Martin Luther King Jr – and the Death Penalty

In 1998, James Earl Ray is reduced to a dying puddle of filth only reflecting his life of hate and bigotry. Thanks to Hepatitis C, Mr. Ray died (finally) at the age of 70 to kidney disease and liver failure; a fitting death for such a murderer but one can’t help but to think there should be something more deserving of this beer stained barbarian.

As most know, Ray was responsible for assassinating Martin Luther King Jr. back in 1968 with one all-encompassing rifle shot with which Ray stole a public figure from us. We can’t begin to imagine what this felon stole from us by killing Martin Luther King, but it seems all too easy for us to imagine what kind of punishment may be fitting for such a toad of a man. If one gets to know me, they would know my slight bias toward using the death penalty for the most extreme cases and with that said and with the context of my essay must force the reader to wonder: could the death penalty been used against Mr. Ray?

Recall the capital punishment ban movement throughout the 1960’s and through the 70’s lowered the number of criminals put to death to zero in most years. Could this movement be the reason for not only keeping Ray alive and also providing a death free out come to committing the assassination?  The death penalty, though not proved, has a stigma of being a deterrent to serious crimes. Before Ray shot Mr. King, there had been a few years of anti-death penalty ideals that could very well have lead many people to the idea of committing heinous crimes and assassinating Mr. King.

Whether or not that makes one think, we have to accordingly apply this idea to the opposite way. Did the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. finally strike the general population so intensely that they reconsidered capital punishment as a viable punishment? This could be an even stronger point to make when talking about the assassination’s influence with capital punishment. If MLK’s death made the death penalty an option again, then maybe we owe him more than we give him credit for. Not only was he the biggest speaker for equality in his time, but also for civil and criminal justice!

The lesson, if my wondering thoughts have made any connections to the reader, is that the decisions and public movements have a much bigger influence toward national events. Huge and radical events maybe a result of any rash and emotional movements and to jump at and cling to such movements maybe naïve and foolish.


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