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The Execution as Sacrifice

EVIL, LAW AND THE STATE: PERSPECTIVES ON STATE POWER AND VIOLENCE, Parry, John T., ed., Rodopi BV, February 15, 2006

15 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2007  

Jody Lynee Madeira

Indiana University Maurer School of Law-Bloomington

Abstract

America's national vulnerabilities revealed in the wake of 9-11 render "justice," normalcy, and restoration important concepts. But by what means does the vulnerable nation-state restore and maintain normalcy in the face of crisis, when its sovereign jewel, the authority to legitimately kill, is stolen? Adapting René Girard's theory of sacrifice enunciated in Violence and the Sacred, this paper posits that America retakes its killing authority through execution. It first describes Girard's theory of sacrifice, elaborating its social nature and redemptive consequences, and exploring the judiciary's sacrificial role. Thereafter, this paper applies these theories to execution, explicating how ritual victims are chosen. It then describes how execution redeems as it purifies and protects national borders, and outlines how the execution is constructed through witnesses, jurors, and the mass media. Finally, this theoretical analysis is applied to the 2001 execution of Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh. This paper concludes by discussing how the State conceals this sacrificial symbolism by carefully maintaining borders and execution "visibility."

Keywords: execution, capital punishment, death penalty, sacrifice, McVeigh, Oklahoma City bombing

Suggested Citation

Madeira, Jody Lynee, The Execution as Sacrifice. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1004627

Jody Lynee Madeira (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law-Bloomington ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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