Ignorance is Bliss When Justice Must Be Done


Proponents of state-sponsored murder, the eye-for-an-eye mob who subscribe to the “killing people who kill people to show that killing is wrong” school of thought, had a rough week. PR-wise. Oh, they still won. They got their version of justice. They saw a vicious and dangerous criminal in Oklahoma get what he deserved. He was put to death. By (eventually) lethal injection.

But it didn’t look good. Took the criminal a long time to die. Witnesses saw him writhing and struggling. Suffering.

See, that’s the bad part. Not that he suffered – he sure deserved to suffer, right? After what he did to his victim? The bad part is that it was so obvious. Now the infuriating discussion about “cruel and unusual punishment” and that dang-nabbed 8th Amendment is back in the limelight.

Bad timing, too. Seems the United States Supreme Court is just now considering the case of Freddie Lee Hall, who the state of Florida wishes to kill for a gruesome 1978 rape and murder Hall committed. The Hall case, like the Lockett case in Oklahoma, strips away the pretenses and broken logic of the death penalty and highlights its absurd barbarity.

In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that executing the intellectually disabled violates the 8th Amendment; the court left it to the states to define what is “intellectual disability” (and not killable) and what is merely extraordinary stupidity (and killable). Florida picked an IQ test score of 70, although the consensus among people who study intelligence is that there is a range of intellectual disability, from 75-70 and below. Freddie Hall scored 71 on one test and 72 on another.

Although these tests have a standard error of measurement that could easily put Hall below the magic 71, Florida was well satisfied that these numbers would lead them to true justice. Never mind any otFail This Test for Life Without Parole Instead of Deathher factors. This is the issue before the Supreme Court – the importance of considering “adaptive behavior” limitations in a criminal defendant, not merely a test score. Florida’s position is that a single point on an IQ test is a valid and reasonable standard to determine if someone should live or die.

Maybe they’re right. We’ve composed a short poem to figure it out.


We all here continue to live

Mostly voluntarily

In a country whose concept of


Is: Murder the miscreants

With injections or gas or gallows.

Call it “execution.” Call it “capital punishment.”

The “death penalty,” not the Death Penalty.

We mean it euphemistically.

Kill the convicts who deserve to die

We dutifully declare.

Capital Punishment questionBut however and yet we’ve carved out

A beautiful caveat

For those who can

Take a test

An IQ test

And prove

To us, their juries and future killers, that although they are criminals

They are not

Intelligent enough to die.

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