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Mar-12-2013 23:48printcomments

Is it Justice or is it Revenge?

The death penalty was made legal by statute in 1864. Oregon has a rich history of killing death-row inmates.

Man in electric chair

(PORTLAND, OR) - BANG BANG, You’re Dead!

Gary Gilmore

And so at 12:01 a.m. on January 17, 1977 the state of Utah exacted what it called “justice,” when Gary Gilmore was shot to death by a “volunteer” firing squad of 5 police officers. He was strapped to a chair, hooded so he could not see; with a heart shaped target pinned to his chest exactly over his heart and shot with four 30 caliber rifle bullets. One of the “volunteer” executioners rifle contained a blank.

If one officer fired a blank then no executioner would know if it was his bullet that killed Gary Gilmore. That is the theory anyway. And Gary Gilmore wanted to die. He opted to be shot. “Let’s do it,” he is infamous for saying. He admitted to murdering both a gas station attendant and a motel clerk after robbing them. Did he deserve to be punished? Of course! Did he deserve to die? Let's discuss it. defines revenge: “to exact punishment or expiation for a wrong on behalf of, especially in a resentful or vindictive spirit.”

The ultimate question in my mind is: do we seek justice, or do we seek vengeance? Both are human dilemma’s. We humans seek justice. “Equal justice for all,” we proclaim loudly enough for the world to hear. But it's our nature to seek revenge, to seek vengeance when we are wronged. It is our instinct to get even.“Hang the bastards,” we are quick to say!

But if we believe the bible when it says “Vengeance is mine saith the Lord,” that eliminate our need for revenge? Shouldn't we let God deal with it?

That would leave us with “Justice,” and force us to decide on what exactly is justice? Why did Gary Gilmore want to die? Did he see death as a way to escape from his prison cell, a way to escape justice?

Gary Dwayne Haugen is an infamous Oregon death row inmate now trying to force the state to execute him. He admitted to killing Mary Archer, his girlfriend’s mother. He beat her to death with a baseball bat and a hammer. After raping her! He was sentenced to life in prison. While locked in the Oregon state prison Haugen murdered a fellow inmate, David Polin. Polin’s skull was crushed and he was stabbed 84 times. For this crime Haugen was sentenced to death.

Now Gary Haugen complains that he has spent half his life in prison and having been sentenced to death he “has a right to die.”

A prisoner has no right to die. Haugen complains that the state has no right to “take away my will.” Again this begs the question, is death seen as a way to escape his prison?

If so, then death is not the ultimate punishment. The ultimate punishment is a prison cell until 'death do us part.' The death penalty has been called “just another ritual and rituals are about warm and emotional comfort, not cold hearted logic.” I must agree!

There are many arguments for and against the death penalty. One argument against it is that life in prison is a worse punishment and a more effective deterrent. I’m not sure about the deterrent part but it is the best punishment. Another emotional but common sense argument is “why kill people who kill people to show people that killing is wrong?” And Native Americans often used banishment as a punishment for severe offenses. Banishment as opposed to an arrow through the heart! Isolation as opposed to immediate death.

Those that favor the death penalty argue that modern DNA evidence practically eliminates the chances of killing the wrong person. (Practically?) Another in favor argument says there is over population in the prison system. So kill them, to thin out the population?

A third argument in favor of the death penalty says that “prisoner parole or escapes can give prisoners another chance to kill.” That is true, but not statistically accurate. Most parolees don’t kill again. However many prisoners do kill while in prison as our Gary Haugen has done. This argument that parole gives another chance to kill has no logic and is really a non-argument. Most murders are crimes of passion and these killers rarely kill again if paroled. They value their freedom.

For every execution there has to be an executioner; one willing to murder in the name of the law. Again I defer to the bible. John 7:53 to 8:11. It is the passage about the woman caught in adultery and taken to Jesus. The Pericope Adulterae. Jesus says to her would be killers, “Let he who is without sin among you, cast the first stone.” Faced with this decision all her accusers faded away and no one threw a stone. Those who would murder in the name of justice need to read this passage.

If Gary Haugen has a “right to die,” then he must kill himself. For he has no right to make me (the state) his killer or anyone else. In days of old, I'm sure medieval executioners were demented perverts that enjoyed torturing and then killing those accused. But who are the executioners of today? Most are reluctant to participate. Dr Mark Stern, the state corrections doctor, for the state of Washington, quit his job over lethal injections for executions, citing the Hippocratic oath which commands “First do no harm.” Dr. Robert Greifinger, medical director of New York state prisons quit his job over this issue in 1995.

But if modern America has an executioner it would be Dr. Alan Doerhoff who has executed 40 death-row inmates including Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber that killed 168 people. Let the Hippocratic oath be damned. Doerhoff's specialty is lethal injections where he inserts a tube into a vein instead of a needle thereby insuring a proper flow of the deadly cocktail into the blood stream. “It works,” he brags, “every time.”

Oregon has twice outlawed then twice legalized the death penalty. It was overturned by the Oregon Supreme Court in 1981 and restored again in 1984 and has been legal ever since. The first person executed in Oregon was a horse thief, named William Kendal, hanged in Salem when Oregon was only a territory and not yet a state.

The death penalty was made legal by statute in 1864. Oregon has a rich history of killing death-row inmates. Between 1904 and 1994, 115 people were sentenced to death. About half, 58, were actually killed by the state in the name of justice!

Does killing 58 people make Oregonians serial killers in the name of the law? Are we seeking justice or are we seeking revenge? The bible says “thou shalt not kill!”

By Don DuPay



Donald Lee Dupay was a police officer for the Portland, Oregon police bureau, from 1961 to 1977. After five years service as a patrol officer Don was promoted to detective where he worked all the specialty units, morals, auto theft, checks, safe, burglary, special missions, and homicide. He was also an officer coach, instructing others on how to be productive detectives and teaching criminal investigation subjects at the police academy. Don witnessed the unintended consequences of the war on drugs that caused some of the officers in his department to become corrupt. Frustrated by that corruption he quit his job as a homicide detective and became the director of security at a major Portland hotel for several years.

Don has long thought we should legalize the so-called "consensual crimes" of drug distribution and use so we can stop killing each other over our failed drug policies. In his presentations Don offers an interesting perspective on additional unintended consequences - "collateral damage" - the countless innocent lives destroyed by drug prohibition.


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J+ March 13, 2013 12:11 pm (Pacific time)

Religion has no place in modern secular law. Christianity has historically been used to justify mass murder. Just today, Islamic Tribal law ensured the execution of a soldier in Pakistan for alleged adultry. That leaves capital punishment up to the voters, which is always a bad move for just about any topic, moreso when life and death hang in the balance. Everyone has their own opinion on the legality and morality of State-sanctioned killing .. while I oppose DC’s extra-judicial killings and illegal warfare for all the innocent civilians it murders, I think I side with the majority in believing that some people are truly evil and must be executed for the continued security of society. Obviously, the need for 100% certainty of guilt should be required, though being freed after 20 years’ wrongful incarceration is hardly a fate better than death. Also, as law is simply a reflection of societal ethics, vengeance cannot be automatically excluded from consideration. There is no restitution available for murder. “Let the punishment fit the crime”

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