The Spectacle Blog

The Death Penalty and Reverse Psychology

By on 8.8.13 | 11:05AM

Should confessed Fort Hood mass murderer Nidal Hasan be denied the death penalty, for the simple reason that he seems to want it?

The trial of the alleged mass murderer was postponed Wednesday when a motion was filed by Hasan’s stand-by defense team, arguing that Hasan was deliberately trying to secure the death penalty for himself, which his counsel found “repugnant.” Hasan objected to the accusation without actually denying it, saying, “That’s a twist of the facts.”

Earlier this year, the military court hearing the case granted Hasan permission to represent himself. And since the trial began, Hasan has admitted his guilt, acknowledged his ownership of the weapons involved in the shooting, and, according to his defense team, steadily knocked away all the barriers for a death sentence. The military judge halted proceedings this morning in light of the motion to hold a closed hearing. The trial is expected to resume Thursday morning.

“Bizarre” seems an apt term for so many of the court proceedings stemming from the War on Terror. Since when does America’s justice system have to play mind games when sentencing criminals to make sure they don’t enjoy their “punishment”? It’s like a parent not knowing where to seclude their child within the house during a “time-out,” because every room has its own source of fun and amusement: the bedroom has an X-Box, the basement has a pool table, the garage has a drum kit, etc.

In Hasan’s case, the dilemma stems from the possibility of unintended consequences. America’s court system is based on a higher code of justice, which is normally applicable regardless of whether the accused gets some sort of sadistic pleasure out of his punishment (some people commit crimes for the soul purpose of going to prison; that doesn’t stop us from imprisoning them). If, however, a death sentence would give Hasan “martyr status” among some deranged people somewhere, it could ultimately prove counter-productive to establishing peaceful relations with the Middle East.

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