Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Death Penalty & Martyrdom

Amid Death Penalty Doubts, Alleged 9/11 Suspects Offer to Confess:

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — The five Guantánamo detainees charged with coordinating the Sept. 11 attacks told a military judge on Monday that they wanted to confess in full, a move that seemed to challenge the government to put them to death.

The request, which was the result of hours of private meetings among the detainees, appeared intended to undercut the government’s plan for a high-profile trial while drawing international attention to what some of the five men have said was a desire for martyrdom.

[The suspects] then withdrew the offer when a military judge raised questions about whether it would prevent them from fulfilling their desire to receive the death penalty.

"Are you saying if we plead guilty we will not be able to be sentenced to death?" Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed operational mastermind of the attacks, asked at a pretrial hearing here.
Beyond the circus-like wrangling of the scene, a larger and more troubling aspect arises in the back and forth over capital punishment. If pro-death penalty adherents get their way and we end up executing these defendants, aren't we giving them exactly what they want, which is instant martyrdom via execution? And wouldn't that lead to possible further attacks against the U.S.?

And if the anti-death penalty side prevails, and the perpetrators of this so-called "crime of the century", which killed 3000 people, escape the needle, doesn't that invite further attacks too? And what of your message: the average, poor, run of the mill killer in the U.S. gets a death sentence, but mass murderers who incinerate thousands don't?

Interesting indeed.


laura behm said...

I was unable to find an entry on Brian Nichols, and I was just wondering what your opinion was on the recent hubbub surrounding Brian Nichols, and your take on the new bill making it so that juries wouldn't need to come to a unanimous decision regarding the death sentence. It seems to me like that would be a huge step back for Georgia. Do you think the bill will stand up?

Todd Krohn said...

Laura, see my post above "Our Pound of Flesh" re Nichols.

Interestingly enough, just last March the Georgia Senate overwhelmingly defeated a measure designed to get rid of jury unanimity in death penalty sentencing. I doubt it will pass because of the major constitutional questions, but I'd better good money on someone introducing the measure come January.