No parent should return home to find a crime scene however, this is exactly what Chereece Benoit’s mother discovered as she gazed upon the horror that had befallen her only child.
Chereece’s life was taken in a violent manner. Her attacker(s) demonstrated their lack of respect for human life as they gagged her, wrapped a ligature around her neck and pulled at it in an unrelenting fashion until Chereece lay lifeless. One cannot begin to imagine how much Chereece suffered during her final moments and the emotional distress her mother is now forced to go through.
Chereece did not deserve to be treated like garbage that is easily discarded; her mother should not have to bury her only daughter under these gruesome circumstances and the people of St. Lucia should not be fearful while in the privacy of their homes. I hope the perpetrator (s) are apprehended swiftly and held accountable for their crime.
Chereece’s death has aroused a mixture of emotions, which has fueled the demands for the reinstatement of the death penalty. St. Lucians are angry, sorrowful and frustrated which they have every right to be. The way in which Chereece’s life ended cannot be justified or condoned and far be it for anyone to deny grieving individuals what they feel during traumatic moments. However, we should be mindful of these emotions lest we let them consume our thoughts and dictate our responses to violent crimes. Sentiments such as anger can potentially evolve leading to seek revenge, which results in similar actions as the original crime.
Retributive responses may have been fitting during the Middle Ages; however, they serve no purpose in our current society and I challenge any one to provide the benefits of the death penalty. Considering the death penalty as a deterrent and just response to the crime of murder raises several ethical dilemmas that threaten to erode the foundation of the values that make St. Lucians a civilized people. John Stewart, a famous American comedian once said, “if you don’t stick to your values when they’re being tested, they’re not values: they’re hobbies.” Thus, life should be valued during peaceful times and particularly when that peace is disrupted.
Here are some reasons why the death penalty is not a deterrent or a just response to the crime of murder. The death penalty is simply a sanitized term for legalized murder. Granting the state this type of authority allows them to engage in the same murderous actions as civilians who commit murder with the only difference being that the state’s actions are legitimized by the people and law. This sets a dangerous precedent in that the state resolves the issue of murder with murder. By that token, why should a civilian be prevented from resolving his or her issue with murder if the state can do it?
Advocating for the death penalty runs the risk of executing an innocent individual because in some instances, the law is not 100% correct. One also has to consider who is given the responsibility of making the decision to execute those convicted of murder. Will it be a judge or a jury of the defendant’s peers? If it turns out the individual that was executed is proven to be innocent after the death penalty has been issued, how does that knowledge affect those who sentenced an innocent person to death?
Another thing to take into consideration is what method will be used to execute persons who commit murder? Some may argue the United States performs executions in a humane way through lethal injection. That argument is very disturbing as it suggests there are humane ways of killing another person once physical pain is absent. Taxpayer money should not be utilized to sanction the killing of people despite their transgressions but rather used to develop initiatives to prevent homicides and rehabilitate those who willingly engage in murderous behaviour.
If the death penalty were such an effective deterrent and just response to murder, the countries that currently use it would be murder free. For example, the United States executed 177 people between 2007 and 2011, yet they recorded 78,326 murders between 2007 and 2011. Thus, the execution of 177 people did not prevent thousands more from being murdered. More importantly, states that do permit the death penalty in the United States have higher murder rates than those that have abolished the death penalty.
Executing Chereece’s attacker(s) will not bring her back; it will not deter other people from committing acts of murder and will not enhance public safety in this country. Our elected government officials who are also our lawmakers should consider appointing and consulting the research of qualified social scientists whose expertise are in the field of crime and deviancy. With the insight of these researchers and practitioners, we can begin to understand why violent crimes happen and what can be done to avert similar tragedies from occurring.
Many St. Lucians pride themselves on their Christian beliefs particularly the capacity to forgive. Jesus forgave those who tortured and murdered him; we should try our utmost best to emulate that type of resolve. Enough blood has been spilled, now is the time for healing, reconciliation, soul searching and community building.
We need to find out why these violent incidents occur in order to prevent them and that knowledge cannot be obtained if we as a people sanction the killing of those who transgress the law.