I’m trying to wrap my head around this story. A convicted murderer is about to go free in Indiana. The case has never been in doubt; this isn’t a case of innocence-by-DNA. The woman confessed to the crime, and there has never been any challenge to her conviction. The sentence, however, was: the woman was sentenced to death. But she was only 16 at the time.
Murderers are…well, they’re murderers, and I struggle with my notion of how best to deal with them. I honestly do believe in rehabilitation and maybe even redemption, and this woman has served 27 years in prison. Is she rehabilitated? I guess that’s not really for me to say. It’s a tough question. But the idea of sentencing someone to die for a crime — and this one, involving a butcher knife and more than 30 stab wounds, is pretty heinous — before they’re old enough to have even most of the privileges our society reserves for ‘adults’ seems extreme.
And then I read further in the article and I learn that until 1988, you could be sentenced to death in Indiana as young as ten years old.
Many years ago, I believed in the death penalty. It seemed pretty clear to me: murderers should be executed. Eye for an eye, and all that. But I changed my mind when Ted Bundy was executed.
If you were to draw up a list of every murderer in the history of the human species, and rank them in order of who most deserved the death penalty, I think there’s a pretty good chance that Ted Bundy would wind up in the top ten. He is among the very worst things our species has ever produced. But I’ve never forgotten the news footage of his execution, during which a raucous and celebratory crowd was gathered outside the prison, brandishing hand-painted signs that said things like “Barbecue Ted” and “Fry Bundy Fry”. Those images were like a bucket of cold water, thrown upon me. The state was killing a human being, and there were folks outside the place where it was happening. And they were having a tailgate party.
I haven’t had much confidence in the moral underpinnings of the death penalty since then.
In my lifetime, at least one state maintained the legal authority to execute ten-year-old children. The mind reels.