Seventh Ingrowing Toenail

Off with his Head

    I may simply be less impetuous than the Queen of Hearts and have therefore never been caught shouting publicly "Off with his head!". But my first reactions to some crimes are as visceral as those of any backwood redneck. An eye for an eye seems to be the right and the only possible answer, for a short moment at least.

    But then second thoughts arise, uncomfortable ones, memories of people hanged who were later proven to have been innocent, and I'm rather glad I don't shout "Off with his head!". Sneaking like the King of Hearts behind his wife's back and pardoning everybody, isn't much of a solution either. When crimes have been committed, society must be seen to react to them, justly if possible, justly - because some of us have enough imagination to consider the possibility, that either "there but for the grace of god, go I", or that we might just have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Justice, as dispensed by human beings, is about as fallible as any of our other endeavours: betting on the ponies or electing promising presidents spring to mind. What may seem to be beyond reasonable doubt today may very well be seen as having been unduly influenced by prejudice tomorrow, the Salem witch trials should make us aware of this. And then you've got good old fashioned lying, indulged in quite frequently by witnesses, lawyers and officers of the law. Cussedness of judges, who are usually of imperious character and not overly prone to self-doubts, adds to the dangers. Personally - and as a more or less innocent citizen of good repute - given a choice between fleeing justice and standing trial for my life, I'm not sure I'd choose the latter. I'm not really a betting man.


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Death Penalty Information Center
Center on Wrongful Convictions

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