I understand the well-intended notion that the government should not be in the business of executing people, but I cannot fully subscribe to it. For murderers who have already been sentenced to life in prison, they deserve a death sentence if incarceration doesn’t stop them from continuing to murder.
I agree that it would be a travesty if the state executed a person who should never have been found guilty. Despite the fact that jury verdicts must be unanimous, I believe that juries are not infallible in determining guilt. This is part of the reason why I believe that executions should be rare, for slam-dunks are rare. Juries may deliberate for hours and hours before rendering a verdict. When that much deliberation is needed, it would seem to suggest that the jury is doing more than just meticulously reviewing the evidence, for it would seem to suggest that there was a difference of opinion about guilt that had to be reconciled. If such were the case, I would tend to think that such a case would not have been a good candidate for capital punishment.
I have heard the arguments and seen the numbers that appear to demonstrate that the death sentence is ineffective as a deterrent. Personally, I am in general agreement with the sentiment that executions do not lead to lower murder rates, thus I do believe that executions are poor deterrents with one exception: An execution does deter the executed murderer from murdering ever again.
Supposedly, when a murderer receives a life sentence, where we “lock them up and throw away the key,” it is to remove that murderer from society so that the person lacks the capacity to murder again. I read the story of a recent prison killing in California that reminds me that such life sentences are not foolproof. What should be done with the prisoner already serving a life sentence who commits murder again while behind bars, and the evidence of guilt is incontrovertible? Death is the appropriate sentence.
In this California case, the murder victim, himself, should have, himself, been executed a long time ago. Perhaps the prisoners who killed him felt that they had to resort to being vigilantes in order to do the job that the state had not done. Whether the killing was justifiable or not is a matter for a jury to decide. Investigate and put the killers on trial. If any convicted murderer is convicted once more in this case, death is the appropriate sentence. Nonetheless, it was a mistake for the state to have let this murder victim live for so many years behind bars. Pinell was given a life sentence for rape in 1965. He killed a guard at the Soledad prison in 1971 and received a second life sentence. He slit the throats of two prison guards (who survived the attacks) in an attempt to escape the San Quentin prison in 1971 and was given a third life sentence. If he had killed a fellow inmate while serving out his sentence for rape, perhaps some mitigating factor would have resulted in a manslaughter charge rather than a murder charge. I find it hard to believe that Pinell’s killing of a prison guard falls short of murder. I think it would have been appropriate to sentence him to death for that offense even though his prior conviction wasn’t for murder. Slicing the throats of the two guards in the escape attempt were clearly two counts of attempted murder, so 2 life sentences were not deterring Pinell from committing murder, notwithstanding the guards’ survivals. Even if he didn’t receive death for the murder of the Soledad guard, he should have been sentenced to death for the attempted murders of the San Quentin guards. Why wouldn’t California be more protective of the lives of its prison guards? Three life sentences make no sense. Death makes sense. Might lesser sentences invite future prison riots? These capital crimes were committed in 1971. It is now 2015. Pinell’s execution should have been in the rear-view mirror long before now.