Sunday, November 21, 2004

Here is an article on one of my biggest problems with the application of the death penalty in America: how do we decide who lives and who dies? Actually, even thinking about it makes me so angry and I'm not certain what to write.

Here's my deal...I abhor violence. I especially abhor the idea of state sponsored violence. There is just something so backwards about that concept to me that I can't even explain it. As such, I hate the death penalty. Its an aberration of justice. You all know this. However, even if I didn't hate the death penalty purely for what it stands for at the basic premise, I would hate it for what it is in the United States of America. This article touches on the very base of what I hate about what this "punishment" does to our justice system. Who lives and who dies? Prosecutors in this article say that particular cases leave "shades of gray" in deciding whether to apply the available death penalty to a "capital" case. They have to weigh many factors in deciding who to pursue the death penalty against. This article discusses many of them. So, who decides who lives and who dies? Ultimately, a jury makes the final decision. However so much more goes into it before it even makes it to a jury. Some individuals who are accused of committing equally as heinous of crimes as another individual who is currently trapped in a 6x9 cell on death row are not subject to death. Why is that? What are the deciding factors? Perhaps I am cynical, but don't you think (even a little bit), that sometimes it might have to do with the subjective judgment of the prosecutors? Should the decision of who lives and who dies really be left in the hands of the subjective judgment of someone with a bias?

The very concept of a "gray" area means its a judgment call. In this article, a 19 year old male who was convicted of first degree murder in North Carolina will face a death penalty sentencing hearing. In the same county, in the same courthouse, a woman who is accused of killing her husband by poisoning him over a period of months has been told she will NOT face death. Now, am I glad that Ann Miller Kontz is not facing death if convicted? I'm thrilled. I still have to ask, however, why is her life more valuable than Matthew Grant's? In this case, part of it was because the victim's family opposes the death sentence and does not want to see the child of the victim and the accused be orphaned. Huh, I wonder if Mr. Grant has any children. I wonder if that would matter to the prosecutor...or does it only matter when its a woman facing death? Why one and not the other? Is not the essence of their accused crimes the same? One was by shot gun in an instant moment and another was over months as arsenic ate the victim from the inside out.

Of course, I'd really get going if I thought perhaps any of this was race based... However, you are spared my rant because I have no idea of the race of either accused.

Capital cases offer shades of gray, say prosecutors

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