Is Only Kelly Siegler Man Enough to Tell the Truth?

Given that Americans’ second most common justification for the death penalty’s fairness is its provision of “satisfaction and closure” to the victim’s loved ones, it’s astounding to me that Kelly Siegler (“Prosecutor-for-Hire”, according to her tagline) admits in a blog post that there’s no such thing as closure (H/T AHCL). A successful death penalty prosecutor concedes that, where closure is concerned, the emperor has no clothes: it’s astounding not because of the novelty of the idea, for it isn’t novel — anyone not steeped in overwrought victimology can intuit that there can be no “closure” for the death of a child — but because it weakens the justification for a penalty of which the prosecutor is unabashedly in favor.

Lindsay Beyerstein writes in Majikthise of calls for closure masking retributivism:

Medicalization sidesteps questions of justice. According to old fashioned retributivism, victims are entitled to see their loved ones avenged. This concept of entitlement is rooted in justice, not benificence. Retributivists say that victims have a right to see offenders punished fairly, not to whatever punishment makes them feel the best. Once we start talking about providing closure for survivors, we ellide the questions of justice. Closure is supposed to be something that survivors need for their mental health. Closure is about what makes someone feel better, not about what is just. By assigning such overwhelming importance to the nebulous idea of closure, we are outsourcing retributivism. We are saying that survivors need to exact retribution in order to heal, perhaps because they regard a particular punishment as the only acceptable outcome. Appeals to closure are an excuse to ignore the question of whether we think what they want is just.

The argument that the death penalty heals survivors — that retribution is indicated (in a medical sense) to provide closure — has no more legs. With “closure” removed from the death penalty equation, what’s left? The usual suspects: deterrence (general and specific); incapacitation; and, of course, good ol’ naked retribution, retribution for its own sake, an eye for an eye.

0 responses to “Is Only Kelly Siegler Man Enough to Tell the Truth?”

  1. “Closure” always seemed like a pretty trivial reason to kill someone. I can understand the desire for retribution and revenge. Justice and deterrence are reasons to allow it. But closure? That just sounds like psychobabble to me.

  2. I know of no victim survivor who believes that the execution of the guilty murderer(s) brings closure to the emotional and/or psychological suffering  of that victim survivor for the loss of their innocent, murdered loved one(s). How could it?
    I have never encountered such a person, in the many years I have been involved with murder victim survivors. Has anyone?
    There are many victims survivors who claim they did find closure with the execution, although without important clarification.
    Further inquiry would reveal the obvious: it is closure the the legal process, whereby execution is the most just sanction available for the crime and they are relieved that the murderer is dead  and can no longer harm another innocent – a very big deal.
    Those are the real meanings of any closure expression.

    Murder victim “Mary Bounds’ daughter, Jena Watson, who watched the execution, said Berry’s action deprived the family of a mother, a grandmother and a friend, and that pain will never go away.”

    ” “We feel that we have received justice,” she said Wednesday after the execution. “There’s never an end to the hurt from a violent crime. There can never fully be closure. You have to learn to do the best you can. Tonight brings finality to a lot of emotional issues.” “

  3. Dudley,

    Closure of the legal process comes fastest with a plea (and waiver of appeal) rather than prolonged pretrial litigation followed by a trial and 10-15 years of postconviction litigation, ending only with a conviction.

    For good reason, we don’t let the families of murder victims decide what the most just sanction is; that’s appropriately a question for society to answer.

  4. To push the idea in the first paragraph of my last comment a bit farther, Dudley, the factor of closure as you’ve defined it (procedural closure?) would favor a plea (meaning a plea to something other than death) rather than a trial.

  5. Dear Mark:

    Of course, I was not speaking of procedural closure. I was speaking of the emotional/psychological closure of the victim survivors, particularly in murder cases, a closure which doesn’t ever truly occur.

    Yes, procedural closure may come much quicker with a plea. It may come even quicker with an acquittal of an actually guilty perp, as well. We all know that some pleas are litigated later.

    The point I was trying to make, specifically with regard to the subject article, was that Siegler is right, there is no closure to the vicitm survivors when the murderer is executed. Sure, it’s closure to the legal process. But the entire point was the emotional/psychological closure. which cannot occur with execution.

    There is the just execution of a guilty murderer who wrongly murdered an innocent victim.

    Specifically, it’s only closure to the legal process

  6. Another major challenge is that justice has two sides. Is it just to make the victim’s family feel better? Is that a Constitutional concern? Should a man be put to death or put in jail for 25-to-life so that the community can feel safer? This way of thinking is quite regressive, and once “normal” citizens find themselves in tricky situations, arrested for a crime, all of a sudden their views change on this subject.

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