Yesterday, Frazier Glenn Miller, Jr., was sentenced to death for three murders. This was not a crime of passion, as I suppose is most often the case for murders within families or between lovers -- those cannot exactly be excused, but in many cases they can be pitied, because bad decisions based on raging emotions is a part of human frailty with which we are all familiar. Nor was this even the callous indifference to life shown by, for example, a bank robber who murders a guard in an effort to get to the cash. This was murder for the sake of murder, the outgrowth of a hatred that is figuratively demonic -- and perhaps more truly than merely figuratively.
According to a doctor's testimony, Miller is unlikely to live more than a half dozen years. I'm not sure about the process in Kansas, but given the inevitable appeals, the controversies over the drugs typically used to carry out death sentences and the consequent limited availability of those drugs, and similar considerations, it seems unlikely that the executioner will come for Miller before the Grim Reaper does. What good does it do to pronounce a sentence that the state will not actually carry out, then?
The sentence was worthwhile and good because it tells the truth about the moral gravity of Miller's crime. He probably will not die at the hands of the citizens of Kansas, but he deserves to. This is about the value of his victims, both those he intended to kill and those he actually killed, but it is also about the terrible dignity that is unique to man among the animals: there is a moral, spiritual dimension to the decisions we make; our choices really matter. This is a truth that could not be so adequately proclaimed if the only option had been to sentence Miller to prison for twenty five years to life.