For the record, it didn’t have to be done.
The “it” I refer to are the vigilante killings of two sex offenders, Gary Blanton and Jerry Ray, carried out by one Patrick Drum. The two shootings on the Olympic Peninsula, which occurred on June 2 and June 3 of this year (Trib 6/4), were the result of Drum’s violent frame of mind and his decision that, “it had to be done.”
If that is true, then we have truly made no progress as a civilized society since, well…at least the twelfth century, when Henry II of England formalized the jury trial.
Even following his conviction (Huff Post) his story continues to generate comments in praise of Drum’s actions for the obvious reason – When it comes to sex offenders, the mob is quick to reach for pitchforks and torches.
It is easy to understand the scorn our society holds for those who prey on the bodies and souls of the most vulnerable among us. The sex offenders whom I have interviewed and arrested are sleazy degenerates, and my interaction with them provided little beyond a sense of extreme revulsion.
Which is why many readers are willing to stand and cheer when two felons, convicted of sex crimes, reap the whirlwind. That feeling of revenge is instinctual, a byproduct of our primitive brain, and if we continue to tap into this part of our thoughts we may as well erase a thousand years of civilization.
Vigilante killing is a violation of every painful step our society has taken towards a fair judicial process. We are still taking those steps – our system is not the blind and objective pinnacle of justice to which all men and women can turn. We have a long way to go towards that point, but we have made much progress over the years.
Our criminal justice system views the taking of a life as the consummate expression of inhumanity. Perhaps more to the point, homicide is an act of utter hopelessness. This might be better understood by people who have actually witnessed the act or aftermath of violent death. From that perspective the lifeless form of another human being is a visceral and stark reality. In the case of a homicide scene, the killer’s presence is as palpable as the body itself. It is a shocking and abhorrent image.
Such were my thoughts when I read the June article on the Olympic peninsula killings, which included reader comments such as, “the gene pool needs a little cleaning.” The only real message in this reader’s piece of misplaced bravado is the depressing theme we normally attribute to the third world – life has little value.
Our justice system, for all its faults, is the product of our collective will. It was created to honor our belief that life is sacred and that people deserve a chance to defend themselves. It was also created to repudiate the idea that justice should be delivered upon the presumptive judgment of one person.
Now that he has been convicted of homicide and pondering a life sentence, Patrick Drum will have plenty of time to consider that fact.