March 26, 2006
Does Killing Really Give Closure?
By Dahlia Lithwick
The past few weeks have been rife with the prospect of closure denied.
The families of Slobodan Milosevic's tens of thousands of victims were ostensibly denied closure when he died before the conclusion of his war crimes tribunal. The decision over where to try exiled Liberian ruler Charles Taylor turns largely on how to afford closure to his victims. And the families of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks despaired that government misconduct had ended not only the prosecution, but also their one chance at closure. "I felt like my heart had been ripped out," said Rosemary Dillard, whose husband died in the attack on the Pentagon. "I felt like my husband had been killed again."
The death penalty trial of Zacarias Moussaoui has been touted by the government as a way to bring resolution to bereft families. Hundreds watch the proceedings on remote, closed-circuit televisions. Dozens will testify about their losses. This will be their "day in court." Since as far back as 2002, when then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft announced he'd seek the death penalty for Moussaoui to "carry out justice," it's been assumed that this outcome would bring closure. Just as, in 2001, when Ashcroft decided that family members of the Oklahoma City bombing victims could witness the execution of Timothy McVeigh on closed-circuit television, he said it would "meet their need for closure."