America’s membership of the Capital Punishment Club (current chair, Kim Jong-Il) is well known. So when America executes someone it rarely grabs our attention. I woke up this morning with a vague idea that someone was going to be executed this week in Maryland. I gave it no thought. Until this evening.
I was driving through the city and quite coincidentally passed the jail where Wesley Baker was due to die by lethal injection. There was a small vigil outside and some cameras from local TV. I did not expect this to happen, but I suddenly felt sick. “They’re going to kill the poor bastard,” I thought. And tonight they did. Call it bleeding-heart liberalism. Call it Mitleid for another human being. Call it what you want.
Arguments for and against the death penalty are well rehearsed. Let me just state that before tonight I opposed the death penalty. Tonight, my opinion is clearer: shame on Maryland for killing a man today; shame on those Christians who perpetuate this barbaric Old Testament-style justice; shame on those who think that revenge will ever satisfy; shame on the governor for supporting a system that sees black-on-white crime more worthy of death; shame on a system that has been known to kill innocent men; shame on all of us for not raising our voices before it was too late.
Baker committed a terrible crime, and he deserved to be punished. I cannot blame his victim’s family if they wanted to see Baker die. Baker deserved many things, probably even to die. But the state can pursue a merciful course instead, do what Baker did not. He was a killer; now we are too. Shame all round.