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Landon Stewart
Landon Stewart

An Eye For An Eye

In Roman civilization, the law of retaliation (Latin: lex talionis)[2] bears the same principle that a person who has injured another person is to be penalized to a similar degree by the injured party. In softer interpretations, it means the victim receives the [estimated] value of the injury in compensation.[3] The intent behind the principle was to restrict compensation to the value of the loss.[2]

An Eye for an Eye

The term lex talionis does not always and only refer to literal eye-for-an-eye codes of justice (see rather mirror punishment) but applies to the broader class of legal systems that specifically formulate penalties for specific crimes, which are thought to be fitting in their severity. Some propose that this was at least in part intended to prevent excessive punishment at the hands of either an avenging private party or the state.[4] The most common expression of lex talionis is "an eye for an eye", but other interpretations have been given as well. Legal codes following the principle of lex talionis have one thing in common: prescribed 'fitting' counter punishment for a felony. The simplest example is the "eye for an eye" principle. In that case, the rule was that punishment must be exactly equal to the crime.

In the famous legal code written by Hammurabi, the principle of exact reciprocity is very clearly used. For example, if a person caused the death of another person, the killer would be put to death.[5]

The principle is found in Babylonian Law.[6][7] If it is surmised that in societies not bound by the rule of law, if a person was hurt, then the injured person (or their relative) would take vengeful retribution on the person who caused the injury. The retribution might be worse than the crime, perhaps even death. Babylonian law put a limit on such actions, restricting the retribution to be no worse than the crime, as long as victim and offender occupied the same status in society. As with blasphemy or lèse-majesté (crimes against a god or a monarch), crimes against one's social betters were punished more severely.

The Bible allows for kofer (a monetary payment) to take the place of a bodily punishment for any crime except murder.[12] It is not specified whether the victim, accused, or judge had the authority to choose kofer in place of bodily punishment.

Exodus 21:22-24 states: If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Isaac Kalimi said that the lex talionis was "humanized" by the Rabbis who interpreted "an eye for an eye" to mean reasonable pecuniary compensation. As in the case of the Babylonian 'lex talionis', ethical Judaism and humane Jewish jurisprudence replaces the peshat (literal meaning) of the written Torah.[13] Pasachoff and Littman point to the reinterpretation of the lex talionis as an example of the ability of Pharisaic Judaism to "adapt to changing social and intellectual ideas."[14]

The Talmud[15] interprets the verses referring to "an eye for an eye" and similar expressions as mandating monetary compensation in tort cases and argues against the interpretations by Sadducees that the Bible verses refer to physical retaliation in kind, using the argument that such an interpretation would be inapplicable to blind or eyeless offenders. Since the Torah requires that penalties be universally applicable, the phrase cannot be interpreted in this manner.

However, the Torah also discusses a form of direct reciprocal justice, where the phrase ayin tachat ayin makes another appearance.[17] Here, the Torah discusses false witnesses who conspire to testify against another person. The Torah requires the court to "do to him as he had conspired to do to his brother".[18] Assuming the fulfillment of certain technical criteria (such as the sentencing of the accused whose punishment was not yet executed), wherever it is possible to punish the conspirators with exactly the same punishment through which they had planned to harm their fellow, the court carries out this direct reciprocal justice (including when the punishment constitutes the death penalty). Otherwise, the offenders receive lashes.[19][20]

According to traditional Jewish Law, application of these laws requires the presence and maintenance of the biblically designated cities of refuge, as well as a conviction in an eligible court of 23 judges as delineated by the Torah and Talmud. The latter condition is also applicable for any capital punishment. These circumstances have not existed for approximately 2,000 years.

The ideal of vengeance for the sake of assuaging the distress of the victim plays no role in the Torah's conception of court justice, as victims are cautioned against even hating or bearing a grudge against those who have harmed them. The Torah makes no distinction between whether or not the potential object of hatred or a grudge has been brought to justice, and all people are taught to love their fellow Israelites.[26]

In Exodus 21, as in the Code of Hammurabi, the concept of reciprocal justice seemingly applies to social equals; the statement of reciprocal justice "life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe"[27] is followed by an example of a different law: if a slave-owner blinds the eye or knocks out the tooth of a slave, the slave is freed but the owner pays no other consequence. On the other hand, the slave would probably be put to death for the injury of the eye of the slave-owner.[28]

However the reciprocal justice applies across social boundaries: the "eye for eye" principle is directly followed by the proclamation "You are to have one law for the alien and the citizen."[29] This shows a much more meaningful principle for social justice, in that the marginalized in society were given the same rights under the social structure. In this context, the reciprocal justice in an ideal functioning setting, according to Michael Coogan,[who?] "to prevent people from taking the law into their own hands and exacting disproportionate vengeance for offenses committed against them."[28]

Roman law moved toward monetary compensation as a substitute for vengeance. In cases of assault, fixed penalties were set for various injuries, although talio was still permitted if one person broke another's limb.[30]

In the Torah We prescribed for them a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, an equal wound for a wound: if anyone forgoes this out of charity, it will serve as atonement for his bad deeds. Those who do not judge according to what God has revealed are doing grave wrong.

Eye for an Eye is a 1996 American psychological thriller film, directed by John Schlesinger and written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. It stars Sally Field, Kiefer Sutherland, Ed Harris, Beverly D'Angelo, Joe Mantegna and Cynthia Rothrock. The story was adapted from Erika Holzer's novel of the same name. The film opened on January 12, 1996.

Karen (Sally Field) and Mack McCann (Ed Harris) are happily married with two daughters, seventeen-year-old Julie (from Karen's previous marriage) and six-year-old Megan. One afternoon while Karen is out shopping, Julie is violently raped and murdered, which Karen overhears on the phone. Detective Joe Denillo assures the McCanns there is enough DNA evidence to find and convict the killer, and encourages Karen to seek counselling.

At a support group, Karen meets people in similar circumstances, including Albert and Regina Gratz, and Sidney Hughes. During the meeting, Karen overhears Albert talking to Sidney about something which alarms Regina. Meanwhile, the DNA tests reveal Julie's killer to be Robert Doob (Kiefer Sutherland), a delivery driver with a criminal record. However at the trial, Doob is released as the defense did not receive a sample of the evidence, and the judge dismisses the case. Karen and Mack are horrified as Doob walks free.

Mack is desperate to return to a normal life, but Karen cannot stop thinking about Doob. She finds out where he lives and keeps detailed records of his movements. Karen follows Doob while he goes out on deliveries and attempts to warn a female customer, but the woman only speaks Spanish and does not understand her. Karen later learns that the murderer of the Gratzs' son has been killed in a drive-by shooting, just days after being released from prison. Angel, also in the self-help group, tells Karen the best way to get over her grief is to focus on having good experiences with her living daughter, making Karen realize she has been so fixated on Doob that Megan has been deprived of her attention.

Doob discovers Karen is stalking him and goes to Megan's school. When Karen comes to pick Megan up, Doob deliberately intimidates her and threatens to harm Megan if she continues following him. Worried for Megan's safety and with her sanity declining, Karen approaches Sidney, who admits he and Martin set up the drive-by shooting. Karen demands their help and they agree to find a weapon, train her, and plan the murder, but tell her she has to carry it out. Karen agrees and they begin plotting. She also joins a self-defense class, which helps her gain more confidence, helps rekindle her sex life with Mack, and improves her relationship with Megan. Sidney gives Karen a gun.

Karen sets a trap to lure Doob into her home while Mack and Megan are out of town so that she can say killing him was self-defense, and it works. Despite Doob's attempts to fight back, Karen ultimately shoots Doob dead after a struggle. Denillo arrives on the scene and tells Karen that he knows the truth and that she has not fooled him, to which she replies, "Prove it." He decides to tell his colleague that it was a "clear case of self-defense". When Mack arrives, he sits beside her, holding her hand, also knowing what she has done. 041b061a72


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