A couple of things have prompted this post, a viewing of Dead Man Walking with Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, and the rather bizarre case that came to court yesterday regarding Herman Rockefeller.
After watching this wonderful, but hard hitting, film again, I googled lethal injection and truly wished I hadn’t. I am not oblivious to the Death Penalty, one of my favourite books when I was a teenager was one about the Black Museum of Scotland Yard, the book stopped shortly after hanging was abolished in the UK. Goodness knows why, but poring over the grisly pictures and accounts of some of the most revolting crimes in history fascinated me. Now I find that I struggle to view or read about murder. I also really struggle with the media glamourising it. As highlighted back in the UK with the round the clock coverage of Raoul Maot, including the final gun shot being looped on Sky News (a somewhat dubious thank you to Twitter for sending these details, thankfully complete with your collective disgust and horror to me).
Twitter did however send me to view this interesting (must read) article where a series of copycat sprees will happen as a direct result of the news coverage, and how the perpetrator is portrayed. This even flows down to suicides and how they are reported. It struck me as similar to the media ban on Sinn Fein, remember that from the 80s? Where we weren’t allowed to hear Gerry Adams’ voice as it could be an incitement, so they muted him and had an actor read out his words instead. Even now typing that, I want to smack my palm against my forehead.
I enjoyed watching DMW. I thought again, the story and characters were very powerful, well crafted, particularly Susan Sarandon’s performance, but it while it doesn’t glorify violence, neither does GoodFellas (another one of my favourite films), I am finding it harder and harder to watch violence in the name of ‘entertainment’. I find my view moves from the screen, away from someone being beaten to a pulp, shot, stabbed or however else they meet their untimely end.
When I started to investigate the lethal injection, what it contains, how it is administered and the arguments both for and against using it, as I said, I felt sick to my stomach. Most States in the United States have a death penalty. It doesn’t strike me as a good deterrent, as most States in the United States allow people to buy guns with minimum paperwork, and wonder why there are murders daily? I know the punishment on death row isn’t actually death, (as we’re all going to die one day), but it is how long you are there without knowing that this week, month or year could be your last.
After hearing the breaking news of Herman Rockefeller’s death and the circumstances surrounding it on the drive home last night, I wondered how they could get away with pleading guilty to manslaughter? As they ‘Didn’t mean to kill him.’ Be that as it may; if you dismember and then set fire to the person you ‘Didn’t mean to kill’ how can that possibly be manslaughter?
I have no answers for this subject. It has just been preying on my mind. With all the NCIS and Cold Case, even Miss Marple to a degree, programmes littering our TV schedules, I do wonder if the world is so sanitised to murder, the true crime of it no longer has any impact? Taking someone’s life is a serious, foul business. It happens daily all over the world, while the victim needs to be honoured by having their life and name recognised, it is not entertainment. The Rockefeller family went on TV desperately pleading, wanting to know what happened to their loved one. Was it just their surname that generated a lot of interest, as 100s people go missing daily and don’t get any news coverage?
Paul Gascoigne, that paragon of family values, knew Raoul Maot from childhood and gave an interview stating that “He was a gentleman, someone must have wound him up”. Bingo! The press get their story, even bigger and better than before, because a celebrity has been involved now. Across all the coverage of Raoul Maot, there is barely any of his victims. His uncle is gleaning every last minute from his quota 15 minutes of fame, saying he is in shock that he is dead. Shouldn’t you actually be in shock he killed 2 people, and that he raped, beat and terroised women all his life?
At the end of the Black Museum book was this simple quote from Albert Pierrepoint, executioner to over 400 people:
I have come to the conclusion that executions solve nothing, and are only an antiquated relic of a primitive desire for revenge which takes the easy way and hands over the responsibility for revenge to other people…The trouble with the death penalty has always been that nobody wanted it for everybody, but everybody differed about who should get off.