Capital punishment is not moral justice

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons | The Tree of Life shooting is deadliest attack on the Jewish community in American history.

Eliyahu Gasson | Staff Writer

In my last article for the Duke about Robert Bowers, “Combating Hate with Mercy,” I thought using the death penalty in this case, as well as any other case, was immoral. With Bowers set to be killed by the federal government, I can confidently say that I still hold this belief.

We, as a country, do not value mercy enough. We like to assume that we know when it is okay to kill another person.

Bowers is no longer an immediate threat to anyone. He’s behind bars, where he cannot do what he did in 2018 ever again. The jurors in this case, as well as supporters of the verdict, are claiming, whether they like it or not, that killing in the name of vengeance is acceptable.

Please, don’t misunderstand me, I hate Bowers. He attacked my community. I hope he thinks about the damage he caused to the victims and families of the victims who were praying that Shabbat morning.

As evil as I think Bowers is, I would not want anyone to go through the experience of living on death row.

For the next decade or so, Bowers will suffer severe mental anguish as he waits for his turn to die. He will find himself paralyzed by the pancuronium bromide used to keep him from expressing the pain induced by the potassium chloride. Fire will set to his veins before it stops his heart. He will be given a sedative, midazolam, however the chance that it eases the pain is questionable at best.

None of that sounds like justice to me.

I understand the want to prolong the suffering of Bowers. I think it is only natural for us to feel this way toward people like Bower who kill innocent people based on lies.

We saw Bowers hunt down innocent worshipers in a place they felt the most safe in, in what is the most deadly attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States.

He has done irreparable harm to my community, which is still mourning this tragedy.

I want to see him face the consequences of his actions, but I don’t think being tortured and killed by the government is a fair consequence.

If what you really want is to mercilessly punish Bowers, wouldn’t living out the rest of his natural life to ruminate on what he has done be more effective? Our justice system is wrong for willingly not giving the perpetrator the rest of their life to maul over the damage they left.

There are some people I know who believe that the death penalty’s usefulness outweighs the questionable morals behind it. They argue that by using the death penalty, we are creating a deterrent for future criminals. This is not verifiable, however. There is no credible evidence that killing prisoners is a better deterrent for crime than long-term imprisonment.

Don’t you think we would have fewer massacres like we did in Squirrel Hill if the death penalty was an ample deterrent?

Bowers likely knew shooting up a synagogue would end with him in custody or dead. The same is true for the man who attacked Muslim worshipers in Christchurch, New Zealand, and for Dylann Roof, who shot up a Black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The people who commit such heinous crimes are not rational actors.

Deterrence does not work on irrational people who cannot figure out what is best for themselves and think that all their problems stem from some minority group or another.

Our justice system is irrational for thinking that killing criminals is an effective deterrent for future mass murderers. The death penalty being upheld in this case serves as an indictment of American justice.

Our country is acting irrationally by continuing to dole out death sentences. Our nation needs to begin thinking rationally — we need to be better than Bowers.