The Fourniret Trial : pros and cons of Capital Punishment

Paris –  I was asked the other day to speak on France 24 about the Fourniret case and what sort of punishment for serial killers and found myself suggesting death might be appropriate. 

Fourniret, 65, is on trial in North Eastern France for a16 year spree of kidnapping, rape and murder of seven virgins with the help of his wife.  The total number of victims could be double that. The girls were aged 12 to 21. 

Fourniret met his wife, Monique Oliver, 59, through a mating magazine while serving seven years for rape in the 1980s.  They made a pact before he was freed from prison that he would kill Monique Oliver’s two former husbands and she would find him virgins to rape, brutalize and kill. 

Fourniret did not keep his side of the bargain.  Monique Olivier did. 

They were finally caught in 2000 when a thirteen year old lured into the vehicle by Monique Oliver managed to escape and give the license number to the police. 

The fact that a sex predator was released into society without any control is bad enough. But the fact that the two were able to plan their cold-blooded pact under the noses of prison officials is beyond comprehension.  Clearly, there was a real problem with the system. 

The European Union bans the death penalty in all cases for all its members.  France abolished capital punishment in 1981.  At best Fourniret and his wife will sit the rest of their days in prison. 

I argued that in order for the families to reach closure, if that is possible, Fourniret should be put to death.  I asked “how would you feel if every day you woke up knowing that the man who raped, brutalized and murdered your little girl was having breakfast after sleeping the night in clean sheets at the tax payers’ expense? 

My only thought was for the families of the victims.  For me, Fourniret had forfeited his right to life.  But does this make killing him right? 

Capital punishment, also dubbed the “death penalty,” is the pre-meditated and planned taking of a human life by a government in response to a crime committed by that legally convicted person. 

The key words here are “the pre-meditated and planned taking of a human life”.  When a person does this it is called “cold-blooded” murder.  Those who argue against the death penalty say civilized countries cannot just kill the people they do not have a place for in society.  Some liken it to the kind of planned extermination carried out by the Nazis.  We have to be able to handle our problems without killing because killing is always wrong. 

Those in favor of Capital punishment reject this argument saying that it amounts to saying when a bank repossesses a car for payment default it is the same as stealing because in both cases the car is taken away.  Or that rape and making love are the same because they both involve intercourse. 

These people also argue that capital punishment is a deterrent.  However, the statistics do not prove this.  The murder rate remains high in the United States (over 16 000 a year) while the number of murders in Europe did not go up radically with the abolition of the death penalty. 

Those opposed to executing murderers say there are also too many errors and innocent people are killed.  This is true.  The system has many flaws: backlogged courts expedite justice; poor people get poorer defense; racism and so on. 

But Fourniret did it. 

No, his execution would not bring back the dead.  But those in favor agree it could give closure to the victims’ families. 

There is a bit of contradiction in the arguments of some foes of the death penalty when they claim “lilfe in prison is a worse punishment and a more effective deterrent and at the same time call execution “cruel and unusual and barbaric”.  Contradictory because if you think execution is ‘cruel’, how can you support a ‘worse punishment’. 

Perhaps the crown of hypocrisy however goes to a category of those in favor of execution.  Those who oppose birth control so that unwanted children are born to become delinquents have no problem killing them eighteen years later.