a reply to: Dark Ghost
I change my stance occasionally on the death penalty due to this particular case.
In Pennsylvania (1993) there was a 26 year old woman who was shot by a neighbor (some would say the phrase 'in cold blood').
The perpetrator (who pled guilty by reason of mental illness) was 17 at the time, a special education student and made claims to 'voices' telling him
to commit the crime. When it was done, he attempted to hide/conceal/get rid of the evidence of the crime which implies to me that (perhaps at that
moment anyway) that he realized what he had done was wrong both morally and criminally.
He was sentenced to life in prison w/out (no chance ever) parole.
Juveniles charged with murder were sent directly to criminal court so, there were two choices the judge could have made. The one he chose or the death
Would the family of the victim have felt justified if the death penalty would have been imposed? Perhaps some of them would.
The juvenile (only a few shorts months from becoming a legal adult) must have possessed some sort of emotional/intellectual/developmental issues hence
being placed in a 'special education' program at school in the 90s. I work with intellectually and developmentally disabled adults and it is very
common for them to also have a secondary diagnosis of some form of mental illness. Some have the potential to become quite dangerous and hostile as a
result of the symptoms that may present such as auditory/visual hallucinations, irrational/highly excitable/impulsve emotional thinking. Quite often,
one's life and limb can be at risk intervening and trying to keep that person safe. After an episode, quite often, they immediately feel remorse and
sadness and beg forgiveness. I'm afraid that things are only going to get worse as, in TN at least, folks who are patients at mental health facilities
are being released to community members, if their primary diagnosis is one of a developmental disability, as the financial burden on that branch of
government health care is too great. They are shifting the cost, if you will to another department.
Knowing some history/personal experiences of the psychological disorders (mental illness) in the disabled (especially children) going untreated or
misdiagnosed/mistreated these days, it isn't hard for me to understand that it must have been an even greater issue/problem 20+ years ago.
My point is, the perpetrator has made numerous appeals and requests for post conviction relief and I'm not so sure that with proper treatment and
supervision that now, at the age of 41, he would not have the potential/ability to now become a properly functioning member of society. If he had
received proper treatment in those developmental years, would he have committed the crime? We'll never know but, we can learn from him and people like
him and perhaps move forward positively looking for answers and solutions not just relief and revenge...although those may have their place as
Modern science/medicine has taught us many treatments in the past 20+ years and what may have been a hopeless case many years ago could now be turned
around and used as a tool for study and perhaps even a success story for one human being and a glimmer of hope that all may not be lost and peace,
forgiveness and change can occur even under the worst of circumstances?
I don't know/am not sure that to put to death or life in prison without (ever an opportunity) for parole is always the correct answer in every case of
murder and I just don't always see how an eye for an eye can help us evolve or learn why these things occur or if there would ever be some sort of
treatment/rehabilitation for some of these people. There are crimes, IMO, that likely do deserve the death penalty and that is where my confusion
begins again. I am definitely a fence sitter these days. Sad, but true.
I am certain that I am grateful to not have ever had to decide someone else's fate.