Victim Impact Statements Turn Jodi Arias Trial Into Blood Feud

Civilized pluralistic society no place for Hatfield-McCoy justice 

In court last week, Travis Alexander’s siblings expressed to the jury their devastating grief caused by his murder at the hands of Jodi Arias. I was reminded why I believe the death penalty is our society’s great moral failure.

I believe the victim’s family’s anger is poignant, but I wonder why we should allow their private grief to automatically override the interests of the community, since an execution clearly implicates us all.

I believe that we give the victim’s feelings too much sway in the penalty phase of a trial, so that our courts don’t dispense justice in the best interest of society as much as they mete out something akin to the vendetta justice of a blood feud.

I believe we as a community surrender some of our civility when we allow human sacrifice simply because it offers victims ‘joyful relief.’ Civilized society is supposed to restrict the impulse for Hatfield-McCoy justice.

I believe we are misled if we believe that an execution is the only way to confirm superior societal values that the criminal is thought to have violated. It should be the work of a civilized pluralistic society to mitigate the retaliatory impulse of blood feuds.

I believe these principles enough so that I have instructed my family to never seek the death penalty if I were ever murdered. And I have told them to never provide Victim Impact Statements to the jury.

I believe savage hatred denunciates the good in us, so I’d want my family to enjoy the remainder of their days full of love and compassion.

I believe many rape and assault victims, and folks whose loved ones have been killed, have found ways to disengage from the compulsive desire for revenge. My junior high neighbor was murdered as an adult. His older sister refuses to allow the violence to disrupt her principles. She refuses to give the uncaught bad guy the satisfaction of living in fear or walking around angry all the time.

I believe hers (and others) moral strength is restraint, and they are my chief heroes today. And they’re our examples of how the cycle of settling the score can be broken.