Should Richard Smile?

Should Richard Smile?

A friend comments that Richard isn’t a danger to anyone else, suggesting that–theoretically–he could be set free until the trial; but, of course, that would be wrong. VERY wrong. You can’t kill a man and rob a family of their loved one and keep going on with your life. You have to suffer as much as possible. It’s only fair.

Actually, it’s not even fair. There is no fairness in this situation. There never will be.

This makes me ponder the point of prison. It’s punishment right? No doubt Richard deserves punishment.

On the other hand, as a parent and lifelong educator, I know that punishment isn’t very effective in terms of changing behavior. It actually exacerbates it. Then again, the threat of punishment, can serve as a deterrent.

It’s too late for deterrents for Richard.

Do people, who feel murderous, really not kill someone because of the consequences?

What about the death penalty?

Have any lives been saved because someone thinks to herself, “Hey, I’m in Texas, and they have the death penalty, so I better drop this gun and walk away.”

What about Norway?

They don’t have the death penalty, and apparently killers there serve an average of 14 years jail time. Anders Behring Breivik, the good-looking man who massacred all those students in July, will serve the longest sentence available–21 years. Even so, those with the maximum sentence can be released after serving two-thirds, and many are given weekend parole after one third.

Despite being “soft on crime” however, Norway has a lower crime rate than us, and their incarceration rates are among the lowest in Europe.

I’m inspired by the thought that how we respond to criminals says much more about us than it does about the acts they commit.

Are we a murderous, vengeful, punishing people?

In the case of Richard, what do want?

Is death really fair?

Wouldn’t having to live a long life in the face of his horrid act be more in line with justice?

Given the irrevocable loss of Michael Martin, it’s hard to imagine Richard doing anything nice. Visiting with his wife. Reading. Meditating. Working out.

That’s when I have to turn my thoughts away from what he did to what I want or what I don’t want. I don’t want a world filled with any more murder, vengeance or hatred; and I don’t want to support the idea of “us” and “them” because within that separation is permission to do all manner of things which have terrorized humanity forever.

When I enlarge the context like this, I know that Richard’s “time” must be more than punishment; and I know that I must find my way to allowing him his smile.

Kelly Salasin, October 2011

For more posts on the BFC Tragedy, click here.

8 thoughts on “Should Richard Smile?

  1. To the comment of Richard isn’t a danger to anyone else. What makes you really think the justice system would let Richard go? Because he is no harm to anyone. Because he went crazy, And killed Michael for no reason. Wow If they would of let him out before the trial, Whats to say he would not do this again, Or run , Or what ever!!! And I don’t understand why there is no death penalty in VT. He should of made the right choice and really thought about it before he pulled the trigger. And alot of people are right he will not spend his whole life behind bars. They look at all the facts and guess what second dregree murder, And this is goning to take at least two to three years, The way that the courts are backed up. And just mabe he is looking at 10 to 20. Yeah everyone gets A fair trial mabe not to you mabe not to him. But he belongs where he is till everything is done and over with.


  2. Your post is very thought-provoking. I understand what you mean though.
    If I spank my child for hitting another, have I not just hit someone and deserve the same punishment? Where does this cycle end.
    My child has been hit by another. As her mother I feel anger and want the other child to be punished (this is hypothetical in NO WAY do I suggest violence to children in any fashion), you just feel that flash of anger.
    Wow, tough question that, should Richard smile?


  3. Wow you don’t make sence, And it was not a flash of anger, Richard should not smile but he has a very very good lawyer, And just saying he will not get out, Watch with the justices system, He probley is smiling, I and alot of people are not smileing.


  4. Uh, I think that Richard Gagnon is behind bars not to ensure he doesn’t smile ever again, but so that he is not a danger to the public. Your post is absurd. I work at the co-op. Richard had a full magazine of ammo on him when he went in to murder Michael. I don’t know why he didn’t use the spare bullets on anyone else (especially himself), but I don’t really want to find out by letting him walk free in a state with some of the most lenient gun laws in the country. The part about him walking free before the trial just offends me – we don’t even know if he’s sorry! or crazy! I don’t want an unrepentant killer strolling through my workplace, and I don’t want a crazy gunman strolling through here either!

    I am all about rehabilitation in prison, Norway is cool, blah blah blah, but if this dude has a mental illness he should NOT be let out anytime too soon when he has an apparent fondness for deadly weapons, and if he isn’t dangerous to anyone else (suggesting that he only really had it out for shooting Michael, not the rest of us coworkers), then no, he shouldn’t be smiling for a long time.

    I accidentally killed someone seven years ago. This year is the first I felt like I could possibly be allowed to be happy again. And that was an accident. Does Richard feel guilty for being alive? He should. Maybe Michael was no peach to work with (although Richard was just plain abusive and he literally shot the messenger to tell him so), but while we’re all coddling Richard’s personhood and his right to smile again, perhaps consider that Michael Martin will never smile again, and Richard didn’t extend that consideration to him before he pulled the trigger. This guy shouldn’t be smiling until he has owned his behavior. I am no fan of life sentences, but your friend is silly and naive to suggest letting him walk around before the trial is fair to anyone.


  5. Richard needs to stay where he is, behind bars for the rest of his life. It is to bad we don’t have the death penalty in Vermont, because he really should be put to death. He took another life, what gives him the right to do that? With all the ammo he had, I’m surprised he didn’t murder someone else. No I say an eye for an eye. He took a life, his life should be taken! The sooner the better! Sister of Michael Martin


  6. My two cents:

    Richard Gagnon made a CHOICE that day to violently end another man’s life in the most cowardly way possible. For whatever reason, his ego and his narcissism were so insulted that he chose to listen to his infantile rage and express it in the most arrogant, vengeful way. And in that moment – even if it was the briefest of moments – there clearly was a part of him that actually did smile.

    “Take that, you bastard. You won’t be bruising my out-of-control ego ever again!”

    Whether this man smiles or not – today or any day in the future – doesn’t matter to me, because people smile for all sorts of reasons, and not all of them are good.


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