After a few days away, I thought it would be ‘nice’ to begin the week with something heavy. As ever, I apologise that the stories are so Anglo-centric.
The Washington Sniper, John Allen Muhammad, was executed in Virginia on Wednesday. Along with an accomplice, he took the lives of ten people (six more survived being hit by one of his bullets) over a three-week period in 2002. He was also suspected of other fatal shootings.
His legal team argued that he suffered from Gulf War syndrome, his psychiatrist that brain scans hinted at schizophrenia.
He was killed by lethal injection.
Those following the story in the UK may well have watched with interest Channel 4’s controversial fictional drama, The Execution of Gary Glitter, where the shamed Seventies star and convicted paedophile was tried for his crimes – committed in Vietnam – in a Britain where capital punishment had been reintroduced for murderers and rapists of children under the age of 12.
Back in reality, in the US, the call to extend death penalty laws to include sex offenders was narrowly defeated in a landmark Supreme Court ruling last June.
Working on the assumption that the programme’s title has already spoiled the ending for those that didn’t see it, I confirm that Glitter’s character exits with a rope around his neck. No lethal injection here, just the hangman’s noose.
Britain abolished the death penalty in 1969, by the way.
Apparently, as Channel 4 eagerly flashed on screen seconds in to the broadcast, 54% of Britons support its reinstatement.
As people were questioning the bad taste of depicting the execution of someone who is very much alive (and living quite freely), although it seemed that many were getting more het up over the suggestion that Glitter was threatening to sue the programme-makers than the thought of the programme’s subject being upset at seeing himself hanged on TV, a young couple at a London court were contesting whether their chronically-disabled 13-month-old son should be allowed to die.
Diagnosed with a rare neuro-muscular condition that severely restricts one’s ability to breathe, with limited control over his limbs, unable to make facial expressions or show when he was in pain, doctors agreed that Baby RB would lead a “miserable, sad and pitiful existence” and was not likely to live beyond the age of five.
It was decided that his life support should be switched off, and he died on Friday.
As feelings toward matters such as these are often dictated by the heart more than the mind, driven either by feelings of loss or burning rage towards a criminal deed, or perhaps by faith, the case for and against choosing exactly who, if anyone, should have the power to end the life of another is hardly necessary here. But I would like to hear your random thoughts.
This year, we have watched in disbelief as yet another missing girl, now grown up, was found living in squalor with children fathered by her abductor and abuser. We’ve been sickened into accepting that children can torture other children in ways that even Quentin Tarantino would consider too graphic for inclusion in his movies (hopefully). We had the usual smattering of cases that disturb, such as the deliberate and brutal murder of a defenceless disabled man, a desperate mother taking her own life as well as that of her mentally-handicapped daughter to escape their tormentors once and for all, and frail pensioners being sexually attacked in their homes. Can such evil ever be cured? And isn’t it similarly ‘evil’ to allow another to suffer knowing that their life is filled with incredible, inexorable pain?
One final thought: Terminally-ill so-called Lockerbie Bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, found guilty of 270 counts of murder in what many believe to be a miscarriage of justice, was allowed home to die on compassionate grounds this year. Just consider how sharply that act of kindness split opinion worldwide.