Every time a particularly grotesque murder happens, someone asks whether or not Canada was right to abolish the death penalty. When a high profile case appears, one where the accused has left behind a mountain of physical and video evidence, it is difficult for some people to accept just life in prison, as though a life locked away from the rest of the world is not enough punishment for the crime. While sympathetic to the people who can’t understand how a brutal murder can live, especially the families of the victims, even the most violent and bizarre case can shake my view that keeping executions out of Canada is a good thing.
To be honest, the recent case of Luka Magnotta’s murder of Jun Lin is about the closest I have been to having this conviction shaken. This is a criminal who filmed his crime, and mailed his victim to political parties. He was even caught looking himself up online to read about it. Yes, the world would be a better place without Magnotta in it, and it’s difficult to find a reason to keep him alive for the foreseeable future.
That is just one man, however, and one man who does not represent the majority of criminals convicted of murder. Fortunately, that kind of person is a rare case, and while the case is disturbing enough to make one’s position waver, one must remember why they came to the conclusion they did so many years ago, and why they continue to believe that capital punishment should not return to Canada.
The short answer is that it’s not a real solution. In the United States, where it is still practiced, there is still significantly more violent crime than in Canada. If it worked, it should come with a reduced amount of criminals in the prison system, after all people would be afraid of dying. Instead, that’s not the case, and it even costs more to execute a prisoner than it does to just store them in jail until they die. In that case, we come back to the real reason people support the punishment, and that’s simple revenge.
In this case, death is possibly the greatest punishment for Magnotta, because his actions indicate someone who shows no remorse for his actions and someone who enjoys the attention his crime is affording him. Which is why he can make me reconsider my stance, since otherwise my very human need for revenge can be sated by regular imprisonment. For the majority of criminals a long life in prison is actually a much greater punishment than being killed, because they have to wake up every day remembering why they’re in prison, and what they did to deserve being there. There’s no easy way out, and if they feel even a touch of remorse it’s going to be a difficult life.
The other side of me, the one that doesn’t want the criminal punished, sees other reasons why capital punishment doesn’t work, and why it shouldn’t be brought back. But objectivity is often discarded in this debate, so I will have to indulge more base instincts to get on the same level as those who want capital punishment to return. Doing so, I view it as a way out, a method of denying the criminal years where they should be suffering for their crime, a suffering that is mostly mental and cannot go away as long as they’re alive. I’m not proud of this, but nobody should be proud of their need for revenge, even if it’s something that everyone shares.