The Execution as Sacrifice
Jody Lynee Madeira
Indiana University Maurer School of Law-Bloomington
EVIL, LAW AND THE STATE: PERSPECTIVES ON STATE POWER AND VIOLENCE, Parry, John T., ed., Rodopi BV, February 15, 2006
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 RenÃ© 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."
Number of Pages in PDF File: 15
Keywords: execution, capital punishment, death penalty, sacrifice, McVeigh, Oklahoma City bombing
Date posted: August 5, 2007