THE DUPUCH brothers — Etienne and Eugene — had a different style of approach to a crisis, but when it came to basic principles, they were usually on the same page. However, capital punishment was one issue over which they did differ. Sir Etienne advocated capital punishment for the ruthless killer. Younger brother, Eugene Dupuch, QC, the eminent lawyer, was an abolitionist— no matter the circumstances of the crime, no one should hang. It was interesting to hear them toss their ideas back and forth. As a result, The Tribune stood for hanging for serious cases of murder.
Where do we stand today? Until recently we leaned more to the views of our Uncle Eugene. Once that rope is dropped, no one can undo a mistake if an innocent person happens to be at the end of that rope. In those days the occasional murder was a crime of passion.
Today we are dealing with a different Bahamian. A Bahamian who will callously tell you that he does not “give a toss” for another’s life. He seems devoid of all conscience. He is no respector of life, nor does he fear human authority. The more lives he can snuff out, the higher is his notch on his gang’s totem pole.
However, there is another type of gang member. The kind that one day many years ago stood before our desk. He wanted to surrender to the police, but was terrified — terrified of the police who were chasing him for a crime he had committed, but more terrified of a gang that he wanted to leave, but couldn’t because if he did so, their bullet might get him before the police could find him. He decided to put himself under the protection of The Tribune and pleaded with us to turn him in.
Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade – long before he became commissioner — played a most impressive role in that hand-over, and, although we did not follow through on what finally happened, we trust that today that young man is a contributing member of society.
These are the ones for whom an escape route has to be found because once in a gang, it is difficult, if not dangerous to get out.
And then there are the others. Those who sit down and calculate how many years they might have to languish in a jail cell if they get caught. They boast that they will never hang — and so they take the risk.
We agree with Opposition leader Dr Hubert Minnis that modern research has shown that the death penalty is no deterrent in the mind of a would-be murderer, especially those with the brain of a psychopath, however, the boasting that we have heard from some of these youth, makes us question whether this is totally true – after all they are not all psychopaths.
“...What is also clear in our Bahamas is that, today, there is a hardened criminal element who has nothing but contempt for law, order or human suffering, and for whom there is no respect for human life, even the lives of innocent bystanders, and children,” said Dr Minnis. “At the very least, there should be the certainty of sure punishment, and punishment which is appropriate to the crimes committed. Our policy is not based upon any concept of deterrence; it is based on the right of national self-defence....
“It is the considered position of the Free National Movement,” he said, “that immediate steps must be taken to restore the integrity and effectiveness of all laws on our books, including capital punishment.” (See Dr Minnis’ New Year’s message to the nation on pages 10 and 11). We, very reluctantly, agree.
We shall never forget another incident, which happened many years ago. There was a fight, followed by a car chase, that ended in death and later a trial of a young man for murder. This youth was politically well connected. He was acquitted, but as he left the court room with his lawyer, he gave a high-five to one of our reporters, a happy grin creasing his jubilant face. Sometime later one of our former staff members told us that this same young man boasted to him that if he had had a second chance, he would do it all over again.
Recently, there was a very interesting programme on television about Professor James Fallon, a professor of psychiatry and human behaviour at the University of California, who accidentally discovered that he has the genetic traits and brain scan patterns of a psychopath.
Apparently from childhood his parents, particularly his mother, realised that there was something wrong with him. He admits that he is aggressive, lacks empathy and is a risk-taker. There are many today who fit that description, but who are not killers.
Why did this professor, with the brain of a psychopath, turn into a useful member of society and not a serial killer?
In the history of his family he can trace two distant relatives who were notorious killers — Lizzie Borden, who was acquitted of the murder with a hatchet of her father and stepmother in 1892, and Thomas Cornell, the first man in the American colonies to be hanged for the murder of his mother in 1672.
According to the report of Susan Donald on Good Morning America two months ago, Professor Fallon said he “escaped the same fate because of the interplay between nature and nurture. He was raised in a loving family. Still, he had some other tell-tale signs, such as panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive tendencies and social anxieties”.
“Looking at my genetics, I had a lethal combination, but I just had the happiest childhood growing up,” he said. Fallon’s mother had four miscarriages before his birth and, as a result, he said he was, “treated well because they didn’t think I would be born”.
This is the problem in the Bahamas — nature and nurture. Many of these young men, often born to unwed child-mothers, brought up on the streets, have never had a chance.
Yes, for the worst of them we believe that hanging should be introduced. This might so shake the others that they might seek help, and a nurturing society has to be ready with programmes to try to transform them into worthwhile human beings.