Homolka fallout: Time to reinstate capital punishment?

(The last in my Karla Homolka-related series of posts)

During the past week, many Canadians have expressed horror and revulsion over the fact that Karla Homolka has been doing some volunteer work with children at an elementary school her kids attend.

And hate. It’s clear that many people hate Homolka with a passion. From newspaper columnists to their readers to people commenting on social media, many feel she should be hounded by the media and the public for the rest of her life, and that she should never have anything resembling a normal life.

(Quick recap for U.S. readers and others abroad: Homolka was convicted of manslaughter in the sex slayings of three girls 25 years ago in Ontario after making a plea bargain for a 12-year sentence in exchange for testimony against her monster husband, Paul Bernardo. After the deal was made, a video cassette was discovered that showed Homolka was a willing participant rather than the victim she had portrayed herself to be, but the Crown couldn’t go back on their deal. It was probably the most sensational case in living history in this country. Homolka is free now and lives in the Montreal area with a new partner and her three kids.)

I’m sure all of those expressing their outrage about Homolka this week feel she should, at the very least, have been locked up for life with dangerous offender status so that she could never be released.

But in the surreal light of the fact that Homolka walks among them now, I wonder how many of those angry citizens would now vote in favour of having the death penalty reinstated in Canada — if they weren’t already in favour of it. Because the fact is, many murderers do serve their sentences and are set free; a maximum life sentence in Canada is usually no longer than 25 years, but most murderers are released long before that. So, they are out there. And the families and friends of their victims no doubt struggle with that fact the same way the friends and families — and general public — do every time Homolka’s name resurfaces again with sensational media headlines.

Not suprisingly, a majority of people in Canada and the United States do support capital punishment, Wikipedia reports. “According to one poll, support for the death penalty in Canada is approximately the same as its support in the United States, at 63 percent in both countries as of 2013.”

But there is little chance our Liberal government would even consider reinstating capital punishment. And when a Conservative government eventually returns to power in Ottawa, it is unlikely they would give the matter much thought either: the last time a Conservative government voted on the issue, in 1987, it was defeated by a vote of 148 to 127.

Still, with the media promising to hound Homolka and, in turn, fan the flames of anger and hatred for her, it is conceivable that some of the liberal types previously opposed to the death penalty might give it some thought, if only so that they and everyone else can get some closure on the horrific crimes she and Bernardo committed.

And that’s what capital punishment does: it provides closure, both for the victims’ families and friends, and for the killers. Few would be thinking about Homolka today if she had been executed 25 years ago. And, for those who believe there is some sort of spiritual order to the nature of things (as I do), Homolka would have paid some karma — reaping what she sowed — and moved on.

The idea that murderers suffer while serving sentences in Canadian prisons is laughable: they are well taken care of, and they don’t have any of the pressures faced by the working-class heroes of society. If they suffer at all, it would only be a matter of a troubled conscience before ultimately forgiving themselves (because, ya know, they can’t change what they did, but surely would if they could).

Karla Homolka is a major test for society, and it is clear that many, perhaps the majority, cannot forgive her. Social media has become the new forum for lynch mobs, and she will be figuratively lynched over and over again throughout her life every time the media finds a news hook for a headline. And the families and friends of her victims will suffer all over again with each lynching . . .

— Jillian

Photo: Execution of Stanislaus Lacroix by John Robert Radclive on March 21, 1902, at Hull, Quebec, said to be the last publicly viewed execution in Canada. Onlookers can be seen observing the gallows from surrounding rooftops and telegraph poles. (Credit: Library and Archives Canada/Wikipedia)

9 thoughts on “Homolka fallout: Time to reinstate capital punishment?

  1. If you kill all the people you hate then who are you going to have left to keep your hate kindled? Oh, wait, there’s always the gays, the bis and trans. Oh okay, go ahead, we’re all right.

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    1. I don’t know enough about the Sharia system to comment on it. But I do know there is perennial wisdom underlying all the world religions and philosophies. The idea of reaping what you have sown — no more, no less — is common to all.

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  2. It sounds like Canada needs to put some accuracy behind the term, life sentence, and I would suggest that should be done before any moves to instate a death penalty. Anger over life sentences, which are not really that at all, is probably driving much of the support for the death penalty, so deal with that issue, first.

    There are many families of murder victims who strongly disagree that seeing the murderer put to death provides closure. It often doesn’t really seem to make a difference, it changes nothing, provides no relief or comfort, according to those who are closest to the cases. Incredibly, many have found that forgiveness of the offender has brought the relief that helps victim’s closest family and friends go on with their lives. (I’m certainly not sure I could do that, myself.)

    The father of the youngest victim of the Boston Marathon bombings didn’t favor the death penalty, saying he didn’t want to keep reliving the horrors of the crime during the appeals process. Those sentenced to death are not easily forgotten, rather they are probably better remembered than those locked away forever. (Provided we don’t allow nonsense like sensation-seeking interviews as with Charles Manson, or book and movie deals, to follow convicts into prison.) A life sentence for the Marathon bomber would likely have meant 50 + years, since he was only in his early 20’s at his trial. He was sentenced to death, so we’ll now see who feels what way as the process is followed through, which will probably take a decade or more, keeping the case in the news. And, if he is put to death, that will be written about, probably made into a movie, and discussed publically for generations.

    Really, once someone is executed, all control over that legacy is lost, and it may gain a longer life than when it was possible to restrict things while the murderer was alive.

    Really, of you look at the places where the death penalty is used most often, it can’t truly be said this has deterred or lessened the amount of violent crimes. Places like Texas and other states who execute at a high rate, also still have some of the worst crime rates, and with some of the most unspeakably heinous crimes.

    There was a case in Vermont, nearly 20 years ago, I remember well, where two men in their 20’s were doing drugs with one of the guys’ mother and her boyfriend, (strong family values, there.) The young men became very violent when high, and they stabbed the mother and boyfriend to death. They then ran down the street where they kidnapped a woman, who was arriving for her early morning shift at a local supermarket, and they forced her to drive them out of state, to New York State. They had planned to let the woman go, but they realized she could identify them, so they beat her to death in the woods. The men were later arrested.

    What needs to be understood here is these men drove from a state with no death penalty, into a state with a newly reinstated death penalty, where they murdered this poor woman. The threat of a death sentence did nothing to protect this woman, it didn’t deter the murderers at all. People committing horrible crimes do not stop to consider the laws where they are, they don’t stop to consider much with any sense in their minds.

    One of the murderers committed suicide in prison, the other was convicted and sentenced to death, over a decade ago. He’s still in prison while his case continues through the process.

    Now, I’m not one who has ever felt much sorrow for murderers who are sentenced to prison, then die violently at the hands of other prisoners. But, when I see someone facing a long sentence, who then commits suicide, I always feel that they got out of it easily.

    Sure, some may call for a more expedited process which brings the execution about quicker, but there are the myriad of cases where modern advances in science and technology, or just witnesses recanting their testimony, or corrupt judges and prosecutors being exposed, where it’s proven the wrong person was convicted, often 20 or more years after sentencing. These systems of justice are obviously far from perfect, and a death sentence can be a terrible and irreversible mistake.

    As I hear more about the Holmolka case, there are all sorts of things that seem very wrong. I can’t imagine the pain the families of her victims feel, knowing she has her own children, now, and is allowed to have, I suppose, a happy family life.

    I would say Canada has much to focus on improving in how sentences are handed down, being able to re-open cases when new evidence surfaces, preventing convicts from being able to just move on with their lives after leaving other lives in tatters.

    But, looking carefully at what the death penalty has done where it is already in use, should make Canada want to try harder to avoid going down that path, where no real solutions have been found, by so many before.

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    1. Thank you for this long, thoughtful response, Scott.

      First, I erred by suggesting definitively that execution of murderers WOULD bring closure for families of victims. I should have said MIGHT bring closure.

      Second, I still feel that a speedy execution of cold-blooded murderers might bring closure, along with a more visible process, such as the killer being executed in the town square moments after he or she is sentenced.

      The only reason I can see for a life sentence instead is if circumstantial evidence was involved or there’s a possibility a witness could have lied.

      But part of the reason for my Homolka-related posts was to show the hypocrisy of society: People have little problem with the killing of humans in other circumstances. And most have no problem with the killing of animals in myriad ways, for food and sport. Society will put down a pit bull that attacked a human, even if the dog is not mad. But society has a problem with putting down cold-blooded human murderers and, instead, accords them all sorts of rights and would prefer to support them with the public purse in prison for the rest of their lives.

      Personally, I take a more spiritual, karmic approach to it all, but I understand that society feels it must at least give the appearance of a secular approach. If so, why the moral dilemma about executing ruthless murderers? Surely it is based on some moral code tied to a superstitious religious belief system, i.e. Christianity. Well, not everybody buys into that belief system, especially the murderers.

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  3. I believe the “real” “facts” deal with the study of the psychopath and sociopaths. For which “the Law”, and specifically the judicial and Law enforcement entities are “always” suspect. Basically, if you live to “tell the tale”, whether it be from murder or genocide, in the end doesn’t it all boil down to if you attempt to cause me bodily harm, I will protect myself. The problem is of course, compared to the “lesser” species in Nature, we can really “kill” so much better than anything “living” on the planet. Microbes excepted

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  4. Countries where the death penalty still exist have a way higher murder rate than in the countries where it has been abolished. Many killers would tell you they’d rather die after being found guilty of a homicide than spend 25 years behind bars. (Thats why many of them choose to commit suicide right after they have commited the crime, by turning their firearms/weapon against themselves). Death penalty has no dissuasive power, it actually does the complete opposite in most cases.

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    1. That’s interesting. So, it seems like society would be showing more mercy by executing them than holding them behind bars for 25 years or more (as is the case in the U.S.).

      I wasn’t actually considering the death penalty as a deterrent, because I think most people who commit premeditated murder hope to get away with it.

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