Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Thousand Executions

Kenneth Lee Boyd, a 57-year-old Vietnam veteran, is scheduled to be the 1,000th human being to be executed since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1977. Boyd will die by lethal injection early Thursday morning as punishment for the fatal shooting of his estranged wife and her father in 1988.

Boyd has three sons, two of whom witnessed their mother's and grandfather's murder almost 20 years ago. All three sons want their father's life to be spared, and are hoping for North Carolina's Gov. Mike Easley to grant a last-minute stay of execution. That possibility is considered highly unlikely.

I am not one of those who think that Boyd's Vietnam service can explain or justify what he did, or exonerate him for killing his wife and father-in-law. I simply do not believe that it is moral, ethical, logical, consistent, or reasonable for the state to take a person's life, in cold blood, because that person took someone's life, in cold blood. As a statement of abhorrence for the taking of human life, it makes absolutely no sense to me. It's wrong. Like others who oppose the death penalty, I think that Boyd should have been sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. That would be a meaningful indication of society's respect for human life and wrath at the taking of human life.

And this I find extraordinarily bizarre: that if Kenneth Lee Boyd had gunned down a Vietnamese woman and her father while serving in the U.S. undeclared war in Vietnam, he would not have been tried for or convicted of capital murder, and he would not be on the verge of being strapped down to a gurney and injected with poison. Same crime, except for one thing: The killing of Vietnamese civilians was, if not sanctioned, certainly condoned and excused by the government of the United States. The killing of an American woman and her father by the woman's estranged husband was an act not authorized by the government of the United States. Boyd was acting on his own, not under the direction of the state. That is the only difference that I can see.

NOTE ADDED LATER: The Australian drug smuggler who was sentenced to death for being in possession of 14 ounces of heroin was executed today, despite outraged protest from the Australian government and people, and numerous appeals for clemency. Nguyen Tuong Van, 25 years old, was hung before dawn today.

No comments: