Tuesday, October 30, 2007

In all cases, the death penalty is inherently flawed

By Saira Khan
Senior Staff Writer

In 2004 in Kansas City, MO, Lisa Montgomery, 36, strangled Bobbi Jo Stinnett, 23, who was eight months pregnant and then proceeded to cut out the premature infant from her womb; she was found guilty of kidnapping and murder. Now, the main issue lies in one question: should she be given the death penalty? The jury happens to believe so, because late last week, after deliberating for five hours, Lisa Montgomery was sentenced to death. Of course, the story doesn't end here. There will be appeals, and then some more appeals, and thousands of dollars will be spent in trying to drop her sentence to life in prison. Though Montgomery's crime was most heinous in nature, you must ask yourself this: who are we to take another's life?

Capital punishment has been a hot topic for decades now and many countries, including Canada, Australia, and all of Europe have gone as far as to completely outlaw it. Supporters of the death penalty state that it deters crime, and they believe that, as the Bible states, "Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand" (Ex. 21:23, 24), the punishment should fit the crime--murder for murder.

Films such as Last Dance, Dead Man Walking, and The Life of David Gale do an excellent job of portraying the flaws in capital punishment; each film asks some very pertinent questions regarding matter like the state of mind of the criminal when the crime was committed and, of course, whether the accused is actually guilty or not.

For example, Lisa Montgomery was sexually abused repeatedly as a child, which, her defense attorney states, led to mental illness. It has been established that Montgomery used to use pregnancy as a way of getting attention and lied several times through the course of her life about being pregnant; her attorneys state that this shows a history of mental illness. Do you still feel that Montgomery deserves the death penalty? By ending her life, are we serving justice by murdering an extremely ill woman? Unfortunately, there is no simple black and white answer to the question; it's all gray.

And what are we supposed to do when we wrongfully put someone to death? Can we provide the formerly dubbed criminal, now the victim, with any form of justice? Is there any retribution for the family of the accused? I think not. "I'm sorry we killed your son for a crime he didn't commit - here's $20,000, enjoy!" says it all. People that I have spoken to regarding this matter who support the death penalty tend to beg the question, "How many times can that possibly happen?" But one wrongful death is more than enough, and considering the fact that we have convicted plenty of innocent men and women, some who served forty years before being exonerated, carrying out the death penalty on an innocent does not seem very unlikely. In the cases of the men and women who served days, months, and even years in prison for a crime they did not commit, the jury, the lawyers, and the investigators were, more often than not, one hundred percent sure that justice had been served; if they can be wrong about one case they can sure as hell be wrong about another.

Personally, I feel murders should be given life imprisonment, preferably solitary confinement (it gives them ample time to wallow in their misery and reflect on their wrong doings); they should not be given the luxury of companionship in the form of an inmate.

If you were to look at capital punishment from the economic perspective, then the pros of life in prison will most definitely outweigh the pros of the death penalty. In 1998, Phil Porter studied the costs the death penalty in states such as Texas, California, and Florida, and upon examining the results, stated that "sentencing a prisoner to life in prison is a better allocation of resources than sentencing him to be executed." To break it down, he states, "The cost of keeping a 25-year-old inmate for 50 years at present amounts to $805,000. Assuming 75 years as an average life span, the $805,000 figure would be the cost of life in prison. So roughly it's costing us $2 million more to execute someone than it would cost to keep them in jail for life."

Of course, the answer to the complex question regarding capital punishment cannot be answered in a mere less than 1,000 words article. However, I can state the following: Do I think kidnapping and murder are wrong? Absolutely. Do I think one who commits such a crime should also in turn be murdered? Absolutely not. There is no gray area here; no human on this earth has the right to take another's life, especially if there is a possibility that they may be innocent of the crime or they may be mentally ill. As clich 233 as it is to end something with a quote I feel obligated to say that Mahatma Gandhi had it right, an eye for an eye will definitely make the world go blind.

No comments: