Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"Justice is Death"

Such a strange thing to say.

Earlier this week, that phrase fell from the lips of the prosecutor in the James Holmes case.  Holmes is the "shooter" who opened fire in a crowded theater in Aurora, Colorado, killing twelve and wounding fifty-eight others.  Just in case you've got your shooters muddled.  It's so easy to do.

The state will be seeking death for this mass killing.  It was a horrible thing, without question, a terrible act of violence.

But how is this justice?  It can't be, at least not in the sense of setting things back into balance.  That balance is, after all, the whole purpose of justice.

Holmes may or may not be mentally ill.  It was a meticulously planned slaughter.  But his actions in the months leading up to the massacre were increasingly erratic and disturbed, to the point where the owner of a gun club that Holmes called in an attempt to join found his call so psychotic that he put his staff on alert.

He does appear to be an unbalanced soul.  But even if he were not, and he was simply a sociopathic monster, what would his death accomplish?

Take just one of the lives lost that day as an example.

Veronica Moser-Sullivan was the youngest person to die in that theater.  She was six years old.  She died next to her mother, who was critically injured.   An entire life and most of a childhood lay before that child.  That was shattered.  All of the life she could potentially have lived will not be part of our reality.  The friends she might have laughed with.  The boys who might have loved her.  The children she might have had, and their children.  Her family will see none of that.  None of us will, not in this life.

If Holmes is executed, how would that death restore the balance?   He ceases to exist.  That's it.  How is the ending of that blighted life recompense for the loss of an innocent?  It cannot be.

Punishment is not justice.  Revenge is not justice.

Justice, at least as those who follow Jesus understand it, goes far deeper.

Beyond death, even.