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Resume the death penalty

Dear Editor,

The content of this letter would be of interest to all law enforcement officials, in particular my former colleagues who are involved in criminal investigations of the increased number of murders being committed in our country.

The question of capital punishment is being raised by many of our citizens, in particular those families who are victims of the onslaught.

Written and spoken words seek to examine the question so that decisions may be reached on capital punishment, which befit our present population.

The struggle for answers concerning the death penalty is one which every Bahamian should lend his voice.

The problems of a democracy such as ours are not for a handful of men and women to solve alone.

The records will show that most of our lawmakers are opposed to the death penalty.

As a representative of law enforcement (police reserves), it is my belief that the most vociferous cries against the death penalty emanate from (a) those areas of our society that have been insulated against the horrors man can and does perpetrate against his fellow man and (b) those who are involved, likely to be involved or associated with crime and murders in some way.

Certainly, penetrative and searching thought must be given before considering any restoration of the death penalty in a time when large numbers of unspeakable crimes are being committed, among them the recent murder of a four-year-old boy sitting in a car with his mother.

The dead bodies of mostly unarmed victims left by killers and criminal beasts beg consideration when the evidence is weighed on both sides of the scales of justice.

It is notable that human rights enthusiasts who are so vocal when there are police shootings are silent on the spate of murders taking place in our country.

Don’t the victims have human rights? There is nothing so precious in our country as the life of a human being, whether he is a criminal or not.

He is entitled to all of the safeguards that our society demands.

Experience has clearly demonstrated, however, that the time proven deterrents to crime are sure detection, swift apprehension, and proper punishment.

Each is a necessary ingredient.

Law-abiding citizens in our country have a right to expect that the efforts of law enforcement officers in detecting and apprehending criminals will be followed by realistic punishment.

There is no doubt in the sincerity of many of those who deplore the death penalty.

A realistic approach to the problem, however, demands that they weigh the rights of innocent people to live their lives free from fear of killers.

No one, unless he can probe the mind of every potential killer, can say with any authority whatsoever that the death penalty is not a deterrent.

How can we know how many people are not on death row because of the deterrent effect of executions?

It is my opinion that when no shadow of doubt remains relative to the guilt of a person, the public interest demands the death penalty.

Over the decades, upon my return from police colleges in the United Kingdom, I wrote several letters to governments of The Bahamas and the local press in which I recommended that there be a category of murders to be called capital murders for which the death penalty will be imposed.

These include: Killing in the course of furtherance of crimes; eg. rape, armed robbery, burglary, etc.; killing by poison, explosives or arson. Such murders have to be planned; killings for which the assailant is paid; murders by serial killers; and killing of a law enforcement officer while in the execution of his duty.

Killings perpetrated during shoot-outs by rival gangs and domestic violence should be considered second degree murders for which there could be life sentences.

During the decades when hanging were enforced in The Bahamas, the killer had the right to appeal to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom after which there was the government appointed Committee for the Prerogative of Mercy.

The latter was made up of attorneys, pastors and prominent citizens who will review the evidence and all of the circumstances and finally decide if the death penalty must be imposed.

A judge once said: “The death penalty is a warning, just like a lighthouse throwing its beam out to sea. We hear about shipwrecks, but we do not hear about the ships the lighthouse guides safely on their way. We do not have proof the number of ships the lighthouse saves, but we do not tear the lighthouse down.”

Where the death penalty is provided, a criminal’s punishment may be meted out commensurate with his deeds.

Paul Thompson Sr.

ACP retired