He Needed Killin’

Tom Van Dyke

Tom Van Dyke, businessman, musician, bon vivant and game-show champ (The Joker's Wild, and Win Ben Stein's Money), knows lots of stuff, although not quite everything yet. A past inactive to The American Spectator Online, the late great Reform Club blog, and currently on religion and the American Founding at American Creation, TVD continues to write on matters of both great and small importance from his ranch type style tract house high on a hill above Los Angeles.

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91 Responses

  1. Kazzy says:

    Not really meant to be a criticism, but I think you left out a quote that properly sums up what I know my response and what I think might be that of others…

    “”It’s sad a man had to die,” said Michael James Veit, 48, who lives across the street from where the attack happened in this small community run on ranching and the Shiner beer brewery. “But I think anybody would have done that.””Report

  2. Nob Akimoto says:

    He needed killing, but I wish the father and daughter didn’t have to deal with the trauma of it being at his hand.Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      I’m not so sure.

      I mean, yes, obviously you don’t want anyone to have to live with someone’s blood on their hands, of course. I wish the father and daughter also didn’t have to deal with the trauma of the assault.

      But I don’t think there’s a scale upon which we can place:

      (trauma of assault) + (trauma of beating)
      (trauma of assault) + (trauma of trial) + (trauma of outcome of trial) + …

      This is one of those, “I’m not in that situation…” cases where I’m very uncomfortable making predictions, but I’m guessing that the least worst outcome for this father is probably what happened. He stopped the assault, and then attempted to save the guy against his animal instincts; he’ll have many a sleepless night, but he can gain some small comfort of doing what he could.Report

  3. Burt Likko says:

    We might posit, in cold blood after the fact, that as awful as it is molestation is not a killing offense and having separated the assailant from his daughter, the man ought not to have continued the attack. So intellectually, I can see the ambiguity.

    But really, who among us would not have done exactly as the father did under the same unthinkable circumstances? If you have a drop of red blood in your body, there is no ambiguity in the moment, no doubt about what to do and probably not a whole lot of conscious thought. Jury sympathy, if the guy is charged at all, will be sky high.

    It’s only when the moment is done and the realization of the gravity of the situation hits — he’s just killed a man, with his bare hands. There’s something about that which not even the very best justification in the world (and if this isn’t it, it comes really damn close) is going to dilute. Probably ever.

    Everyone involved is looking at a lot of therapy to help cope. My best to them all.

    (Assuming that the truth is as reported. No reason to doubt the story, of course.)Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Indeed. There are no winners in this case. From what is reported here (and I also have no reason to doubt the veracity of the report), it sounds like this man did about the best that could be expected in the situation. It is rarely, if ever, a good thing when someone dies. And I agree that molestation is not and should not be a killable offense (I am generally opposed to the death penalty in all cases, FWIW). But this was not a rationale, systemized killing carried out by the state. It was a human being reacting to an extreme situation in the moment.

      An unfortunate situation all around. Pursuing a criminal case, based on the facts presented here, would have only made it worse.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        My opposition to the death penalty is seated in deep suspicion of The State and certainly not in the idea that nothing that anyone could do would merit killing.

        Assuming the facts in evidence are accurate summations of what happened, this is one of those situation that strikes me as containing an instance of someone doing something that merits killing.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:


          This is an interesting perspective. I just posted it elsewhere but I’ll repost here a fascinating TED Talk on, among other things, the death penalty: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/bryan_stevenson_we_need_to_talk_about_an_injustice.html

          One thing the speaker, attorney Bryan Stevenson, touches on is that while we might decide that some actions are worthy of death, who are we to decide who has the right to kill? Maybe Criminal X deserves to die, but does State Y deserve the right to kill? An interesting look.

          Going a step further, would you feel differently about the events if the father didn’t kill the man in the moment, inadvertently, and in the course of securing the safety of his daughter but instead hunted him down a week later and shot him sleeping in his bed?Report

          • Murali in reply to Kazzy says:

            Maybe Criminal X deserves to die, but does State Y deserve the right to kill?

            The problem with such arguments is that usually they I can replace die and kill with lose freedom of movement.

            So, while criminal X may deserve to lose freedom of movement, does state Y deserve the right to imprison?
            I haven’t followed the link, but I am not sure that there is any argument that can adequately discriminate between punisments in such a way that questioning the state’s rght to carry out a particular kind of punisment does not implicate all other kinds of punishment as well.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Murali says:


              I think the state absolutely has the right to take the necessary steps to insure the safety of its citizens, with a deference to actions that limit the restriction of rights of its citizens, including those who might be posing the threat to public safety. Killing is about as extreme a step as there is and thus should be reserved for only the most extreme of circumstances, which I think we can successfully avoid in a modern society.Report

              • Murali in reply to Kazzy says:

                I haven’t worked out a theory of punishment yet, but my intuitions lie with retributivism. You did something to someone? Then you have no standing to object when other people do those things back to you.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Murali says:

                So we should rape rapists? Given that women lack the anatomy that we generally associate with rape, what then? Strap-ons? Or can they outsource the work to those better equipped?

                I personally think that is a scary road to go down. At the very least, it would seem to eliminate penalties/punishment for victimless crimes, which is a good thing, but I think the cons far outweigh the pros.

                I tend toward A) securing the safety of citizens (and citizens includes others who themselves might be receiving punishment), B) righting the wrong, to the extent possible, and C) rehabilitation, to the extent possible. And I tend to consider the things in that order.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                And I would not limit “safety” only to “physical safety”. If you are an embezzler, I see no problem restricting your freedom to engage in certain professions that lend themselves to embezzling if/when you are out of jail.Report

              • M.A. in reply to Kazzy says:


                Speaking as someone who knows men who have been through female-on-male rape, they’re just as traumatized by it. Then they become victimized by the police forces if they try to report it, because generally the police do not consider the idea of a woman larger than or stronger than a man. In the macho thug world of the sorts who generally get hired as police today, a man reporting female-on-rape is given harassing comments and not taken seriously, subjected to comments like “well why didn’t you just slap the bitch and tell her to go away.” The phenomenon is very underreported because of the social stigmas attached to men admitting to have been raped and the almost complete lack of support groups and advocacy groups for men who’ve been raped (either by other men OR by women). Male rape survivors seeking to join a support group for rape victims are often turned down for group therapy by on the grounds that “making a safe place for victims to talk” means keeping men out because the majority of acknowledged victims are women who’d be uncomfortable with a man in the room.

                Some statistics and research.

                Then there’s the psychological aspect to it, including the fact that male anatomy can be extremely contradictory to what the man, consciously, wants. There’s a betrayal by one’s body, if it happens that way, that is extremely psychologically damaging:

                – Many people do not believe that male rape by a female exists. However, penile erection can be achieved under emotional duress such as anger, fear, and pain even if the male does not wish it. (Greenberg, Bruess and Haffner, 576; Lips, 234)

                Or in the alternative, yes, there are all sort of objects that can be involved.

                Rape is just one of those subjects not to make light of, no matter who is involved or what the genders are.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to M.A. says:


                I did not make light of rape. I pointed out the difficulty in using retributivism. Most, but not all, rapes are perpetrated by men against women. And while I realize that rape is more about power than it is about sex, I doubt that having the female victim “rape” her male rapist through vaginal intercourse accomplishes anything. The harm done to the woman will likely far outweigh the punishment to the man. And with the popular meme being, “That guy got off raping women, so someone should anally rape him,” I pointed out that this removes the victim from the situation unless the aforementioned sex toy was utilized.

                It would be greatly appreciated if you didn’t read every viewpoint that wasn’t 100% in line with your own as negatively as possible.Report

              • M.A. in reply to M.A. says:


                Re-read your own comments. My point is that the attitudes of “well it’s impossible for a woman to rape a man” cause real problems.

                As far as retributive rape goes, and the meme you mention, I have no quarrel saying it’s a stupid meme that accomplishes nothing but to satisfy some strange machismo on the part of the speaker.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to M.A. says:

                But I didn’t say “It’s impossible for a woman to rape a man.” I was actually careful to avoid that sentiment for precisely the reasons you mentioned. Instead, I said, “Given that women lack the anatomy that we generally associate with rape…” I think that is pretty objectively true. We generally think of rape as forced penetration with the penis. Women lack a penis. Thus, it is entirely accurate to say that women lack the physical anatomy to engage in what we generally think of when we think of rape. Unless you are going to argue that female-on-male rape is a common enough occurrence that what I have offered as what we generally consider rape is not what ought to be what we generally consider rape, I think you are looking to be aggrieved here. And, even if female-on-male rape were that common, it wouldn’t make an immediate change in what folks tend to “generally” think, even if their “general” thoughts are inaccurate.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to M.A. says:

                truce, guys!
                MA — women who have been raped sometimes report having orgasms during the rape. Which is just as much a betrayal of their body as guys having an erection.Report

              • M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

                I think that is pretty objectively true. We generally think of rape as forced penetration with the penis.

                I think we are talking past each other; it is my assertion that much of rest flows from precisely that mistaken assumption.

                The US at a federal level finally got a clue recently and updated the definition. The current definition, for your edification.

                United States Federal Law [Title 10, Subtitle A, Chapter 47X, Section 920, Article 120]:
                (a) Rape.— Any person subject to this chapter who causes another person of any age to engage in a sexual act by—
                (1) using force against that other person;
                (2) causing grievous bodily harm to any person;
                (3) threatening or placing that other person in fear that any person will be subjected to death, grievous bodily harm, or kidnapping;
                (4) rendering another person unconscious; or
                (5) administering to another person by force or threat of force, or without the knowledge or permission of that person, a drug, intoxicant, or other similar substance and thereby substantially impairs the ability of that other person to appraise or control conduct

                Sadly, most of the states have yet to catch up.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to M.A. says:

                But, MA, none of that changes what is “generally” thought.

                In general, US Presidents are white. Obama being black neither negates what has been “generally” true nor negates the reality that a black man is president.

                Do we really need to argue over what the definition of “generally” is?

                I fully concede that women can rape men and that anything, be it a mindset or a law, that purports otherwise is wrong.

                Yet, none of that changes A) the fact that the overwhelming majority of rapes are committed by men or B) that when most people think of rape, they think of male attackers and female victims.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to M.A. says:

                It is not a mistaken assumption to say what is true most of the time nor to acknowledge what most people tend to think. There was no assumption in my comment, only the acknowledgement of the realities about who rapists tend to be and what most people tend to think of when they think of rape.Report

              • M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

                Yet, none of that changes A) the fact that the overwhelming majority of [statistically acknowledged, reported] rapes are committed by men

                The problem with that is that we need the inserted addenda I have added above. The insistence that an “overwhelming majority of rapes are committed by men” is a result as much as anything else of massive underreporting along with such a recent change to definitions that the 10-year statistics still don’t include many reports. It is a reinforcing cycle.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to M.A. says:


                Let’s trace your argument.

                First it was that I was making light of rape. You said: “Rape is just one of those subjects not to make light of, no matter who is involved or what the genders are.” False.

                Second it was that I said it is impossible for women to rape men. You said: “My point is that the attitudes of “well it’s impossible for a woman to rape a man” cause real problems.” False.

                Now, it is that I’m making a “mistaken assumption” that the overwhelming majority of rape cases involve male attackers and female victims. Yet you offer no evidence that anything else is the truth. Yes, males can and are the victim of rape. Yes, women can be and are the perpetrators of rape. Yes, male victims in general and male victims of female attackers have a lower rate of reporting rape than female victims. But none of that changes the fact that the overwhelming majority of rapes are male attackers and female victims. You’ve provided no evidence to the contrary.Report

              • M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

                But none of that changes the fact that the overwhelming majority of rapes are male attackers and female victims. You’ve provided no evidence to the contrary.

                I provided you the link to the NCVC report, which is researched and cites its sources. You are free to check them. In the absence of reliable data, your assertion cannot be backed up and furthermore is part of a self-reinforcing cycle.

                Your initial comment looked to be making light of rape. You insisted otherwise. When you last pointed out something to me (in TVD’s thread “He Needed Killin'”) that you felt was poorly stated, I offered to reword. Might I expect the same courtesy?

                Your secondary comment doubled down on the idea that a woman can’t “rape” a man, using a very narrow and unhelpful definition. I tried to show you why that definition is both wrong and harmful, and I’ve now given you a link to the NCVC’s report on the subject which goes into more detail on why the reported statistics* you rely on to bolster your assertion that the “overwhelming majority” of rapes are man-on-woman are simply not accurate nor helpful to the discussion.

                *statistics based on old data when the definitions were deliberately restricted to exclude reporting of any male rape victims at all, and statistics that compile now with a known massive underreporting problem among male victims.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to M.A. says:

                Saying something is underreported is not the same as saying something is so underreported that that which we think is the minority is actually the majority.

                My initial point was that there exist a subset of crimes, including the male raping of females, in which retributavism is near impossible. Whatever else you took away from it was needless quibbling. I am happy to rephrase if and when it is warranted. I do not feel this to be the case here.Report

              • M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

                But none of that changes the fact that the overwhelming majority of rapes are male attackers and female victims.

                Saying something is underreported is not the same as saying something is so underreported that that which we think is the minority is actually the majority.

                When did I ever say I believed that male rape victims were “the majority”? One side is going to have a majority statistically, it’s almost impossible not to.

                Male victims of domestic violence go similarly underreported to the point where societal recognition of the problem almost doesn’t exist, and differing attitudes about the victims become a self-reinforcing cycle. Terms like “overwhelming majority” do not help the situation.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to M.A. says:

                oh just google for number of male on male rapes. substantial evidence that it is at least at parity with male on female, if you count prisoners.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to M.A. says:

                fwiw, the difference between male and female domestic violence is statistically insignificant. I think men are slightly more likely to inflict lasting damage.Report

              • Murali in reply to Kazzy says:

                Its a fairly scary road to go down. And to be clear, in a number of cases doing the exact same thing is impossible. But the idea of an equivalent amount of harm being inflicted on someone still has some attraction even if it is not always practical to implement. You can’t execute a serial killer multiple times.

                The reason why it is attractive is due to a conceptual intuition about the role of punishment. It seems punishment is more than just about rehabilitation or behaviour modification. Its also more than just about sequestering dangerous people as we actually care how long people are sequestered from society. The role of punishment as a kind of deterrence makes a lot of sense. It encapsulates the idea that laws should be prospective and not retrospective and it also tells us why punishments should be proportionate to the crime. But deterrence doesn’t really seem to explain why justice systems claim to try really hard to show that they have got the right guy before they apply punishment. Something more must be going on. The size of the punishment is supposed to denote the seriousness of the crime. Another part of it is that the very idea of punishment precludes the notion of punishing the innocent. You cannot punish the innocent because when said ‘punishment’ is applied to an innocent it ceases to be punishment. The very idea of punisment is of an action that is taken in response to a wrongdoing or more generally, a rule violation. The basic idea behind retributivism then is that there is something about the violation of certain kinds of rules that warrant a response. This does not entirely preclude the notion that retribution as a standard may itself be justified on rule utilitarian kinds of grounds, but at least at the intermediate level, there seems to be a connection between the concept of punishment, the way we structure our practices, and the idea of retribution.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Murali says:


                The basic idea behind retributivism then is that there is something about the violation of certain kinds of rules that warrant a response.

                I disagree with this. The basic idea behind justice is that violations of rules requires a punishment. People differ on what the punishment should be (literally an eye for an eye? a loss of commensurate value? enough to deter the behavior in the future? etc) and on what grounds the punishment is justified (amelioration of emotional pain? prevention? restitution? rehabilitation? etc).

                The basic idea behind retributivism is primarily that people deserve a level of suffering commensurate with the pain or loss they caused. It isn’t, I would say, primarily a preventative theory of justice since even if lex talionis failed to deter crime (which data suggests is the case, at least wrt capital crimes and capital punishment) lots of people would still think that inflicting commensurate suffering is still a legitimate for of punishment. That is, it would need no other justification.

                That’s where I get off the bus. If there is no social utility to be gained from causing harm to the rule-breaker, then I don’t see how the theory can be defended other than on the grounds that some people desire to harm those that harmed them.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Murali says:

                That’s interesting Murali. Of all the theories of justice I’ve encountered, retributivism makes the least sense to me. It’s not preventative; not pro-social; not rehabilitory. It’s just an attempt to make someone suffer in equal proportion to the suffering they caused. Which seems silly to me.Report

              • M.A. in reply to Stillwater says:

                Philosophically it’s not that different from ideas of karma. The preventative aspect is supposed to be the idea that potential perpetrators will weigh the pro/con of having it visited upon them later, and see the wisdom in not perpetrating.

                Of course the problem there is that a majority of criminals believe they will not be caught, and studies have shown a tendency for them to have strong present-time orientation (immediate gratification) and poor future-time orientation (delayed gratification) skills. Put more simply, they lack the ability to correlate current conduct with future probabilities and so the preventative effect of retributive policies diminishes greatly.

                Or to put it in a way I know Roger will appreciate; the retributive theory fails to have a preventative effect on the kids who ate the marshmallow.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to M.A. says:

                Yes. Agreed. The preventative aspect of retribution isn’t born out by the data. The retributive aspect of it cannot be justified, it seems to me, on any grounds except that people want to harm those that harmed them.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Stillwater says:


                Retributivism is kind of important for social fabric. You may not be the most vengeance-oriented dude, and I might not be either… but it’s fairly popular.

                If people don’t feel enough of their wrong has been paid in some sort of coin, you lose the commons sense of justice, and respect for law goes right out the door shortly thereafter.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Good point Patrick. And I actually do understand that part of the equation. But if what you’ve written (or something like it) is the justification for it, retributivism isn’t philosophically justified theory but a pragmatically justified one: on an emotional level, some people want an eye for an eye, and they should able to get it or all hell breaks loose!

                On the flip side, there are arguments that formal court systems where crimes are adjudicated by third parties with the power to enforce punishments were created precisely to end the cycle of violence the lex talionis creates. So an eye for an eye in practice may be a destabilizing form of punishment as well.Report

              • M.A. in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                And somehow, there are plenty of other nations (though generally these nations are much more secular than the USA) that have much lower percentages of their population who believe in retributivism.

                It’s almost as if retributivism is part and parcel of the religious delusion when centered around an “almighty deity” parent-figure rather than a concept of spiritual enlightenment. The idea that a sky spirit will spank you for doing wrong, so you in turn have the right to act on behalf of the sky spirit and spank others.

                Check in with how many of the vigilante-types turn out to be extremely devout born-again style converts to one religion or other, or else members of extremist denominations. You won’t be surprised by the results.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                I have no problem with having offenders takes steps to make their victims whole again. Obviously, this can’t always be done. But retributivism rarely accomplishes this and often leaves more victims in the wake. It simply contributes to an ongoing cycle of violence.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                > It’s almost as if retributivism is part
                > and parcel of the religious delusion
                > when centered around an “almighty
                > deity” parent-figure rather than a
                > concept of spiritual enlightenment.

                I think you’re reasoning with a restricted data set, there. You’re comparing the U.S. to Europe, and then drawing a conclusion based upon the differences between the U.S. and Europe.

                There are plenty of reasonably secular governments in other places that have seriously medieval ideas about retributivism, not based at all on an almighty deity parent figure.Report

              • Burt,

                I haven’t any facts, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, say, the PRC, or Iraq under Hussein, engaged in “seriously medieval ideas about retributivism.” Not to mention the Soviet Union under Stalin.Report

              • Lex talionis. But “He needed killin'” isn’t that.Report

              • Tom (and Burt, I suppose):

                I should clarify what I meant by invoking those examples. Those regimes were/are nominally secular, and it wouldn’t surprise me if part of their system of crime and punishment have or endorse shock-the-conscience retributive elements to it. I could be wrong, in each case. I think, for example, that the PRC before c. 1979 and Stalinist SU might be considered lawless in most respects and dependent on the glory of the state or the communist ideology. Perhaps the same with Hussein. Also, especially with the communist examples, we might posit that “communism” operated as a “religion” in the bad sense of the word, and therefore were not “secular” in any meaningful sense.Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

          The man who killed him apparently disagrees, given his frantic efforts to save the man’s life.Report

          • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            I don’t think you can draw any conclusions about rationality in this case.Report

            • MikeSchilling in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

              I’m uncomfortable with “he needed killing”, as opposed to “I can’t blame the father for beating him so badly”. If he needed killing, then, had he survived the beating, someone should have killed him afterward.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Well said.

                Even if he deserved to die, who among us has the right to kill?Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kazzy says:

                In this case? If I’m the father?

                Me. The state has the power to impose punishment upon me for it, though, specific circumstances, yadda yadda.

                I suspect that – should I be the father in this case – my defense would be far less sympathetic to the jury. I also expect I’d have a very different weight on my conscience than this fella.Report

              • If I were on the jury, I wouldn’t vote to convict the father (assuming the facts are as they seem from the report). And I wouldn’t blame the father. But I wouldn’t grant him the “right” to kill the perpetrator, especially after the perpetrator has been neutralized.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Oh, what I mean is, “I don’t think you can draw any reasonable conclusions about the father’s state of mind even based upon what he did”, people act weird under these sorts of circumstances.

                The infamous “he needed killin’ defense” is caricatured all the time, I don’t think it is entirely unfair to illustrate that the premise under which the defense is founded is actually exactly in these cases. Which was probably Tom’s point in his oblique unstated way.Report

              • Aye, PatC. I’m finding that those who need an explanation will never get it anyway. Plus, I prefer the reader to interact with the piece.

                I meself have been leaning against the death penalty, for reasons akin to some mentioned in this combox.

                [My remarks to Tim here


                My post here


                But this Texas episode gives me pause. The family’s nightmare is over, the rapist is owed no consideration, no tears, not a one. There is no injustice here and there would be no injustice if the father killed the rapist in cold, calculating, and remorseless blood–although if he had, many people’s attitudes would change, and the law would likely see it differently [unless “he needed killin'” is actually still on the books].

                None of this is to say I even have a position on this. It’s to say it gives me great pause.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:


                “The family’s nightmare is over, the rapist is owed no consideration, no tears, not a one.”

                I’m not so sure, Tom. The nightmare is not over for the family, unfortunately. The father will likely never shake the image of this man on top of his daughter nor the image of that same man dying under his own fists. And who knows how long this incident will stay with the daughter.

                As to the rapist himself, one of the problems with vigilante justice is that folks who might warrant a consideration or a tear are often denied it. What if we learned that this man was mentally ill or suffered from severe diminished capacity? Nothing, NOTHING would make what he did acceptable. But it would certainly impact how we would handle him had he gone through the criminal justice system.

                Please note that I am in no way defending the rapist’s actions or positing that he was or even likely to be mentally ill (or at least no more mentally ill than your run-of-the-mill child rapist). I’m simply positing that we don’t know and don’t have the opportunity to know in a way that is meaningful.

                I’m also not criticizing the father in anyway. He reacted in an extreme moment. If the facts are as they are stated here, and I am fully accepting of them as reported, I agree with the decision to not pursue any charges.

                Regarding capital punishment, I actually wrote a paper in college on the matter. I was attempting to rectify the Catholic “just war” theory with the Church’s staunch opposition to the death penalty. As I researched (and I’ll admit I was an undergrad so the paper was likely superficial in comparison to much of what you likely read and write), my conclusion was that killing on the field of battle was not analogous to capital punishment, largely because of the broader context in which the actions take place. In a kill-or-be-killed scenario, such as the one a soldier might find himself in, killing is acceptable (presuming the actions meet the other tenets of the just war theory). Capital punishment is not a kill-or-be-killed scenario. Killing is only acceptable as a last resort. War often presents last resort. Modern society, generally, provides others. Generally speaking, at least in America, prisoners can be detained such that they pose no or only the most minimal threat to others. Absent this, such as the Israelites wandering the desert, the death penalty might become an option, as they didn’t wander with maximum security prisons.

                I’ll check out your and Tim’s pieces, but figured I’d throw in my two cents here. I’d actually be curious to hear your thoughts on it. The paper is 7 years old now and lost to a variety of computer crashes, but it was actually one of the more useful works I did in college and one of the more fascinating courses I took (Prophets and Peacemakers, taught by a Professor Pope, who was ironically not a member of the clergy but WAS a scholar of the late Pope John Paul II, so much so that CNN sat in on a special lecture he offered us following his death, but now I’m really digressing).Report

              • Pierre Corneille in reply to Kazzy says:


                Your view on capital punishment is similar to mine. I say that once a dangerous person is neutralized and no longer an immediate threat, then it is wrong to kill him or her. (I suppose there might be close cases where someone is neutralized and yet still imminently dangerous, but I have trouble thinking of what those situations might be.)Report

            • Yeah, I was trying to figure out a good way to say that.

              I mean, if the man who killed him had no regrets, could we reach a conclusion from that? (My assumption is that the answer to this question is a big, fat “NO”.)

              Why can we reach a conclusion from him having regrets, then?Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:

                We can’t.

                Although I expect this is the best outcome for him, that’s wild conjecture.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Jaybird says:

                It’s an “a fortiori” argument. If the guy who has the most right to wish him dead doesn’t, why should we?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Two cases.

                In one case the guy wants the guy dead.
                In the second case, the guy doesn’t.

                Should we want the guy dead in the first case and not want him dead in the second, all other things being equal?

                I understand why we might be emotionally moved, mind… but, after that, I don’t see why a concept of “Justice” necessarily rely on the good will of the relations of the victims.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Jaybird says:

                Should we want the guy dead in the first case and not want him dead in the second, all other things being equal?

                We shouldn’t want the guy dead in either case. That someone as sorely provoked as the father doesn’t want him dead should reassure us that we’re correct in that.Report

              • Are we glad he’s dead? Is it better that he is dead than still alive? [Well, not for him, but…]Report

              • Glyph in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                I don’t think we need to be ‘glad’, I think rejoicing in anyone’s death is sort of unseemly, no matter how nasty they were.

                I see it more as the acceptance of what needed to be done, being done. A man shoots a rabid dog before it could bite anyone else; there should be the peace of knowing that something that needed to happen (or that there was no compelling reason to prevent), did.

                IOW, a sort of ‘grim satisfaction’ is my reaction.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Don’t take this as snark. It’s something I genuinely don’t understand, and I’m asking because I want to understand it. If we believe that every human has a soul, and that that soul is never beyond redemption, if he truly repents and asks God’s forgiveness, wouldn’t we be happier if he had the opportunity to do so?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                It’s equally valid, if’n you ask me, to wonder about whether recidivism has a better chance of happening if a tire iron is applied or if it’s not.

                They talked on NPR about the trial today. It’s easy to play “woulda shoulda coulda” but if Jerry Sandusky could have been stopped early, that may have been better for everybody’s soul. Even his.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                But doesn’t that assume the only way to stop him is killing him? We are fully capable of locking folks up and completely separating them from anyone they could ever harm. Hell, we do it every day!Report

              • Jaybird in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                We are fully capable of locking folks up and completely separating them from anyone they could ever harm.

                Feel like rephrasing or are we good with me saying something snarky?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Go for it!Report

              • Re the soteriology, Kazzy: Since forgiveness of sin–hence salvation– is a gift, so it’s the accepting that matters. Regret and repentance are a [by]product of accepting the gift.

                In fact, many Christian universalists [“universal reconciliation” with God, i.e., universal salvation, all puppies go to heaven] contemplate something resembling a “purgatory,” that we would want to do penance for our sins, that we should pay in some way for our sins out of the demands of justice. The early universalists thought 500 or 1000 years should do the trick, and also that one shouldn’t pay for eternity for acts committed in the space of minutes or years.

                [The Roman church remains open to universalism, BTW, praying for the salvation of all. But it’s up to G-d. And up to the individual—to accept the gift of salvation. One must say yes, if not “thank you.”]

                Long and pedantic way of saying that the child rapist of Texas may see heaven. Yes. Killing his ass does not change the soteriological equation.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Fair enough.

                I don’t know that we’ve demonstrated that we *CAN* lock folks up and completely separate them from anyone they could ever harm.

                It’s not the nice ones who end up raping others in prison.Report

              • Fnord in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                “It’s not the nice ones who end up raping others in prison.”

                Somehow, I don’t think we have a prison rape problem because our society extends too much mercy and kindness to prisoners.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                I thought that might be where you’re going as I thought more about it, JB. I should amend to say that we are fully capable of securing dangerous folks away from other potential victims. How well we actually execute that? Lot to be desired. Which I think, in part, is based on an ideology that others in prison can’t be victims. Nonsensical, of course.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                From what I understand, women’s prisons allow women to have irons in their cells, so that they may iron their jumpsuits.

                Men’s prisons, by comparison, do not allow plastic toothbrushes as such could be sharpened into a shiv.

                There are a lot of weird dynamics when it comes to the modern prison system.Report

              • M.A. in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Jaybird, prison dynamics are weirder than that.

                Keep in mind that a lot of it is statistics. Women’s prisons are a lot less crowded. And less women, percentage-wise, are incarcerated for violent or organized crime (gang or otherwise) related convictions.

                When you get into the male prison system, there’s a significant gang presence throughout and significant animosity between historically white, black, and latino gangs. History Channel’s Gangland series can give some fascinating, if frightening, insights into it and includes many interviews with real gang members who’ve been in the system. An essential part of the problem is the disparity in size and ratio of guards to inmates, which leads to prison gangs’ organizations becoming de facto administration within the prisons they exist in.Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Because we:
                A) Don’t want him free to victimize others.
                B) Don’t want to leave open the possibility that some judge may someday order him to be freed, opening the door to A.
                C) In any case don’t particularly want to pay for his food, shelter, and medical care for the rest of his life.

                If he lives, he’s a threat at worst and dead weight at best. Considering the alternatives, having him dead is a pretty attractive option.Report

        • Glyph in reply to Jaybird says:

          Jaybird’s death penalty comment is the position I have come to in recent years, and why I moved from fairly pro-death penalty to pretty anti-.

          I remain convinced that some crimes are so heinous that the criminal does in fact forfeit his own right to life – and whether the reason this is justice is morality/punishment, deterrence, or just plain pragmatic ‘we have to get this psycho off our island before he does it again’ matters not much.

          But I do not trust the state – any state – to apply that penalty fairly or competently. In other words, practical real-world examples of how any state comprised of human beings will act, make the death penalty just not acceptable for me any longer.

          In much the same way and over about the same timeframe, I have reluctantly come to believe that although I still think abortion is in general (with qualifications) wrong, we just can’t get allow the state to get too far into that question, with its medical dimensions, and not end up in a quagmire. It would simply vest the state with too much power and it cannot be trusted not to misuse that power through malice or incompetence. And this really bothers me – that we have to permit something bad – if not murder, then something approaching it in many cases – to avoid another evil.

          I do however wish we had let that question be decided legislatively, as the all-or-nothing nature of Roe v Wade is more divisive than what we would have ended up with through legislative push and pull over time.

          No one would still be entirely happy with something like ‘1st trimester anything goes; 2nd trimester, it depends; 3rd trimester, you really really need a good reason for this’, but I think most of us could mostly live with that sort of compromise most of the time.Report

          • North in reply to Glyph says:

            If by most of us you mean the majority of pro-choicers and likely the overwhelming majority of fence sitters then yes. But the overwhelming majority of pro-lifers would reject such as a final arrangment and have oft and clearly stated that such restrictions would be desirable only to establish a new minimum from which to fight for further restrictions.Report

            • Glyph in reply to North says:

              Hi North, I agree that they probably would; but I see that as a result of Roe v Wade. Hence my wish that we had handled it differently. I think it was a radical decision, and it has caused radical resistance.

              From the pro-lifers’ point of view, total war was declared on them, and any possibility of compromise swept off the table from the very beginning, when it was basically decided ‘no restrictions ever, at all, for any reason’, which just does not jive with many people’s innate sensibilities.

              Had we had a slower back and forth on it (and don’t get me wrong, this process would not have been painless either, and would have lasted a long time) I think we might have eventually reached a more or less stable political equilibrium on the question, an uneasy compromise something like what I described above, as many secular Western societies (that are not heavily Catholic) seem to have.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Exactly the same? I don’t think any of us can say exactly what we’d do in that situation. I’d probably try to break one of his knees so he couldn’t go anywhere before the cops arrived, but I don’t really know.Report

  4. Is this even a topic that merits discussion?

    Can I, in the light of my kitchen while typing on my computer with music playing gently in the background, argue that molesting a child does not merit being beaten to death? Sure.

    Would things end up the exact same way (or worse) if I were to find someone laying a predatory hand on my child? Indubitably.Report

    • Pretty much. Not supporting the death penalty doesn’t mean you have to miss the MF’er when they go.Report

    • M.A. in reply to Russell Saunders says:

      The more I look at this the more I conclude the only possible reason for this post is that someone’s trolling for a negatory response so that he can claim “libruls” don’t care about children, don’t care about law, are wussies too lame to enforce harsh punishment, or some other ridiculous claim.

      People are crowing about the dad. He did what he had to do to save his kid; good on him. He then did what he could to try to prevent the other guy from dying, which makes him more laudable. Moreover, he’s been incredibly humble about it. The crowing conservative neanderthal crowd ought to take a cue from his humility.

      There was a really bad circumstance. A man who is one of the worst, most disgusting representations of humanity did a very bad thing, another man stopped him, and in that process one of them wound up dead. To crow about it, to act like this is some major civil rights victory or a victory for law in that there weren’t criminal charges brought by a grand jury? I don’t get what’s up with that. It is what it is and the victory laps are fishing stupid.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to M.A. says:

        “A man who is one of the worst, most disgusting representations of humanity did a very bad thing…”

        That is an extreme characterization based on a very small data point. Please do not read this as a defense of child molestation in any way. But none of us would be happy if the entirety of our life and our being was summed up by the very worst action we undertook. We also have no idea if this man was in a proper state of mind… he could have been mentally ill or high on bath salts or who knows what else. None of which is to defend his actions or condemn the father’s. I’m just not a fan of hyperbole or of painting with broad black-and-white strokes that leave no room for nuance.Report

      • Russell Saunders in reply to M.A. says:

        He then did what he could to try to prevent the other guy from dying, which makes him more laudable.

        Indeed it does. I know nothing about this man other than what is described in this story, but from what I can tell he is as decent a person as I could expect to meet.

        And I cannot say in good faith that I would be so moved to save the life of a person who would do such a thing to my child. I like to think so, but it is probably too pretty to be true.Report

  5. Scott says:

    The prep did need killing and I’m glad to see justice done. I fail to see why folks are so broken up over it. The perp won’t commit this crime again and the family doesn’t have to live in fear of him. It is too bad we can execute rapists and child molesters.Report