ON SUNDAY, the news of the execution of Dr. George Tiller repulsed me.
On Monday, reports of a U.S. soldier killed outside a military recruiting station sickened me.
On Tuesday, the beating of a man suspected of raping an 11-year-old delighted me.
But I realize I can't have it both ways.
Scott Roeder allegedly executed George Tiller in cold blood, in a church, presumably because Tiller was an abortion provider.
Tiller's practice was within the bounds of Kansas state law, which requires that two doctors separately conclude that delivering the fetus would result in irreversible harm to the mother. In fact, he was acquitted in March of 19 misdemeanor counts of unlawfully performing late-term abortions.
No doubt that angered Roeder, who was linked over a 10-year period to the Freemen movement, which believed itself to be outside the authority of the federal government.
NOT SURPRISINGLY, he didn't seek redress within the legislative or judicial process. Instead, he took matters into his own hands. He became judge, jury and executioner of a man he believed was involved in wrongful conduct.
The same motive reportedly drove the man police identified as Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad. He told investigators he was angry about Muslim deaths as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So he opened fire - from his black truck with a Russian-made semiautomatic rifle - on two privates standing outside a recruiting station in Little Rock, killing Pvt. William Long.
In doing so, he also administered his own personal perception of justice.
So, too, did those who beat Jose Carrasquillo.
At the time Carrasquillo was pummeled, he was "a person of interest" in the rape of an 11-year-old, a rape so vicious that she needed surgery.
Not a suspect. Not someone charged with a crime. A person of interest.
"I was saying, 'He wants to rape babies? Kill him!' " one neighbor said. "Everybody was applauding."
"Justice, community-style," said another. "It's a beautiful thing."
Good thing the police arrived when they did, or Carrasquillo might have ended up like Tiller and Long.
Neither should have been killed. But it would be fine with me if Carrasquillo were, just
as long as he is first charged, represented, tried, convicted and sentenced.
The reality is that George Tiller's killer, presumably a member of the furthest fringe of the anti-abortion movement, disregarded the rule of law. Long's murderer, far more enraged than any part of the anti-war left, did the same.
But so too did the mob of Kensington residents bent on revenge.
Decrying the murders in Kansas or Arkansas while applauding the mauling in Kensington is having it both ways.
It's selective vigilantism. Hypocritical. And wrong.
It makes no difference that Tiller and Long were acting within the bounds of the law and Carrasquillo was allegedly involved in the worst kind of human behavior. That behavior was not for a mob to pursue. It's for the justice system to examine, decide and convict.
Make no mistake: The question isn't whether Jose Carrasquillo is deserving of the harshest punishment possible. If guilty, he is. The issue is who should administer it.
Answer? Not a group of neighbors in Kensington - no matter how disgraceful the crime they're protesting.
By trading Carrasquillo's holding cell for a hospital room, they subverted the rule of law to the whims of a mob. *
Listen to Michael Smerconish weekdays 5-9 a.m. on the Big Talker, 1210/AM. Read him Sundays in the Inquirer. Contact him via the Web at www.mastalk.com.