Capital Punishment

Okay, so I had to write a position paper in my College English class. I chose the death penalty. Normally I try not to post such huge blogs, but my paper was five pages (when double spaced) because, let’s face it, I can’t write small. I’ve tried. Doesn’t work. So, here it is. It’s certainly not “tight” and could easily be debated, but I had a lot on my plate when writing this, so you’ll have to forgive me.  Also, I did have my sources cited, as is required in college papers, but I didn’t feel that would be of necessary interest to any on here and, since it only makes the paper harder to read, omitted them.  If you would like to see them, however, ask and I’ll be glad to oblige!

Death Penalty

Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams, founder of the Crips, the most notorious gang in America, was put to death on December 13, 2005 in California. There were many attempts to get this man clemency, because, not only was he repentant, but he’d written children’s books against gang violence and donated the proceeds to different organizations. He really was trying to make a difference. Was it wrong to kill him? I don’t believe it was.

Remember when you were a child and did something “naughty”? If your parents were like mine, you’d receive the ultimate sentencing: “Just wait until your father gets home!” You’d act rebellious all day, your head held high. That didn’t scare you! But throughout the day, you’d surreptitiously glance at the clock when no one–especially not mom–was looking. Then, that magical number on the clock would strike or the sun would go down . . . whatever signal you had to know that dad was nearly home. Suddenly, you’d transform into the epitome of remorse. Standing before your mother you’d recite the sweetest apology you could muster. . .

But did your apology prevent punishment? Depending on what your parents believed, your answer will vary. For me, the answer is no. There were occasions where “I’m sorry” bailed me out, when my parents were trying to instill in me the importance of those two vital words. For the most part, though, I was taught that my actions have consequences and, no matter how much I regret it later, I can’t undo what those actions already set it motion. Many criminals have apologized for what they did. They say they’re sorry for what they’ve done, that they’ve changed. There is no doubt in my mind that anyone can change. That belief is at the very core of who I am. And when I say ‘anyone,’ I literally mean anyone is able to change. If I did not think that, I wouldn’t spend so much time worrying, hoping and praying for people in my life. I’d give up on my family and friends, as well as myself.

I don’t have any loved ones on Death Row, so what gives me the right to spout off such opinions so harshly? They may not be death-worthy, but I have watched several people I love ruin their lives because the thrill of their crime was greater than the cost. And at my most hopeless moments, I wonder how different all our lives would be—for one life inevitably affects the rest of us—if they had received more than a mere slap on the wrist. Maybe if they’d spent jail time instead of paying a fine…if they’d spent a couple of years plus probation in jail, verses a couple months…if minors were more than “warnings”… Would they have cleaned up their act? Stopped at the one offense? Not dragged the rest of us into their problems?

I believe in harsh punishment; this is one reason why I support the death penalty. My other reason: justice. This one word is the reason people can’t agree on the death penalty. We can’t decide if it actually is just.

Let me take you to Tennessee, where four identical tombstones stand tall in a row. Carved at the top of each is a solitary angel with hands clasped in petitioned prayer, kneeling beside these words: IN THE ARMS OF JESUS. Each one also sports synonymous death dates. The only wording that differs from stone to stone is the birth dates of each person, and the names: Stephen, Brent, Eric and Kayla.

The man responsible for these deaths was, himself, put to death. His name was Daryl Holton and when asked to recite his final words before his execution, he replied, “Two words: I do.” Is every woman’s heart melting here? He ends his life with his wedding vows? If you’re a good (not to mention liberal) journalist, you will eat this story up. You will slam down the death penalty with this proof that even a man who has made mistakes is human and will back his lawyer in that he must be mentally ill to have done such deeds! But he still has a heart, a life, a family. You couldn’t not do it. After all, now we don’t have four deaths, but five.

However, at the end of the day, we aren’t left with twisted stories meant to let our emotions sway our judgment. We’re left with reality. And reality is that yes, Daryl Holton did have a family. An ex- wife named Crystal and his children: Stephen, Brent, Eric and Kayla. To me, justice does not say, “We will use good, honest, hard-working American people’s money to give you three decent meals, change of clothes and a shower.” Only in America do we let our prisoners live better than our high school dropouts and homeless veterans. No, justice is exactly what happened to Daryl Holton. Justice says, “When you take your own four beautiful children, walk them into your shop, use their sweet, trusting innocence against them by saying, ‘turn around and close your eyes, daddy has a surprise for you’, take out your gun and pump lead into them you are classified as a sick man and dangerous killer and will be punished to the full extent of our judicial system!”

I know that everyone, including opponents to the death penalty, are horrified by stories like these. We are on the same page in that we want these people punished. The difference is how. To some, death is not a punishment, but the easy way out. They consider life in prison without parole not a humane alternative to the death penalty, but actually a harsher sentencing. I have no problem with the life-sentence. Each case should be judged individually, and there certainly are several that would appropriately fall into that category. I do, however, have issues with it taking place of capital punishment. If the harshest we can mete out to our criminals is that they’ll live their life in the alternative world we’ve created for them, still being allowed to see their family and loved ones, still corresponding with them, still having rights to a lawyer while their victims are discovering whether or not an after-life exists, what does that say about us? Judge Roy Moore from Alabama sums up our country’s paradox with this phrase from his poem on America. “Too soft to place a killer in a well-deserved tomb, but brave enough to kill a baby, before he leaves the womb.”

Some say you cannot fight evil with evil. Aside from the argument of whether killing a criminal is actually “evil”, the truth is that I’m not fighting anyone. I don’t look on the death penalty as merely punishment. I also believe it is the best and most accurate way to protect all the innocent people in our country. Studies have shown that for every execution, about 17 murders are prevented.  I’d say that’s worth it.

But what about the innocent lives, you ask? The 127 people that have been exonerated (or freed) from Death Row since 1973 due to evidence of innocence is regrettable at best, tragic at worst. Of course that is terrible. No one is denying that. No one is going around claiming ‘we don’t care about the innocent lives we took years away from by falsely imprisoning them.’ To me, this is more of the insurmountable evidence that our criminal system needs to be entirely reshaped. However, not by revoking the death penalty. You don’t take away the punishment; you attack the root of the problem and stop that from happening altogether. No matter how we punish them, our country would still be guilty for convicting innocent people. We are the United States of America. That should not be happening! If we are still, in 2008, convicting innocent people, it is because our detectives and lawyers are not using the science and DNA we can now give them. After a person is sentenced to death there is a series of appeals that begin and intense investigation still continues. Due to this, do you realize how many innocent people we have executed? Zero.

I want Minnesota to bring back the Death Penalty. I believe it is Constitutional. If you’re an American citizen who has committed been incarcerated, or jailed, you lose your rights.  You have lost that gift of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ I also want people like Alfonso Rodriguez [a rapist who was caught near my hometown after abducting and murdering a girl] to think twice before they just go around kidnapping and raping our citizens. I want them to be filled with terror when they’re caught . . . because I want that terror to be noticed by others who haven’t made those mistakes yet. The “American dream” may be a desire of half the world, but in that same context, committing a crime in our Beautiful Land, should be the stark terror of the entire world.

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