Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner's sentencing shows progress in end of death penalty
Jared Lee Loughner was brought to justice last Thursday.
The troubled 24-year-old, a clinically diagnosed schizophrenic, was sentenced to seven consecutive life terms in prison without parole.
According to media reports, prosecutors made the decision not to pursue the death penalty at the behest of the victims and their families, who felt it was wrong to execute a man with a mental illness, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Wallace Kleindienst.
“Almost all the victims you shot and the families of those you killed came to us and said they didn’t want us to seek the death penalty in this case,” Kleindienst said. “What you did was wrong, but they felt it wasn’t right to execute a man with a mental illness.”
The decision to seek life in prison instead of the death penalty was unquestionably an act of compassion on the part of the prosecution, but the death penalty shouldn’t have even been on the table in the first place.
The merits of capital punishment have been championed ad nauseam for years, but never before has its drawbacks been more apparent. An increasing number of states have considered abolishing the death penalty out of financial necessity.
It’s actually tens of millions of dollars cheaper to imprison killers for life than to execute them. The legal costs of execution, namely the trial costs and convoluted appeals process, are a drain on states’ coffers.
In California, where a proposition to outlaw the death penalty was decisively rejected last week, the capital punishment system has cost the state $4 billion since 1978, even though only 13 convicts were executed during that time. No state can afford to spend this much on anything that isn’t an absolute necessity.
But if the cost of the death penalty doesn’t turn you off, then its moral implication surely will.
Executing someone who took the life of an innocent solves nothing. It may satisfy some repressed desire to exact the ultimate revenge onto those who thumb their nose at the dictates of common decency, but in the end neither the killer nor the victim’s family gain anything meaningful.
The proponents of capital punishment are no better than the killers they are supposedly “bringing to justice.” Taking an eye for an eye is the same as taking an eye, and the sooner we realize that, the sooner the death penalty will be proven useless.
When Loughner opened fire at former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords during her Congress on Your Corner constituency meeting, the family members of the victims took solace in the fact that he would be dealt his due comeuppance in the court of law.
They can now rest assured knowing that Loughner will spend his remaining years within the confines of federal prison, where he will have plenty of time to reflect and hopefully make amends.
The fact that the death penalty was not sought in the case against Loughner is proof that the country is continuing to evolve on the issue of capital punishment. Hopefully, there will come a day when we all realize that such a vindictive gesture is neither cost effective nor moral.