TBD on Ning

  There's a new book out titled "Payback: The case for revenge". It was written by a law professor at Fordham. In it, he promotes the idea of vengence. I tend to agree with him in that the victim of a crime should be involved in the punishment.

QUESTION: How do you feel about this concept?

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Boy, not sure yet; but I definitely want to read the book, thanks for posting, Michael.

While we all feel, from time to time, that there are people in our lives who really deserve to have their spleens ripped out and force-fed to their own children, I find that allowing those people so much control over one's own time and imagination can be....unproductive.


I allow them, at most, the occasional brief pleasant fantasy - Like, when seeing a thoroughly flattened and decaying bit of roadkill and thinking, "Yeah...That's about what Charlie deserved, for stealing my stuff, moving out without telling me and leaving me stuck with an unaffordable lease."


Because, if your life is already so empty that "stewing in a vat of simmering rage and lust for revenge that you can barely function" describes your average day, then the object of your need for retribution is still wrecking your life without even lifting a finger.

Mornin' Snagg,

Thank you for posting and you are absolutely right in your comments. However, the professor is not addressing the simple anger that one might feel in every day life but instead is thinking of crimes like kidnapping and murder, etc. Those crimes that you read about in the paper that are so awful that it makes you cringe and you can't get them out of your mind. For example, how would you feel if someone you loved were kidnapped, tortured, murdered, dismembered, and dumped? Wouldn't you feel justified in seeking revenge when you discovered that the criminals sentence was 25 years to life but that he had gotten out in 10 due to good behavior and overcrowded prisons? If the criminal was living in your town, driving a nice car, etc., how would you feel?

The point is to NOT justify vigilantism, which sounds like what the professor is trying to peddle.

We all hear of storties of justice denied or perverted, but I notice that not too many of those so outraged by such inequities get all bent outta shape at the idea of somebody that they don't know being revealed to have been unjustly incarcerated because of prosecutorial misconduct, police corruption or bungled, exculpatory evidence; They just shake their heads and go "So Sad, but what can we do ?" - When "What can we do ?" is apparently reserved for taking justice into their own hands and slaughtering someone who personally aggrieved them. 

That's the problem with the professor's idea - That it's it okay for the person arguing the pro-revenge point to enact their revenge, but it would be wrong for anybody else to do it, because that would be against the rule of law and would be the first steps into anarchy and social chaos. It's the professor having his cake and eating it, too.

No, the professor is advocating that the victims of crimes be allowed to speak during the trial and during the sentencing phase. He is not advocating street justice.

Okay, that's different from your description up top.

Still, it requires us to consider that the victims may not be the best possible choices for making reasoned, fair punishments. A particularly vindictive or emotionally-traumatized victim could demand a far more onerous punishment than the crime committed actually deserves. The death penalty for stepping in their flower garden, or something similar.


Yes, not giving the victims a say in choosing the punishment can make SOME feel excluded and marginalized - But since when (excluding the republican party and religious nuts) do we Americans allow the personally-affronted to make decisions that could affect all of the rest of us ?

Giving the still-angry a voice during the sentencing procedure may grant them some small sense of personal retribution, but if a judge or penal code is going to override whatever punishment that they request, then is anything really being accomplished ? Justice is blind and is symbolized by a set of scales for a reason, after all.


(I use this argument because I was reminded over the weekend of an incident in my youth, in which a senile elderly woman, whose flower garden was wrecked when some other kids rode their bicycles through it, took a shot at me as I rode past, even though I'd had nothing to do with her flower garden's destruction. This was all learned after I'd called the cops and her family had come over and relieved her of the rifle she'd used. Angry, upset people, no matter how "victimized" and justified they may feel, are NOT the people who should be making permanent, life-altering decisions for other people.)

Perri, that is a perfect example of 'victims choice'. Your brother chose not to attend the trial and to leave it up to the jury and the judge. The professor is only suggesting that the victim be 'allowed' to speak during the sentencing phase, it is not a requirement.

the victims ARE allowed to speak during the trial. usually they are questioned by the prosecutor and questioned by the defense.  if the person is judged guilty of the accused crime, in many many jurisdictions, they now let those victims speak at the sentencing to factor in the impact of the crime in the sentence imposed. so his book actually might be a part of the publish or perish part of teaching

My ex worked at the State Appellate Defender's Office, which did the investigative back-work to make sure that anyone receiving the death penalty had gotten a fair and impartial trial. I read more than a few victim's families statements, and the range of human emotions they displayed made me aware of one thing in particular: Many of them were too distraught to be considered capable of sound judgment on anything.


There was, in fact, an unsettling feeling that some courts which were considering the possibility of victim's sentencing statements, were heading in a "bread and circuses" direction, a crowd-baiting red flag to a virulent and ugly, punishment-freak segment of the public - That it really had nothing to do with "justice", and had more to do with the judge's re-election campaigns.

in fact, carried to an extreme it sounds kinda like 'sharia law' ala the case in saudi arabia doesn't it? one youth paralyzed another by some action, whether car accident or whatever is not the point...the verdict of the court? that offending youth gets to have a surgeon snip his spinal cord to extract justice....




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