Thursday, April 22, 2010

Life Means Life 2

Should Life literally mean lifelong imprisonment for murderers? The campaigners whose brains retreat into parroting "life should mean life" undoubtedly think so. So let us look at the type of offences and people they want banged up for ever...

It is a common (and seemingly permanent) belief that Murder must be a deliberate and intended act. This is wrong. The definition of Murder is only that the killer intended to commit 'serious harm1. If death follows, even if it was explicitly not intended, then it is still murder.

For example, if a Bad Man surgically removed your arms and legs, intending to cause you lifelong suffering, but you then died from the injury, that would be Murder. The Bad Man explicitly did not want you to die, but through his acts of serious harm you did.

The majority of murderers actually had no intention to kill at all. They were lashing out in the face of anger, jealously, rage, despair, hatred, love - a temporary 'brain storm’ that swiftly ended. Sometimes the victim lives, sometimes they die. If they die, it is murder.

Do we want to lock up, forever, people who had no actual intention of killing? Is this what the Life Means Life sloganeers actually advocate?

Crude 'Life Mean Life' reasoning also encompasses mercy-killings. The people who, with the most elevated intention of ending suffering, kill another person. This is murder. Even if the suffering individual asks to be killed, it remains murder. Do we really want to lock these people up forever?

Given these examples, I suspect that the 'Life Means Life' advocates will retreat from their broad position and narrow it down to a more specific set of murderers one that excludes the 'nice’ ones.

Perhaps endless imprisonment should only apply to those who deliberately kill, with premeditation? That is, the common murderer of myth.

But if Life Means Life for deliberately killing one person, what then is the punishment for someone who deliberately kills several people? You can only serve one Life sentence. Is it justice to give the same sentence to a person who kills once as to a person who kills several times?

'Life should mean life’ is a wonderful slogan. It is short, easily remembered, and fits nicely onto a banner. And it is a wonderful way of avoiding having to actually think. It is only when you pick away at it, give it closer scrutiny, that it is revealed as a very shaky and arguably unjust sentence to levy at most people convicted of murder.

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