When it comes to the death penalty, the only thing the United States can do is plead the insanity defense. The rest of the advanced world has moved on, but America resolutely remains among the top five executioners — behind China, Iran and Iraq, and just ahead of Pakistan. In Colorado, prosecutors are seeking the death of James Holmes, the clearly insane young man who dyed his hair a vivid orange, allegedly killed 12 people at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” and made no effort to escape. “Justice is death,” declared the prosecutor. The Taliban, I tell you, are among us.
That utterance came from the Arapahoe County district attorney, George Brauchler, who said he decided to go for the max after talking to 60 family members of those murdered. Presumably and understandably, they all favored the death penalty — and I might, too, if someone I loved was murdered. But this is the crime, as heinous as it might be, of a crazy person. Holmes’s execution will not deter anyone else — although sensible gun control might — and so his death, if and when it comes, will amount to vengeance. That’s understandable, but it is not justice.