I do not believe in capital punishment unless there is unequivocal 100% proof of guilt. Being 99.99% certain is simply not good enough because it can send an innocent person to an unjust execution.
My mother once worked as a court stenographer for two years in the early 1980s in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, which is located in the south central part of the commonwealth east of Hershey and Harrisburg. She once told me how “normal” many of the accused criminals such as murderers and child molesters appeared inside her courtroom regardless of gender. (She especially remembered how an indigent innocent person, in her opinion, once went to jail because of incompetent legal counsel.)
I never forgot what she told me.
Despite the usual omnipresence of two intimidating sheriff’s deputies, what unnerved her one time was how an accused male double murderer, who was especially charming, handsome and extremely articulate during his cross-examination, appeared to be so convincing of his innocence. Fortunately, the eyewitness and forensic evidence was overwhelmingly against him, and he received a life sentence without parole.
She often told me that most of these defendants whom she observed never fit the classic stereotype of a crazed Charles Manson, menacing Al Capone or calm Lee Harvey Oswald. She simply called many of these convicted murderers “evil” for lack of a better word.
She believed that Satan, the personification of evil, was certainly not a comical or playful red-clad fallen angel wearing a black cape with two small pointy-red horns above his forehead as depicted in the Dickinson College Red Devil mascot, which is located in nearby Carlisle across the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg.
My mother believed that Satan had a thousand faces regardless of gender, race or physical appearance.
I never forgot what she told me.
She also told me that a few of the accused male murderers in her courtroom were sometimes physically “handsome,” but their demeanor, charisma and eye contact thoroughly frightened her. She told me that a very small minority of these people accused of heinous acts of violence and depravity, especially toward children, sometimes exuded an eerie veneer of “goodness.”
She quickly realized as did the prosecuting attorney and jury that these people were excellent actors and psychologically master manipulators.
I never forgot what she told me.
As a court stenographer my mother often experienced what Hannah Arendt called the “banality of evil” when she described the ordinary or “normal” physical appearance of the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, whom Israel abducted in Argentina on May 11, 1960, tried for crimes against humanity and genocide, and executed on May 31, 1962.
The former SS Lieutenant Colonel, who resembled a balding benign bespectacled grandfather, was an excellent actor worthy of a Hollywood Academy Award while sitting inside his bulletproof glass “cage” at his trial in Jerusalem spewing his countless falsehoods and lies for nine long months about his genocidal role during the Holocaust. He repeatedly claimed to be just “following orders” ad nauseum like a good Nazi bureaucrat or officer.
According to Arendt many of these Nazis, their collaborators and most especially Eichmann, often looked either like a neighbor or ordinary person, who lived down the street and unlikely to appear in either GQ or Vogue. They personified the “banality of evil” as did our loyal World War II ally “Uncle” Joe Stalin and his younger, devoted demonic disciple, Mao Zedong (Tse-tung), who both cruelly and indifferently executed scores of millions of innocent people during the twentieth century.
However, I am also certain that Arendt would have admitted that there existed the occasional trifecta of the charming, handsome and sadistic Nazi. Gustav Wagner, the Butcher of Sobibor, partially comes to mind as recounted by Moshe Bahir, who described him as “a handsome man, tall and blond — a pure Aryan. In civilian life he was, no doubt, a well-mannered man; at Sobibor he was a wild beast. His lust to kill knew no bounds… [my emphasis] He would snatch babies from their mothers’ arms and tear them to pieces in his hands. I saw him beat two men to death with a rifle, because they did not carry out his instructions properly, since they did not understand German.”
I suspect that the wife of Nazi Germany’s Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, Magda Goebbels, who was also considered the “First Lady of the Third Reich,” would be the feminine equivalent of Gustav Wagner minus the sadism; however, she cruelly approved the filicide or cyanide poisoning of her six children aged four to twelve, whose first names all began with the letter “H” in honor of Hitler, in the subterranean Fuhrer Bunker in hopelessly besieged Berlin on May 1, 1945.
Stalin infamously once said that the “death of one person is a tragedy; the death of one million is a statistic.” Both he and Eichmann were directly responsible for the murder of millions of human beings.
I believe that a defendant in a premeditated murder trial of either one or a million people, especially involving children, who has been proven guilty based on 100% accurate eyewitness, forensic and other incriminating evidence, should face capital punishment unless there is exculpatory evidence indicating otherwise.
I do not believe that child abuse, minor mental illness, fetal alcohol syndrome and other spurious reasons concocted by defense attorneys, should spare a premeditated murderer since the overwhelming majority of people with these psychological and serious medical torments do NOT commit murder.
A recent tragic example is FedEx contract driver Tanner Lynn Horner, who allegedly kidnapped and brutally strangled to death seven-year-old Athena Strand on November 30 in ironically named Paradise Texas, which is located forty miles northwest of Fort Worth. Strand’s’ bloated corpse was found two days later “dumped … in the Trinity River about 10 miles from her home” after a massive manhunt conducted by foot, vehicle and helicopter.
I feel so sorry for Strand’s mother and father along with all her relatives and friends, who have to live with the tragic memory of her senseless cold-blooded murder for the rest of their lives. Words cannot express my sorrow.
When I first saw a picture of the 31-year-old Horner in the New York Post he truly appeared to be an ordinary looking, bald Caucasian man with a full beard, who could either be my neighbor or someone who lived down the street. I thought that there was nothing especially sinister or evil about his facial appearance. I am certain that Arendt would agree that Horner looked relatively “normal” or banal.
In my opinion, modern American society has become too lenient in not executing people who commit premeditated murder, especially in regard to children and the elderly. One reason is our preoccupation with the belief that all human beings are created in the image of God (Genesis 9:6). That is true, but it is the soul that ultimately determines a person’s true degree of goodness or wickedness and hence eternal salvation.
A second reason for this leniency toward not executing premeditated murderers, is a mistranslation of the Sixth Commandment in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:13), which translates the Hebrew “Thou shalt not murder” as “Thou shalt not kill” in the popular Protestant King James Bible, which was published in 1611.
A third reason for this leniency is that American society has become much more concerned with the legal rights of criminals and not the victims and their relatives.
Killing another human being is neither prohibited in the Torah nor the Old Testament, especially in regard to self-defense or protecting the innocent such as the handicapped, children, infirm, weak, elderly and civilian, who all cannot adequately defend themselves. In my opinion, sadistically killing or torturing either defenseless domesticated or undomesticated animals is an extremely close second.
I believe that executing an alleged premeditated murderer such as Horner would be much more of a deterrent in reducing future senseless child murders than giving him a life sentence without parole not to mention possibly saving a million dollars or more of the taxpayers’ money on a maximum security prison cell and dubious “rehabilitation.”
I say let God rehabilitate him.
I also say like the Jew-hater Adolf Eichmann, who was the epitome of the “banality of evil,” one of the main architects and executioners of Hitler’s genocidal “final solution” resulting in the murder of six million Jews and five million non-Jews (Roma, Slavs, mentally disabled, etc.), and rightfully hanged in Israel on May 31, 1962, I say hang Tanner Lynn Horner, IF he is truly guilty, with a short drop.
However, unlike Eichmann whose cremains were dumped in the Mediterranean Sea beyond Israel’s territorial waters, I say dump Horner’s cremains either in the local landfill or sewage system instead of polluting the good land, rivers or lakes in Wise County, Texas.
IF Horner is found 100% guilty and sentenced to death, may God spare his soul.
- Robert L. Maronic