great unwashed runs it through their hands. If my personal "fry them" favorites miss out on the long wait to their last sit down, who is getting toasted? The statistics of who is tying up court time with appeals are easy to locate.

At first glance it seems to be an issue of gender and race. Death Row is the last great men's club. I can hear the women's groups, "the cyanide ceiling" they'll call it. Blacks, 11% of the general population, make up more than 40% of death row. And people say affirmative action does not work.

If the white herd has problems and needs an occasional thinning, the black herd would seem to have mad cow disease. Either black men are animals who need to be gun down like rabid dogs or there is an amount of racism and sexism apparent in the system.

If the answer is this simple why isn't O.J. on death row? Despite the vast differences in view points drawn along racial lines, most people agree, "If O.J. Simpson was plain old Orenthal the bus driver, he would be being strapped down as I write this note." O.J. bought his way to freedom. No matter if your black and applauding or white and appalled, it seems inescapable that it was justice for sale. This makes Justice seems a little less like a lady and a little more like a whore, and she wears that blindfold because, "Hey, some guys will pay more for it like that."

There are no millionaires on death row. There was no one with a pre-accusation income of 100,000 dollars a year. More than 90% of people on death row could not afford to financially participate in their own defense. While the growing cost of high tech prosecution is covered by the state and the rich; the poor are left in the low tech defendant's chair that doubles as the roller coaster ride to oblivion.

In a country where there is an ultimate consequence, there must be ultimate justice. Anything less is a human rights violation. Anything less than absolute justice is treating humans like cattle, and the question of justice is just thinning the herd.


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