Monday, November 8, 2010

To Darkness

So they decided to kill Steven Hayes.
That can have been a surprise to nobody.
And yet they struggled, or so it appears.  They deliberated (or at least hung out in the jury room - we assume they were deliberating, and the assumption is almost surely correct) over four days.  William Glaberson, writing in the NY Times describes them this way.
The jurors stood in the jury box, some looking drawn, as the clerk of the court read through the long verdict form they had filled out. . . .
All the jurors somberly answered "yes" when the clerk asked if they all agreed that that was their verdict. One wiped tears from her eyes. 
It is, I suppose, as it should be.  Killing a man ought to be hard.  And though Steven Hayes still breathes, though it will be years and years before his murder by the State of Connecticut should that ever occur, the jurors killed him.  They could have saved a life.  They chose not to.
Steven Hayes, too, could have saved a life or more.  He also chose not to.  I'm being neither naive nor callous nor simplistic about this.  The acts are not equivalent.
Hayes acted, so the jury concluded, with criminal intent.  He intentionally caused great harm (and not just by killing) in violation of society's rules and norms.  His were acts of malevolence, or so said the jury.  The jurors were different.  They acted with care and deliberation.  They obeyed the norms and rules of society.  They weighed and balanced and considered.  They discussed and deemed.  They compared notes and considered some more.  They were careful and calculated.
Hayes, the jury said, and those who followed the case mostly seem to agree, is an evil man who thrust himself into a situation where his evil could blossom and he could rip the heart and soul out of a community, destroying the lives of those he killed and of those who cared for them.  He made us all feel less safe, less secure in our homes.  He violated.  And so he should be exterminated.  
The jurors are good people.  They did not choose to be jurors, to sit in judgment.  They were summoned by the awesome power of the state to take part in a ritual.  They were questioned by judge and counsel and deemed fit.  They were ordered to be dispassionate about passion.  They were told to do the impossible and weigh life against life, the living against the dead.  They were given rules and guidance and told to figure it out.  They are good people.  They speak for us.  They are we.  And we are they.
And oh, how important it is.
And we/they decided, carefully, dutifully, that Steven Hayes should be killed.  Not that he should die.  Death is a given.  Of course he would die, as we all shall.  Unlike most of us, he would die in prison.  Regardless of what the jurors did.  Their job, for us, as our representatives, as us, was to determine how.  They chose, elected, to become the engine of Steven Hayes's death.
What Steven Hayes did and what the jury did are not equivalent.
What I'm not sure about is how you measure the difference.
And whether there are enough circles in hell to encompass them.

* * * * *
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
 From "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," by Thomas Gray 

UPDATE:  See Gideon's post on the verdict.

1 comment:

  1. I've heard that Mussolini made the trains run on time.