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many cases the “worst of the worst” label has been stuck on capital defendants
who were mentally retarded, mentally ill, brain-damaged, victims of horrendous
child abuse, or severely traumatized during military service to their country.
In my experience, the criminal justice system is not the wise and just exercise
that we all want it to be. Legal strategies in high profile criminal cases bear
a disturbing resemblance to political campaigns. I don’t know exactly how and
where we should draw a line separating people who have done very bad things from
those who are the “worst of the worst.” But I do know that our current legal
system is not capable of drawing such a line with consistency and fairness. I
oppose the death penalty in all cases, not primarily out of concern for those
likely to be executed, but out of consideration for the humanity we all share.
Instead of killing the killers, we should apply our energy and resources to
The grieving husband and father, Dr. William J. Petit, supported the death
penalty for Steven Hayes. We can only imagine the depths of his pain. I felt
very deeply moved by something he said after the death sentence was handed down:
"There's never closure. There's a hole. There's a hole with jagged edges. Over
time, the edges may smooth out, but the hole in your heart and the hole in your
soul is always there."
When Steven Hayes' death sentence was delivered in a Connecticut courtroom, both
Dr. Petit and Mr. Hayes said they got what they wanted. Over time, I suspect,
one or both of them will come to feel differently.