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March 25, 2010

"What if Jesus had been tried under Texas law?"

The title of this post is the headline of this item in the Dallas Morning News, which sets up a Q&A interview with Baylor lawprof Mark Osler this way:

What if Jesus were sentenced under Texas laws? Would he still be executed? Would he still be executed? That question led Baylor Law School professor Mark Osler to stage the trial of Christ under the rules of Texas law for a Waco congregation. The death penalty opponent and sentencing guidelines expert summarized his thoughts in a book published last year, Jesus on Death Row.  The following is an interview ... with Mark Osler.

March 25, 2010 at 09:56 AM | Permalink

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I am a devout atheist, so I may have no place commenting. Isn't this a cheap stunt, insulting to the central event of a religion, Christianity, to make a small, trivial, and cliched, partisan political point?

No mention of the extra-judicial executions of the lawyer client, the murderer, yes, the client, even of the prosecution.

Religion executed millions to impose its sicko orthodoxies.

Religion was the source of the lawyer methodologies and business models, including parsing for gotchas on the smallest pretextual deviations from an infinity number of bogus, dumbass rules, the confiscatory nature of the system, the church like court and rituals.

The exercise is quite sleazy and demeans Christians. How about a trial of Jesus under Sharia law? Is that OK? Why is a mockery of Christianity any more acceptable?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 26, 2010 2:10:12 AM

Anything that starts with "What if Jesus..." or "What if Hitler..." should be ignored to preserve the sanity of the prospective reader.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 26, 2010 4:38:00 AM

claus - your use of the word "devout" in relation to atheism is somewhat ironic? The broader meaning to which you ascribe it is a corruption of its true meaning which is "pious or very religious".
As a non-Christian, you can have no understanding of the personal depth of soul-searching or inner debate that Mark Osler and others have in their search for truth - and a view on the justice of the death penalty. Your mockery of Christianity adds nothing to the debate.

Posted by: peter | Mar 26, 2010 4:44:04 AM

Against my better judgment, I read the interview. I should have taken my own advice.

Some observations.

1. The title of this entry is, "What if Jesus had been tried under Texas law?" The answer is: He would have not been given the death penalty, since Texas law provides capital punishment only for murder, and Jesus was not charged with murder.

Thus one need read no further than the title to understand just how deceptive and biased the presentation is. The premise is that, under Texas law, Jesus COULD WIND UP on death row. The suggestion beneath the premise is: "How could we be so awful as to even THINK ABOUT executing the Son of God??!!" But the whole thing is a fraud, from the first word on.

2. One of the article commenters raised that obvious point, and the interviewer answered that this was a thought experiment, and the reader should just imagine that Jesus was on death row. I found this a wonderfully concrete illustration of how abolitionists insist on disconnecting an inmate's being on death row from the behavior -- namely some grisly murder or murders he committed -- that got him there.

This is an almost comic reflection of the fantasy that we routinely execute the innocent. The theory behing this fantasy -- if it can be called a "theory" -- is that people show up on death row by magic (or corruption).

3. Osler repeats the false and insulting bromide that retentionists are moved by anger, while abolitionists are moved by humanity and A Higher Wisdom.

I wonder what it feels like to regard one's self as so superior.

It's natural, I suppose, to feel anger toward cruelty and and sadism, but that is not what lies behind retentionism. What lies behind it is principally the view that a prison sentence, no matter its length, is not justice for such crimes as drawn out child rape and murder, or calculated mass murder such as McVeigh's.

To belittle retentionists as foot-stomping childern is arrogant and mendacious, and abolitionists know it. They proceed apace anyway.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 26, 2010 5:59:57 AM

Bill - "This is an almost comic reflection of the fantasy that we routinely execute the innocent. The theory behing this fantasy -- if it can be called a "theory" -- is that people show up on death row by magic (or corruption)."

People show up on death penalty for all sorts of reasons, and thankfully quite a number are subsequently removed again for equally diverse reasons ... including innocence. Unfortunately, or more accurately disgracefully, many cases of possible innocence fail to be identified or tested because the regime of post-trial review and appeal resists any investigation other than procedural flaws. Even DNA testing, now widely regarded as an effective tool for the prosecution, is often denied the defendant when the prosecution fear the truth. Worse, even if a DNA result may cause doubt of guilt, prosecutors, judges and courts in a state like Texas, are able to essentially ignore the result and rely on the Law of Parties, which requires a much lower threshold of proof.
Until you can get over the patently absurd notion that the presence on death row of an inmate is itself proof of guilt, then you cannot claim to have any worthwhile contribution to the death penalty debate, much less criticize people like Mark Esler and others who have at least thoughtfully considered their own moral values in relation to their religious beliefs and their own personal experience of the system. Your belief that no punishment can be too great for a violent crime is an extreme for which you are known. Not only is that view a danger to life but it is also a danger to Justice. In that climate, there is no doubt that innocent inmates will continue to lose their lives.

Posted by: peter | Mar 26, 2010 10:02:41 AM

peter --

"Even DNA testing, now widely regarded as an effective tool for the prosecution, is often denied the defendant when the prosecution fear the truth."

That is word-for-word the phony line we heard for at least ten years as abolitionists were parading the Roger Keith Coleman innocence hoax. When they got the DNA testing they falsely swore the state would never provide, and Coleman was shown to be guilty, they just dropped it down the memory hole. They also turned their backs on the prosecutor, whom they had accused of being a crook; the judge, whom they had accused of being an ambitious political hack; and the jurors, whom they had accused of being anywhere from brain dead to morally obtuse. Most appallingly, they also turned their backs on the innocent man they had publicy accused, by name, of being the "real killer."

Since you hold yourself out as the moral judge of other people, where is your apology for the rancid, scurrilous and false accusations made in the Coleman case?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 26, 2010 4:05:39 PM

peter --

After your apology, we can continue with this:

"Until you can get over the patently absurd notion that the presence on death row of an inmate is itself proof of guilt..."

Um, peter, it's not that the killer's presence on death row proves guilt, it's that the proof of guilt puts the killer on death row. The proof, incidentally, is made before a body of 12 citizens who are impartial -- at the outset -- as to the defendant's guilt, and who are told he is to be presumed innocent. Yet you routinely post here to condemn their judgment in cases where they heard all the evidence and you heard none.

"...then you cannot claim to have any worthwhile contribution to the death penalty debate..."

That is for other people to judge. I get a pretty good speaking fee, I can tell you that. And not before friendly audiences, either.

"...much less criticize people like Mark Esler and others who have at least thoughtfully considered their own moral values in relation to their religious beliefs and their own personal experience of the system."

His name is Osler, and I have examined my moral values in relation to my experience with the system, which is more than his (or yours for that matter). I have reached the same conclusion as two-thirds or a generous and benevolent people have. You're the one out of step, not me.

As for Professor Osler's invocation of Christianity (and, with all respect, yours), it's out of place -- way out of place -- in a discussion of secular law that includes persons of different religions or no religion. Indeed, the simultaneously pious and coercive religious spin that is put on abolitionism is one of the worst of its numerous unappetizing features.

"Your belief that no punishment can be too great for a violent crime is an extreme for which you are known."

I may be known for it among people on LSD, but that's it. You say that I'd support the death penalty for punching some guy in the mouth?! You know full well that is false -- indeed not just false, but absurd. Yet on and on you go about how YOU have a Higher Morality. One might think that higher morality would include making statements that are within at least shouting distance of being true.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 26, 2010 4:45:27 PM

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