Let me start by saying that if I had allowed my kid to go to the midnight showing of a movie last July in Denver and my son had been gunned down by James Holmes, I’m sure I would have hoped like hell that I would have been there in time to blow the bastard away. I cannot imagine the pain of the parents, friends and relatives affected when Holmes killed 12 people and injured 58 others with gunshots. I would probably regret the action today but at the time, the revenge factor would seem appropriate.
But on this day, I will argue that district attorney George Brauchler should have taken the offer by Holmes’ attorneys to have Holmes plead guilty and get life in prison for his crimes. For the state to pursue the killing of people is just not right under any circumstance. I have argued against capital punishment before and while this situation might come close to making a case for the death penalty, there is too much wrong with the concept.
Here’s why: A government simply has no business killing its citizens; the death penalty has never been proven to be a deterrent for these types of crimes; it costs significantly more to put a criminal to death than to keep them in prison; had the D.A. taken this offer, the horror of reliving the event would come to a close for the families of those killed instead of being drug out in a long trial and lots of appeals. It will likely be decades before a real resolution comes about and victims will have to relive each and every motion.
As I skimmed the Internet for reaction to the situation, I certainly understand when a friend of a victim says “I want him dead. Death equals death.”
I understand it much less when D.A. Brauchler says, “Justice is death.”
The court system, in theory, is supposed to be a place of reason, not emotion. The friends and family of those killed have every right to express their emotion. A good prosecutor should provide them reason.
There appears little doubt that Holmes engaged in this heinous act. His lawyers have indicated they will plead not guilty by reason of insanity and take every chance to delay and lengthen the trial process. Who benefits by that? Certainly not the families of the victims.
Too often in death penalty cases, innocents are convicted and ultimately killed. One time, by the way, is too often.
Here’s a look at some quick facts about the death penalty.
—The death penalty is not a deterrent. FBI data shows that the 14 states without capital punishment in 2008 had homicide rates at or below the national rate.
—Since 1973, 140 people have been released from death rows throughout the United States due to evidence of their wrongful conviction. In this same period, more than 1,200 people have been executed.
—In 2010, the overwhelming majority of all known executions took place in five countries: China, Iran, North Korea, Yemen and the United States. Good company?
Again, I understand the desire of a victim to want revenge. It is a normal human reaction to declare that death is the only true appropriate punishment. But the courts are in place to try to temper revenge and retaliation. As hard as it is, the district attorney’s decision to go after a death sentence in this horrific Colorado case is simply the wrong decision.