Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Death Penalty

My personal political policy statement sparked some heated debate on the death penalty! I’ve been reading everything with interest. It is very easy to get lost in the impersonal debate. Cost, statistics, interpretation of law, the constitution and even the bible serve to make things even more complicated. But, what about when you break it down and step out of the impersonal and into the personal?

I grew up an Army Brat. Part of my childhood was spent in Washington State which happens to be where most of my family is from and currently resides. We moved there from El Paso, Texas, when I was eight years old and into a wonderful neighborhood in which I experienced most of my happiest memories as a child. I was part of a pack of neighborhood girls and there was always someone to hang out with. There were two friends that I was particularly close to that I was able to stay in touch with to this very day.

Over fourteen years ago we were living in California when my mom told me over the phone about a girl that had been found on the grounds of a high school that had been badly beaten and left for dead. She was in a coma and in an effort to get her identified the authorities showed her in her hospital bed on the news. We were shocked when we learned a few days later that it was one of my friends.

C was days from turning 27 years old. She was the manager of a Gap clothing store and living in a trendy area of Seattle with some roommates. I had not been in contact with her since before she graduated from college. My family had moved to California when I was in the 7th grade and hers moved to Idaho a couple of years later. She went to college in Oregon and then made her way back to Seattle.

C had spent the day at Seattle Sea Fair. Two men that did not know each other prior to that night had joined up while breaking into cars in her neighborhood. They saw her when she arrived home and forced her back into her car as she was getting out. They made her buy cigarettes and beer at a convenience store and then took her to a park where they both raped her. They then took her to a high school in another town where one of the men stabbed her 27 times with a screw driver, twice through her skull and into her brain, and left her there.

A teenage boy who lived near the school was not able to sleep and decided to walk to the school and maybe run around the track. When he got on the school grounds he started walking in the opposite direction of the track and thought that he was going crazy because he did not intend to go that way. And then he saw her. He ran home and woke his mother and they called for help. C would have surely died had he not come along when he did.

One of the men took things from her purse and car and gave them to his mother for Mother’s Day. He had been released from prison the day before the attack on C. The other man took C’s car and detailed it before abandoning it in a Seattle neighborhood. They were able to identify him through one half of a thumbprint that he left on her dashboard. Once they picked him up he led them to the other man... the man who did all of the stabbing.

I was able to fly up to Seattle about a month after the attack. C was still in the hospital and I went to see her along with our other friend. The friend we both considered our individual best friend. Her head had been shaved and the defense wounds on both sides of her hands where she had tried to protect herself were still starkly visible. She recognized us and we were able to communicate with her but she was forever changed. She can no longer speak and is partially paralyzed on one side. She has worked hard to recover as much as she was able, exceeding expectations even. Her parents took her back to Idaho where they had a house built to give her as much independence as possible but still be there to assist. She volunteers at a school where children read to her and is involved in violence against women prevention. The men were sentenced to 99 years and 77 years in prison… by C herself. The judge felt it was appropriate to allow that.

What if that boy had not found her? The intent was clearly for her to die. Why is it that attempted murder does not carry the same penalty as murder? They certainly took the life that she had hoped for…

I stated that I was against the death penalty but it was more from the standpoint that it was more expensive to execute than to incarcerate for life. I don’t know where I got it into my head that that was the case. Typically, the crimes in which people are sentenced to death (in states that allow it) are the types of crimes in which people are not ever up for parole. Of course, I have not researched this but it seems to be common sense. I just have a hard time with the idea of executing someone when they are already locked away and there is no further risk to society. I know there are probably exceptions to this and examples of cases where further harm was done. I’m just speaking of this in general terms and in the majority of the cases.

That being said, I’ve also been thinking a lot about my friend. What if those men had succeeded in killing her? The one that did the stabbing had been let out of prison the day before… early. Stepping into the personal changes things a bit… What if one of your loved ones was brutally murdered through no fault of their own? What if they were not the first victim? Wouldn’t you want to be sure without a doubt that that would never happen again at the hands of that murderer?

I am not a lawyer nor do I have any interest in trying to change the minds of others to reflect my views in this area. I can’t even say exactly where I stand because it is a very difficult issue and I reserve the right to not make a blanket statement that falls in line with any group… religious or political. I don’t think the answer is within our prisons or laws. I think the answer is in reaching out to children at risk and doing what we can to inspire them to a life of victory.


Two Dogs said...

Simply ask yourself one question, "What is right and just in this circumstance?"

And then after answering that question the only way that normal people can, realize that the guy got out of jail the day before committing this crime. How's that rehabilitation working?

Finally, accept that there are evil people in this world that do not deserve the right to be walking on my planet.

Two Dogs said...

You know, I knew that I penned an article making the case for killing almost everyone in prison.

I found it.