Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Don't ask me...

I'm thankful that I'm not sitting on the jury who is at this moment deciding the fate of Conner Schierman, the 28 year old man convicted of stabbing and murdering a young Kirkland family (a mom, two boys and a visiting sister) and then setting their house on fire.

His story is that he doesn't remember what happened (but they found lots of blood evidence that indicated he had been inside their house) due to alcohol and drugs.   While this story seems like a convenient way to suggest that he's not actually responsible for his actions, the evidence was strong enough to cause a jury to convict him.

This crime was horrific and purposeless.   The death penalty is a reasonable penalty to consider for this person.

I'm thankful I'm not on the jury because I do believe that he doesn't remember the event and that it was not something he planned or seems to take pleasure in.  I don't think he should ever be free to walk amongst the rest of us, but I wonder if killing him is less of a punishment than having him face the next 50-70 years in what I imagine is the scariest and bleakest place on earth. 

The press hasn't said what outcome the family of the victims have requested.  It would make the decision of me, as a member of the jury a lot easier if the husband, father and brother-in-law (all the same man) had a strong opinion one way or the other.  In trying (feebly) to put myself in his shoes I can't say that I would ask for the death penalty.  I wouldn't bring my family back, but it might put an end (after all the legal wrangling) to the issue once the deed was done. 

And, if you use Christianity as a piece of your moral guide, which part of the biblical teaching are you supposed to fall back on... turn the other cheek, an eye for an eye, or ask for forgiveness and it shall be given?  How nice that which ever way you go you can find scriptural support, but are you supposed  to just use the one that "feels" most right?

This man may not have shown mercy during his night of terror, but I'm thankful that it is not up to me to decide his fate.

The Cost Factor

I've heard it suggested that it might be better to put someone to death than to pay year after year to have them incarcerated?   Economically, it seems logical that a dead psychopathic murderer costs less than a live one.  Factually, there is lots of information that says it isn't cheaper when you factor in the cost differential of the trial (and required appeals) of a death penalty case.

Multiple studies in California show that the cost of perusing the death penalty costs over 114 million per year over the cost of cases where life without parole is the intended outcome.  They also state that a death row inmate costs about $90,000 more per year to house than a "regular" inmate. 

Wikipedia (where the facts may or may not be facts) states that the average cost to house all prisoners is $62.05 per day or $22,648.25 per year.  Assuming the cost of death row folks are included in that average and accounting for places that cost WAY less, let us assume this figure is mostly accurate.  How long would it take to "make back" the cost of executing someone, without considering the higher cost to put them on death row?  By my math it is about 4 years for every year they sit on death row.  So, for someone who is on death row 10 years there won't actually be a 'cost savings' until 40 years after the execution.    (My math:  cost per year $22.5 for everyone, death row adds another 90k, so 90/22.5=4)

Some states are far more aggressive at (forgive the pun) pulling the trigger.  I encourage you not to get convicted in Virginia - since 1976 they have executed 106 people and only have 13 awaiting their fate.  Texas, is another that has a pretty quick turn around 453 executions with another 352 pending.  Our state of Washington has executed 4 and has 9 on DR.    California is paying the most to house death row inmates with a population of 678 (with only 13 executions since 1976).  (These figures are from the "Death Penalty Information Center web site.)  These four states alone the are paying an annual cost of $94.5 million in addition to the normal cost of a imprisonment. 

As long and drawn out as this explanation is, like it or not, I don't think we can use cost savings as a justification for choosing the death penalty over a life sentence.

Life is LIFE

It is a consideration, however, that no matter how punitive and unpleasant our prison systems may be, for the inmate a life sentence still gives the prisoner some sort of life.  They may be allowed to work, go to school, read, write, get letters, visits from family, friends, heck some may even get to have sleep overs with their spouses.  Is this fair for someone who has taken the life of four innocent people?  Should a prisoner get to celebrate Christmas or his or her own birthday?  I'm not suggesting prison would be fun; being introduced to Hulk, your butt raping serial killer roommate would certainly ruin your day.  But there are folks who thrive in the prison environment - they find their way and manage to live within that world not as free people, but probably not in a constant state of repentance.  (Is that what I would need as a victim? Again, not sure.)

What the heck is your point?

I have no point...I'm just trying to work it out in my head (and now online).

Most importantly, I feel a profound sense of compassion for the Milkin families and hope no matter what happens with this man convicted of altering their world that they find some sort of comfort and peace.  If I was on the jury, I hope I would have the strength to let that be my guide.


MWR said...

Sure, it's horrific and all, but aren't you possibly being just a little hard on Walla Walla there in paragraph four?

tp_gal said...

I was thinking any prison experience, not the region of Walla Walla.

Thanks for making me spit coffee out my nose.

tp_gal said...

After about a day and a half of deliberations, jurors on Wednesday recommended Schierman be executed for killing Olga Milkin, 28, her sons, Justin, 5, and Andrew, 3; and Milkin's sister Lyubov Botvina, 24, in July 2006. In unanimously deciding for death, the jury determined that life in prison without parole — the only other possible verdict under state law — was an insufficient penalty for the murders of four people.

Leonid Milkin, whose wife and two young sons were slain, smiled after the verdict was announced and said he was "relieved that this day has finally come."

"I'm just glad the justice system worked," said Milkin, who was serving with the National Guard in Iraq when his family was killed. "I miss my family greatly. Every day for the rest of my life I will think about them and miss them."

Milkin, 33, who has vowed to rebuild the house that his wife loved so much, has long supported the death penalty for Schierman.

"Conner Schierman came in the middle of the night like a thief and stole my family," he said.