Death Penalty Needs to Be Enforced Consistently

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Capital punishment is an extremely sensitive matter. The death penalty is given to those who commit treason, terrorism, espionage, murder, large-scale drug trafficking and attempting to kill a witness, juror or court officer. The death penalty needs to start being given consistently to people guilty of these crimes.

Gary Gilmore was found guilty of murder in 1976 and was executed in 1977. However, The Green River killer Gary Ridgway — who is believed to have murdered at least 71 women — is still alive and serving a life sentence in a Colorado prison. Samuel Little, who is known to have killed three people and is suspected of having additional victims, is also still alive and serving three life sentences. This seems wildly inconsistent. If someone is executed for killing two people in the United States, shouldn’t those who have killed two (or more) receive the same punishment if they reside in the same country?

The death penalty goes against the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person,” as the document states. So even though murderers are murderers, they themselves still have the right to their own lives. Even when there’s a Ted Bundy-like situation where the accused keeps breaking out of prison and can’t stay contained, according to the United Nations they should not technically be punished with death.

The death penalty is unfortunately still being used and is being used chaotically. The death penalty should either be used consistently or not at all. The biggest admitted serial killer in American History is still alive, but George Masterson was given the death penalty for the murder of one man, despite evidence — after the lethal injection was given — indicating that it was unclear Masterson had committed the murder at all. Brandon Jones, another man to receive the death penalty in 2016, was 72 and the oldest man to be killed by the state. Jones was convicted of the murder of a single person about 30 years before. Jones and a friend were trying to rob a convenience store when a clerk working there was shot.

Of the 20 death sentences in 2016, nine were served in Georgia and seven death sentences were served in Texas. A life for a life sounds fair, but not when the law is so egregiously inconsistent. Why is Ridgway still alive?

Murder is wrong and I know that. I want to clear that up right now. But if the death penalty isn’t even given to the most prolific serial killer in America, it definitely shouldn’t be given to a man for a single murder that he may not have even meant to commit. I believe that the death penalty should only be given, through a more objective and consistent national review process, if the murderer can’t be contained or if their murders were especially cruel. Otherwise, the United Nations needs to clarify and enforce in some way its statement that every person has the right to life.

A person shouldn’t be killed for selling drugs. And if terrorism is a crime punishable by death, the American government needs to rethink its conduct in foreign countries. Considering the death penalty is such a sensitive topic, it’s handed out rather thoughtlessly.

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

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