The Corner

Law & the Courts

The Fate of Dylann Roof

From the Thursday edition of Morning Jolt:

Fry Dylann Roof.

In USA Today, Melinda Henneberger warns that the decision on whether to give Charleston mass shooter Dylann Roof the death penalty “will say a lot more about who we are than it does about him.”

Fine with me. I’m not really bothered by the statement “this country executes mass murderers.”

She continues:

Questions raised by the case touch on a tangle of intractable issues — race and rage, guns and mental illness, what constitutes terrorism and what we can do about self-radicalization on the Internet. Yet the racism that Roof spewed seems to have eclipsed all other considerations. As a result, many who generally agree with me that capital punishment is in all cases wrong are silent now. Or they’re willing to make an exception when it’s a deluded white supremacist like Roof on trial instead of a deluded Muslim terrorist like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who has been sentenced to death in the Boston Marathon bombings.

This is because a lot of self-identified death penalty opponents aren’t really full-spectrum death penalty opponents.

Whether or not they are willing to admit it or not, most death penalty opponents prefer the easy cases, where there’s still some doubt about guilt, or questions about whether the convicted had a fair trial. Once they’re confronted with the worst of the worst, plenty of opponents suddenly understand and support the arguments of death penalty supporters. Back in 2001, more than half of self-identified death penalty opponents supported it for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. And that’s fine; more heinous crimes have always been given tougher punishments.

A lot of people I respect a great deal are full-spectrum opponents of the death penalty. So with all due respect to those fine people…

Are you kidding me? Fry this guy.

Henneberger seems quite convinced that Roof simply has to be insane:

And jurors won’t even have to try and sort out where free will ends and compulsion begins. The judge in the case kept them from hearing the evidence of mental illness, and they will never hear it now, because Roof intends to represent himself during the punishment phase of the trial.

He’s doing it to keep jurors from hearing information that might embarrass him, his lawyers have said. Surely, worrying about embarrassment while on trial for one’s life is itself evidence of a serious imbalance. But one of the symptoms of the paranoid schizophrenia that Roof’s defense team has suggested he suffers from is an unwillingness to believe he has a mental illness.

At some point, I hope we’ll acknowledge the difficult truth that while very few people with a mental illness ever hurt anyone, evil actions aren’t always freely chosen.

This is about a step away from “the Devil made me do it.” To quote the wise philosopher, Dennis Miller…

Why does insanity always get you off the hook? It’s like a “Get Out Of Reality Free Card.” All you have to do is say you were a little cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, and all of a sudden caring people with zero regard for the victim’s loved ones will convert some of their Delta miles and fly in to attend an anti-death penalty candlelight-vigil in your honor. All of a sudden people are feeling sorry for you, because you killed someone, because you were crazy! Of course you were crazy! That’s the point!

Kathleen Parker cites Roof’s difficult childhood in her column arguing against the death penalty.

I don’t care. The guy made the decision to load the gun, walk into a church, and shoot ten people, murdering nine. All were killed by multiple gunshots fired at close range. During the shooting, he taunted the victims, “Y’all want something to pray about? I’ll give you something to pray about.” He sure as hell seemed to understand the consequences of his actions then! One of his victims was an 87-year-old church choir member. A five-year-old girl survived the shooting by pretending to be dead.

If doing something like that doesn’t earn a seat on the electric chair, what does? I don’t care if Roof did it because he hates blacks, he hates churches, he hates God, or if he thinks his dog told him to do it. The consequence is the same.  I keep hearing we have to look inside Roof’s head and try to understand. Why? It doesn’t change what he did. It’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.

Blanket opposition to the death penalty sets up a society where we innocent law-abiding citizens are consigned to a life where a murderer’s rage and evil could cross our path and cut our life short at any time, while one small sub-set of people in this country will live in 24-7 security and who can sleep soundly knowing they will never be murdered: convicted criminals.