Editor’s note: Dudley Sharp is a victims’ rights advocate and supports the death penalty.
For the opposing opinion, please click here.
For some crimes, the death penalty is the closest to justice that we can achieve. That, alone, is enough.
In the slaying of Travis Alexander, justice prevails when the murder suspect, Jodi Arias, is convicted and executed. In that scenario, she has forfeited her right to life, just as lesser violent criminals have forfeited their right to freedom.
Regardless of religion, there is this truth:
"When it is a question of the execution of a (woman) condemned to death, it is then reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned of the benefit of life, in expiation of (her) fault, when already, by (her) fault, (she) has dispossessed (herself) of the right to live."
-Pope Pius XII.
In civil cases, both equity and justice are possible. An offender can be compelled to pay not only compensatory damages to make the injured party whole, but also punitive damages, as a moral statement on the wrongness of her action.
For violent crimes, as with Alexander’s slaying, it is impossible to mete out a sanction in equity, much less a sanction which also makes a moral statement, over and above that equity.
Rapists or murderers, for example, can be given sanctions from probation to life. Yet their victims will never truly be made whole. I am not sure that violent crime victims ever can be.
"If an offender has committed murder, he must die. In this case, no possible substitute can satisfy justice. For there is no parallel between death and even the most miserable life, so that there is no equality of crime and retribution unless the perpetrator is judicially put to death."
-Philosopher Immanuel Kant
I understand Kant's position, but "equality" is the wrong word when setting the unjust taking of Alexander's innocent life by murder against the just taking of Arias' s life — if she is found guilty of murder — by execution. Murder is eternally wrong. Justice is eternally right. They do not balance and certainly aren't equal.
In criminal court, victims or their survivors will rarely find a sanction which is "balanced" with the crime, because there can be no such balance when human lives — not money — are on the ledger.
Our best hope, within a criminal justice system designed by mortals, is to achieve some moral proportionality between crime and punishment.
"Punishment is the way in which society expresses its denunciation of wrong doing; and, in order to maintain respect for the law, it is essential that the punishment inflicted for grave crimes should adequately reflect the revulsion felt by the great majority of citizens for them. It is a mistake to consider the objects of punishments as being a deterrent or reformative or preventive and nothing else... The truth is that some crimes are so outrageous that society insists on adequate punishment, because the wrong doer deserves it, irrespective of whether it is a deterrent or not."
-Lord Justice Denning, Master of the Rolls of the Court of Appeals, England 1950
If given a life sentence, Arias will not only be given the great gift of continued life, but may also soon qualify for the privileges of medium security. Both prospects insult justice.
Some see the debt as paid, crime paid with sanction. Though Arias should — rightly — pay with her life, it is less than fully just, as Alexander will never get his due — a return of life, the greatest of all worldly gifts, as well as a full sanction of Arias, commensurate with the harm she caused, hardly possible with any known sanction.
For Jodi Arias' crimes — if she is convicted of murder — such means the death penalty is not only the most justice that can be attained, but is also the least that should be given, unless we value the life of the murderer more than the lives of their innocent victims.
Jodi Arias' execution is the least which is owed to Travis Alexander. True justice, he will never see.