Robert Seman Jr., with his hands shackled, jumped to his death from the fourth floor of the Mahoning County courthouse.
The suicide came April 10 as Seman awaited trial for the triple murder of 10-year-old Corinne Gump and her grandparents. They died in a Youngstown house explosion, which investigators deemed arson.
The blast happened on the eve of Seman’s trial for allegedly raping and abusing Gump over the course of four years. The small girl had been ready to testify against Seman.
Steve Stevens, aka “The Facebook Killer,” shot himself in the head with a pistol April 18 after a mile-long chase by Pennsylvania state troopers.
Stevens was on the run after gunning down Robert Godwin Sr., a 74-year-old from Cleveland who had been walking along a sidewalk. The victim appeared to be chosen entirely at random.
Then Stevens broadcasted the slaying on social media to the horror of thousands.
Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was found dead in his jail cell April 19, apparently hanging himself with a bed sheet.
His death came five days after a jury acquitted Hernandez of the 2012 murders of two men; but he was already serving a life sentence for the 2013 murder of Boston Bandits football player Odin Lloyd.
These were undeniably evil men, and my first feeling at hearing the news of each of their deaths was a deep satisfaction that justice had been served.
But I was wrong.
There was no justice in these men’s quick ends — long lives alone in their cells with their guilt would have been the only fitting punishment. In each case, the self-inflicted death penalty robbed society of its right to extract a prolonged collective justice.
Still, I felt conflicted. Isn’t all life supposed to be sacred? Doesn’t “an eye for an eye” make the whole world blind? Aren’t we supposed to suppress the desire for revenge?
The more I thought about these suicides, the more I realized my feelings were clouded by misgivings about capital punishment.
I’m a longtime opponent of the death penalty because it’s unevenly applied to the poor and non-white; because it is not a deterrent; because it wastes taxpayer money; because it employs the same cruelty it punishes; because it sacrifices the moral high ground; because 10 percent of those on Death Row have been exonerated.
But none of these cases involve the state choosing to end a life. By dint of occurring by their own hands, the deaths of Seman, Stevens, and Hernandez inherently lie outside the realm of the death penalty debate. Everyone should be free to choose when they leave this mortal coil — so I tried to shove that baggage aside.
Still, I do not want to be the kind of person who takes joy in the death of anyone, even though this brand of schadenfreude admittedly feels great.
After trying to see it from all sides, I’ve decided that I wish these three horrific men were still alive to take their punishment — or ideally, to be rehabilitated. Yet I’m completely at peace with their decisions to seek final escape.
That might be hypocritical or even bloodthirsty — and I’m completely at peace with that, too.
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