A recent headline caught my eye: “Jury recommends death for convicted mass murderer.”
That’s a pretty tepid way to convey such a drastic proposal. Almost as if it were a man-on-the-street interview, and the judge casually asked the jury what they thought about the situation.
“I mean, the guy’s convicted, so we got to make a decision,” the judge probably said. “Say it was you sitting here at this oversized desk holding the miniature mallet and wearing the polyester Harry Potter robe. What would you do?”
And for some reason, the judge I’m picturing has a Brooklyn accent … even though this imaginary trial is taking place in the Midwest. (Hey, it’s a humor blog. It doesn’t have to make sense. Sort of like Donald Trump’s campaign.)
“Well,” says one of the members, shrugging, “I’m no expert, but if you’re going to ask my opinion, I suggest we fry the dumb bastard. But only because he slayed dozens of innocent people, then carved out their internal organs and dangled them from meathooks.”
He throws his arms in the air. “But that’s just me, you know? Someone else might feel differently.” (Incidentally, the jury member has a Brooklyn accent, too.)
Here’s the thing: If you’re going to propose death for a convicted murderer, your argument should be persuasive. Don’t just give a meager “recommendation.” Stand on your principles. Pour some passion into it.
Whenever I’m tasked with deciding the fate of a twisted serial killer who’s been found guilty by a jury of his peers (and these situations come up often in our modern-day, civilized society), I always follow this little rule:
You can recommend a restaurant, but you should always advocate an execution.
See, it’s all about standing behind your convictions (or, in this case, the mass murderer’s conviction).
“Advocate” has a stronger connotation. No judge is going to be swayed by a mere “recommendation.” They want to hear the passion, ardor, and enthusiasm that underlie your persuasive closing argument.
If you just shrug and mumble, “I don’t know — I kinda sorta recommend that the killer be executed,” all the judge is going to hear is “meh.” And then he’s going to sentence the sick bastard to life — just to spite you — and all because you didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to present your case with passion.
But maybe you’re having an off day, or maybe you’re just not that invested in determining the consequences for a first-degree murder conviction.
That’s fine. No, really — it is. Besides, it says more about you and your apathy than it does the perceived imperfections of the American justice system.
You should never merely “recommend” death for a convicted mass murderer. Even if your heart’s not it, you should still try to jazz it up a tad — if not for the families of the victims, then at least for the journalists covering the story (who need a good headline, after all).
So how does one “jazz it up a tad?”
Well, there are a few ways. You can “strongly urge” that the killer be put to death. Or maybe you can “earnestly endorse” his immediate execution.
Whatever you do, put some backbone into it. I don’t always expect you to “implore” or “exhort,” but when it comes to advocating the death penalty for a sick, twisted scoundrel who hangs hearts and livers from meathooks, there needs to be some degree of vigor involved.
Or, if you’re so inclined, take it a step beyond. Tell the judge, “I don’t recommend death for the murderer, but I do endorse the idea of him being chained to a steel table and having his nuts gnawed off by a rabid squirrel. That would teach him a well-deserved lesson for carving out human entrails.”
Now, the judge might not agree with your assessment, and you shouldn’t be offended if he opts for lethal injection over your rabid-squirrel-devours-testicles form of discipline (which is really kind of sick, you messed-up freak).
But rest assured, even if he doesn’t accept your “recommendation,” he no doubt will recognize the fervor in your voice, and he’ll appreciate the passion you brought to the proceedings.
The resulting newspaper headline is bound to be better, too.