Death Penalty: A More Expensive Version of Life in Prison

death-row-1wpqjh2I am really not surprised that the jury in the Jodi Arias murder trial, locked horns during the penalty phase – I can’t even comprehend the emotional turmoil those jurors must have been feeling as they deliberated the fate of someone’s life. Yes, I know during voidire they were all asked about their opinions surrounding death penalty, but saying you could do it, is different from¬†actually being the one imposing death on another person. We all know that sometimes your heart and mind, don’t always agree.

“Everyone deserves a second chance. Everyone can be rehabilitated. How does killing someone for killing another, make it better?” Excuses I used to use, when debating the death penalty back in the day; that is until my brother Ron Goldman was slaughtered to death on June 12, 1994, at the age of 25. I immediately changed my mind and am now a firm believer in an eye for an eye – there are no second chances for killers. I know that’s a hard pill to swallow for some, but when your life is shattered in a millisecond because of the actions of another person, who violently, intentionally, viciously killed your loved one – it’s not hard to wish upon them, the same brutal death. It’s ironic though, because I don’t consider myself a spiteful person; in fact, I am one of those that saves spiders, but wishing my brother’s murderer a slow, painful, deliberate death comes quite easily to me.

I just wish it worked that way.

Presently, 32 states support Capital Punishment, resulting in 3,125 inmates on death row (as of January 1, 2013); and we are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for that and we are not even executing those criminals! In 2012, only 43 executions were carried out and so far in 2013, only 12 executions have taken place and the remaining 20 or so that are scheduled, are exercising their full legal right to the appeals process … which for some death row inmates averages about 178 months. Yep, you heard me. ¬†At least 15 years (and in many cases, it’s more like 20-30 years) passes from the time they receive their due process in our trusted justice system, are found guilty by a jury of their peers and then sentenced to death, until they are actually killed. In the mean time, convicted criminals are automatically entitled to endless appeals on both the state and federal level, which continues to be a financial drain on the tax payers, and an emotional hardship to say the least, for the families left picking up the pieces to their devastated lives. Did you know that in NY, they’ve spent $190M on death row inmates, with ZERO executions? Crazy. But our courts are obligated to provide those criminals with an attorney, experts, technology and endless legal resources, all on our dime, while we wait for justice to prevail.

I am still not sure where actual punishment enters the realm of consequences in this scenario.

If I am understanding it correctly, the system that we are compelled to use to obtain justice, is the same system that affords every opportunity for the convicted criminal to be exonerated, all at our expense. He/she commits a crime, we pay for his/her defense (unless they have buckets of money on their own), we house, feed, insure, sometimes educate/train, and protect him/her while they spend their days behind bars, watching TV and visiting with their families (see Death Row Conditions). While we the people, volunteer (or get paid peanuts) to be jurors, giving up our lives to focus solely on them, we convict based on facts in evidence and then …. we let them start the whole process all over again until they die in jail or become one of the lucky .13% that actually get the lethal dose to end all of our misery.

How I interpret this, is that our own legal system doesn’t even trust itself to get it right the first time, so instead they allow for a bunch of Mulligan’s to see what comes up the next go-around. Seems perfectly logical to me. And we wonder why people have such little faith.

Despite my utter disgust for how the current process is or is not working, let me be clear: I am still a huge proponent of the death penalty. I just want it to be what it was designed to be … a penalty. A punishment for heinous acts against society. I want it to work the way we all assume it should. I was always under the impression, that if you get convicted, sentenced to death, that you would receive a handful of appeals, which the courts are required to hear and rule upon within a reasonable time period (which does not translate into decades) and then that’s it. You’re done. Lights out. The system worked. But now all I hear are arguments that it’s unconstitutional, or the exorbitant monies spent on death row, could be put to better use training teachers or on crime prevention. No one is arguing that we shouldn’t be spending necessary dollars on those issues, but at the sacrifice of the law? I didn’t vote for that.

I don’t want discussions pertaining to justice to be about cost per inmate or worrying about whether too much isolation is damaging to the mental health of the death row inmate. Those issues are only relevant if we belabor the execution process. It should be about following through with the law that we passed – 32 states passed the death penalty as an acceptable and JUST form of punishment.

But it seems the concept of “punishment for your actions” seems to get lost in the one place where we expect our rights and safety to be protected, where the utmost importance is placed on honor, integrity, equity; where good triumphs over evil, where we can trust that if you “do the crime, you do the time”. I am not so sure that place exists anymore.

I know, I know – what about the innocent people who are wrongly convicted? I get it; statistics show that for every 9 executions, there is one innocent person that remains incarcerated. But does that mean, that we should let it go on and on and on, on the off – chance that ONE person is saved? How is that equitable? I am not saying mistakes don’t happen, I am not saying we do away with the appeals process; I am just suggesting that we limit the witch-hunt looking for those mistakes, only to delay the inevitable. We all know the system is flawed and it’s going to take a lot of man-power to fix it; but wasting more money to chase our tails within it, is hopeless. We have to start somewhere to make major changes to restore our faith in Lady Justice.

In my opinion, we have diminished the significance and the severity behind the death penalty sentence; it’s now just a more expensive version of life in prison. If we’re not ready to pull the trigger so to speak, for whatever reason, then let’s take it off the table and stop taunting the victim’s families with diluted justice.


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