Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Death Penalty Follies, Part II

Wisconsin voters will have an opportunity to vote on a really stupid referendum question:

“Should the death penalty be enacted in the state of Wisconsin for cases involving a person who is convicted of first-degree intentional homicide, if the conviction is supported by DNA evidence?”

Let's say it passes, and the Legislature, never too proud to pander, adopts death penalty legislation that mirrors the referendum language.


There is this guy -- never in trouble in his life -- who gets into a fight with his girlfriend. It's a loud fight. The neighbors hear it.

The next day, she's found dead.

Terrible thing. He's taken in for questioning, they run some tests, and viola, there is her DNA under his fingernails.

He's busted. Goes on trial. He denies it all, but eventually is convicted by a jury of his peers. Because of the DNA evidence, he's eligible for the death penalty.

The there's this second guy -- convicted twice of rape -- who has learned a lot in prison. He kidnaps a child. Wearing one of those germ suits, he tortures the child, kills him slowly, then chops him up in little pieces. The guy burns the germ suit and dumps the kidnap car in a lake, where it is never found. Then he burns down the house that he used as his torture / kill chamber.

Six months later, he is busted for ordering child porn on the Internet. During the search of the house, cops find a DVD movie of him torturing and killing and chopping the little boy. Despite the suit, he is easily identifiable in the film because he briefly takes off his mask for a breath of fresh, terror-filled air.

Terrible, terrible thing.

Goes on trial. Describes the joy of killing, the pure satisfaction of it all. But because there is no DNA evidence, he is not eligible for the death penalty.

Justice, Wisconsin Senate style.


James Wigderson said...

Gretchen, there is always going to to be disparity in sentencing, and disparity does not make a good argument against administering a type of penalty. Example: Chvala and Jensen both were sentenced to jail. Chvala's offenses were far more eggregious, yet his sentence was lighter. By your logic, neither man should be punished.

Far better to argue that even DNA "evidence" is not always conclusive, and to define when it is permissible for use in a death penalty case goes far beyond the limits of the referendum.

Gretchen Schuldt said...

I'm not arguing that neither man should be punished. I'm arguing that both men should be punished -- I just don't know that DNA evidence makes the first guy's crime more deserving of death.

Disparity may be a fact of life, but we don't have to enshrine it in law.