Poenam Capitis

Thirty-two states currently employ the death penalty. Personally, this is of no consequence to me—if our governments want to kill people, who am I to judge? After all, I've executed more people in the time that I've been alive than any state but Texas. And I've spent time in Texas—they can hardly be counted on to represent a statistical norm. But let's examine this particular method of justice for a bit, shall we?

The death penalty is meant to serve as the ultimate punishment for those who commit the most brutal of crimes. I can only assume that I might fall into that category—so I am perhaps particularly qualified to provide a bit of perspective on this. Psychopaths do not experience emotions like the rest of society. This is not something we choose, it simply is. Our brains are wired differently, and this appears to be the case from birth. MRI scans show emotionally charged words such as rape, violence, or murder elicit precisely the same response in our brains as the words table, water, or shoe. There is literally no distinction between them. A psychopath’s brain treats these things equally—so a broken chair has the same impact as a dead body. Likewise, dismembering one of you with an axe is no more disturbing to me than, say, chopping wood. It is, however, infinitely more enjoyable.

It is also true that we do not process fear like "normal" humans. I've mentioned that even our startle reflex does not function the same way as others. This is an important factor to consider when discussing the death penalty, because the psychopath does not fear punishment. The threat of sending me to the Else is in no way a deterrent. I do not fear death—if I did, perhaps the threat would mean something. Then again, if I feared death, I imagine I might not inflict it upon others with quite so much glee.

So capital punishment is not a deterrent. If that is truly the motivation behind it, then it is beyond useless. But let's dig a bit deeper still.

Psychopaths and sociopaths don't feel things the way that humans do. We lack the capacity for love, fear, joy, sorrow, guilt, and any number of other "emotions". I don't comprehend most of these things any better than you can comprehend NOT feeling them. For you they exist. For me, they do not. Imagine an existence without any feeling at all. A vast desert of nothing as far as the eye can see in every direction. It is an endless ocean of sand. Empty. Barren. Then one day you do something and find it to be… exhilarating. Suddenly within this existence of dust, there is a small oasis—a place that quenches the endless thirst of nothing. Not an emotion, per se, but a feeling. Something you've never experienced. Adrenalin flows. Your stomach knots. Your cock gets hard. Your heart races. Your senses become heightened. It may never be happiness or love but it is something where there once was naught. It is new. It is a stirring. It is enjoyable. It is purpose. It is life.

Maybe that small oasis was discovered while doing something that others consider wrong. Or illegal. Maybe I set fire to a neighbor's shed and caught a shiver of thrill as I watched the flames devour and destroy something that didn't belong to me. How much more so with a home? How much more still with a family sleeping inside? Maybe I strangled a cat. His struggle taught me the exhilaration of holding complete dominion over an entire existence. How much more so with other, stronger animals? How much more still with humans, argued to be the pinnacle of evolution?

In that endless desert of nothing, suddenly something.

Society says these things are wrong, but you, as a psychopath, are not part of that society. You are different. You don't possess the compassion or empathy that would make you view them as wrong. All you know is that you felt something. It was different and exciting and thrilling. Even were you to try to keep yourself from doing it again, you would fail—because now you know what it means to have your thirst quenched and appetite sated. You know what it means to burn or rape or hurt or kill.

Remember, you feel nothing for those whom you've harmed—they are no better or worse than a cord of wood, or a glass of water. They are worthless. Remember, you are not capable of fear, and therefore the threat of punishment means nothing to you. Remember, you cannot even fathom why anyone should care in the slightest. And it feels so, so good to feel—to step out of the desert even for a moment.

Really, what would stop you from chasing that next oasis of exhilaration?

Do you see?

So, as a punishment, the death penalty fails. As a deterrent, it fails miserably. Perhaps then, it is justice? Is it? Does taking the life of one who took the life of another balance the scales in some way? I have killed 131 Non. You can only kill me once; I think the scale still tips in my favor just a smidge. Does it bring retribution to the families of the dead? How then, is the death penalty anything more than a kind of government-sanctioned program of vengeance? And if the taking of a life makes one feel better, how is that any better than what I do? Killing makes me feel better too.

Many studies have been done on the cost effectiveness of life in prison versus death. Most show that, if anything, it is significantly more expensive, in total, to dispatch someone to the Else. Obviously, their sentence is abbreviated, but by the time both a conviction and sentencing hearing have been completed, plus death row housing, plus any number of appeals, stays, and the cost of the murder itself, well, a million dollar life sentence is cheap by comparison.

Of all of the arguments, there is but one that I would tend to agree with. Because a psychopath is a fundamentally different species, putting us down like a rabid animal to protect society might make a modicum of sense. But really, how is removing us from life itself any different from removing us from the streets and locking us away to rot forever? And, of course, Old Yeller didn't get two trials, a litany of appeals, and special accommodations for twenty years before he was gently, softly, and rather uninspiringly “nudged” into the Else. He got a quick shotgun blast from young Travis.

So let's review. The death penalty is not effective as a punishment for those of us with a pre-disposition for killing. It is not a deterrent. It is cost prohibitive. It does no more to protect society than locking us up until we wither away. It does nothing to balance the scales of justice. And, it essentially turns compassionate, moral, "normal" human beings into people consumed by a killing rage and desire for vengeance, which makes them not that much different than us.

Now, if the idea is to frighten non-psychopaths into compliance with moral laws written by a vastly immoral mankind, then perhaps that too, is worth examination. People that kill in a blinding fit of rage, are obviously not thinking clearly, and these cases rarely become capital crimes. In fact, most are described as lesser "crimes of passion" and are therefore irrelevant to this conversation. Non who kill with full awareness of what they are doing have already weighed the costs and have decided to kill despite the threat of punishment. Whether that punishment is life in prison or death is immaterial—in either case, it obviously failed to prevent the killing in the first place.

But what of those that we don't know of? Those who might have killed, but were somehow cowed by the threat of the Ultimate Punishment. Those who were so afraid of the needle or the chair or the gas they decided to pick up the shattered pieces of their morality and put them back together again? Theoretically, we may never know—because it's unlikely that they walk around talking about their near-forays into the exciting world of murder. However, there are clues worth looking at. Louisiana, far and away, has the highest murder rate per capita over the past twenty years. Louisiana also has the death penalty. Vermont, Maine, Minnesota, Iowa and Hawaii all have significantly lower than average murder rates per capita despite the death penalty being off the table. A high percentage of southern states with the death penalty are significantly above the mean average. Texas, which has put down nearly five times as many people since 1976 as any other state with the death penalty hovers fairly close to the national average. To be fair, there are a few anomalies, such as Utah, Idaho and New Hampshire where the death penalty exists and the murder rates are very low, but these are the exception, not the rule. Statistically speaking, the death penalty has no appreciable impact on the per capita murder rate.

As I said, as a psychopath and a serial killer, I'm not inherently against a sentence of death. I exact that judgment often (and brilliantly, if I do say so). But I think that a species that views itself as morally superior to the typical murderer needs to closely examine such a hypocritical concept—especially one that seems to serve no discernable purpose whatsoever.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a playmate on Death Row that requires my attention.

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