my deep thoughts about the death penalty

>> Thursday, November 12, 2009

as most of you know there was a widely publicized execution recently. i thought i'd blog about my thoughts and feelings on the death penalty as one of the more contemplative posts for the month.

i will just come out and say it...i am against the death penalty.

this is not a popular view, i'm sure. i didn't just wake up one day and believe the way i do. over the years of my life, starting as an early teen, situations came up and thus my thoughts and feelings began to build. i will admit that becoming a parent has made it harder to reconcile my feelings on the subject. but when it's all said and done i still believe that executing people is not what we should be doing. i do pray daily for the safety of my girls. and i can sincerely say that i wish nobody ever has to become the victim of a violent crime.

the following are some specific incidents that have impacted me and my views. as you will see they are views from a few different angles so to speak.

as a child i never realized that brutality happened or more specifically that brutality happened to people you know. good people. that was until a friend of the family was murdered in 1987. the details of this crime were heinous. in the end two women lost their lives because of a drug seeker who wanted money for his next fix. if i remember correctly he didn't get much. two lives lost forever. three if you count the man who killed them. he did received the death sentence. however the man has not been executed yet and is in the appeals process. but in my mind his life, the life that could have been, is already gone.

it was during my 9th grade year of school that ted bundy was executed in florida's electric chair. he also committed brutal acts, many of them. his execution occurred early in the morning before school. and as my mom and i drove to school we were just appalled at what was playing on every radio station. they were mocking and celebrating and making these "buzz" noises as if the whole thing was entertaining. regardless of the evil in ted bundy, these actions of others really were crass. that made an impact on me and my mom. we have also seen this type of thing in more recent years with the execution of saddam hussein. were these bad men? yes they were. but how can we truly enjoy humor at the death of anyone?

fast forward about five years. a young man about 18 or 19 that my family knew got into a bad situation. he was with a friend and happened to be the one driving, the friend asked to stop at a sub shop to get a sandwich. but what he did was rob, shoot and kill the owner. he came back to the car as if nothing ever happened and the guy we knew didn't know what had happened. he found out the next morning when the story made the news. the details, made it clear that while he sat in the car his friend was likely the suspect. not knowing what to do he went to a trusted police officer, the school officer he had known from his years in school. he told him what he knew, not realizing that he was in turn going to be arrested. the killer took a plea deal, while the other entered a plea of not guilty. the jury disagreed and sentenced him to life in prison. the shooter who took the plea had two hung juries and is now a free man. what if the one serving the life sentence really is innocent?

my first problem with the death penalty is that our justice system is not perfect. it may be pretty good, but not perfect. when lives are at stake i think the system needs to be flawless. without taking the time to do the research i am guessing that there have been executions of innocent people. though a different type of situation, i think of the kidnap survivor jaycee duggard. her stepfather was a suspect for the entire time that jaycee was missing. he of course was innocent and a case was never made against him, thankfully. but i try to imagine how he felt for all of those years knowing that his family and law enforcement felt he had something to do with his stepdaughter's disappearance. not only was he grieving her disappearance, but also had to live under the cloud of suspicion and it cost him his marriage. now think of the possibility of those who did have a case built against them, were sentenced to die, were killed and truly were innocent? the news has reported cases like this that have happened. for every case that the truth was found out, how many are there where the truth wasn't found out and innocent people were killed?

what about those who do commit violent crimes and kill people? of course they need to be punished. in my mind, spending the rest of their life in prison with nothing but time to think about the heinous crimes they committed, the lives they took and the families they destroyed, should be something they have to face. i don't feel that these prisoners should be allowed to watch t.v. or lift weights, etc. no, i believe that their days, every single one of them should be spent reflecting on what they've done. if there is a situation of mental illness, then of course those people should spend their life in a psychiatric setting.

an idea that i have had, which of course would never happen but still...why not give these criminals a way to pay back their debt to society? instead of using lab animals for medical research, let these people be the subjects for the research. testing cancer or HIV treatments or ways of prevention surely would be more effective if tested on a human. again, just a thought. i don't know if that could ever be possible. but doesn't it sound like a great idea? think of the amount of lives that could potentially be saved.

one topic that has come up is the cost of housing these criminals for however long their lives last. we all pay taxes automatically and no, i really believe our tax dollars could be used for a better cause. unfortunately though someone has to pay for them and it's us. however i have read somewhere that the cost of executing a prisoner is actually more expensive than housing them for life. i guess this comes in because of all of the legal costs that come with the appeals processes, etc. i won't take the time to research this but if you are interested you can.

then we have the moral aspect of execution. some claim "an eye for an eye". but to that i feel that the expression "an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind" to be more fitting of "me". i don't feel that the death penalty is the answer. i do think they need to be punished of course. but i know that these criminals no matter how vile they are will be judged by God. i am certain of this. i understand that people who commit violent acts and kill people have done a horrible thing. no, i don't know what it's like to be a victim nor the family member of a victim. i can not even begin to imagine what it's like. i pray i never will be. my heart goes out to those who have. there have been many stories that have brought me to tears. does execution bring closure and ease the pain for these people who are so heartbroken? i don't know. i do know that no matter what, the life lost will never be returned.

maybe i am unusual and have views that are completely foreign to others. i worry about innocent people falling through the cracks and losing their lives. to me a person who has stolen the life of another needs to face the reality of what they have done for the rest of their lives. i feel that there are debts to society that can be fulfilled by these people. and i also feel that the life of the person who committed the crime is also a life that is lost, a life that could have been so much more. and i know that no matter what, they will face judgement of the ultimate authority, our God. this can not be avoided.


Jessica November 13, 2009 at 2:06 PM  

I go back and forth on my stance on the death penalty. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

Reisette in Nicaragua November 13, 2009 at 8:51 PM  

I enjoyed your post. I saw a play several years ago called The Exonerated. I am not sure if you have heard / seen but it was quite compelling and brought a lot of the issues you mention to light.

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