They are in a minority, but those advocating restoration of the death penalty are the most vocal, taking a hard line on convicted criminals and lifelong punishment.
This week’s online poll asked readers what they thought of life sentences for murder, drawing 552 votes and some firm opinions. Considerable scepticism about human-rights trends and sentencing was apparent in some of the comments, although a few respondents appeared to have greater tolerance for the ambiguities.
Just more than 40 per cent of voters, 222 of the total, thought that life sentences were fine “in some cases”, but acknowledged that “not all murders are equal. Some should have sentences reviewed after 25 years,” according to the question.
Despite the majority of respondents advocating periodic review, only one voter filed a comment, saying “It would be wise to give judges some discretion. After all, that is what they are there for – to make judgments.”
Attorneys and human rights activists point to legal definitions of “murder”, saying the term describes a range of offences – from premeditated killing to accidental death; from aggressive assaults in aid of other crimes such as robbery, rape and grievous bodily harm, to self-defence against a late-night home invasion; to forms of euthanasia, enabling, for example, the “assisted suicides” of terminally ill patients, especially when afflicted with pain, made prominent by US doctor Jack Kevorkian, changing much of modern attitudes towards death.
All come under the rubric of “murder”, but, some say, not all are of equal gravity, and may require second thoughts, as articulated by one respondent writing under the heading of “other”: “Yes. The sentence should fit the crime,” was the sentiment. “Not all murders are the same.”
Echoing the concept, another writer said “every case should be judged on its own”, while a third, presumably enjoying a joke, suggested judges “send them to the Brac”.
Adopting a harder line, however, one writer said the courts should “nail them up, I say! Nail some sense into them“, offering little elaboration beyond the mixed virtue of simplicity.
In fact, ranking second in the opinion poll was that harder line, as 152 voters, 27.5 per cent, opposed leniency in murder cases, even seeking restoration of the death penalty, initially repealed by a 1991 Order in Council.
“Take a life, give a life,” one respondent proposed.
A longer response, perhaps more thoughtful, nonetheless set an uncompromising tone, dismissing possible nuances, focusing on premeditated violence, invoking Biblical wrath: “These criminals need to think twice before they commit such horrific crimes. Innocent lives can never ever be replaced, regardless of the cause of the circumstances. Parents, other relatives and close friends live with the hurt and pain for the rest of their lives.
“Respect another man’s life; think before you leap, you criminals! They must be given ‘hard labour’ and must pay the ultimate price for taking a life! I have no sympathy for these heartless, wicked people. Only in rare cases, if there is proof of self-defence, would I ever consider letting any person go.
“An eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth! Hang them when the crime is as bad as in Estella Scott’s case. They have no conscience and no heart. They certainly do deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law and they deserve to burn in Hell,” came the opinion.
Running a close third, registering 138 votes, 25 per cent of the total, respondents rejected any modification of compulsory life sentences for murder.
“No, you take a life, you should give a life,” one writer said, restating the previous eye-for-an-eye admonition.
“How do you restore the life of the deceased?” another reasonably asked, answering the question: “You cannot.
“So the price is that you spend the rest of your life in prison and be thankful that you are not living in Texas where the death penalty is like religion,” came the conclusion.
“If they can undo their inhumane act and bring their victim back, then consider releasing them,” a third said.
A distant fourth place went to those who thought life sentences should be reviewed in all cases. The 34 respondents, 6.2 per cent of the total, who ticked the category made no comment regarding leniency or release, merely suggesting only that authorities revisit convicts.
“Yes, in all cases,” should Cayman change its policy of life without parole, one said.”Everyone deserves a chance to prove they have changed.”
A direct challenge to that came in the final category of “other”, drawing six votes, 1.1 per cent of the total: “Yes, people do change,” wrote the voter, “but that does not remove the fact that person killed someone else. That will never bring that person back. I believe they should stay in prison, spend the rest of their life thinking about it and the freedom they could have been enjoying.”
The final “other” comment offered a bizarre prescription for executions.
“How about letting them live only if they are younger than the person of the life that they took?” the writer offered.
Next week’s poll question:
The Royal Baby arrived on Monday. What do you think of the arrival of the future King George?
It’s a joyful event.
Ho hum … people have babies all the time.
When is he coming to visit his subjects in Cayman?
Will we get a public holiday for his birthday?
Other (Write in comments)
To participate, visit www.cayCompass.com