I’d like to give a different perspective and points to think about on a topic that so many people love to talk about. Ask yourself, “What does it mean to be for or against the death penalty?”
This is not a simple question that really allows you to choose one way or another. However, it’s easy to voice an opinion if it doesn’t appeal to you.
Sure, morality plays a big part in deciding the side. But even those also change when the shoe is on the other foot.
We live in a society where rules and laws must be followed and consequences such as fines, prison sentences and sometimes death. That is not to say that the consequences always fit the bill and/or action, but they are there for a reason. Some people follow society’s rules, even if they don’t like or agree with them; others completely ignore the rules and become repeat offenders for various reasons.
Let’s take a look at those repeat offenders who not only ignore the rules of society, but go one step further and make a conscious decision to kill someone. What’s the point of housing and feeding a murderer who is content with his or her actions, especially if there’s a chance of committing another murder? Is there any real consequence if the person is kept comfortable? Much of that convenience comes from the taxpayer, as we help foot the bill for the prison system.
In many cases, more money is spent on prison systems than on education funding.
With all this in mind, think of the victim’s family. Not only do they lose a family member, but they also have to pay taxes to keep the killer comfortable. The killer can still eat, sleep, breathe and communicate with his family. So what exactly is the true consequence? It looks more like a punishment and/or consequence for the victim’s family. No one really wishes death on anyone; that, however, is the only fit consequence for a life taken.
I was 4 years old when my mother was killed by a man she didn’t even know, when she opened our home to him because she was trying to be a good friend to his sister and didn’t know anything about him. Consequently, her goodness ended her life for allowing him into our home. For years, the media portrayed her as having a relationship with this man and it was a domestic dispute, when in reality it was the complete opposite.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my mother or wonder what kind of woman she would have become. Unfortunately that’s all I have of her as she has been deprived of the opportunity to fulfill her role as a mother. Imagine life flashing before your eyes at the age of 4. Imagine your last moment being a reminder of being dropped off at a daycare center across the street and not knowing that this is the last time you’ll ever see your mom. Imagine growing up understanding death, but not knowing how to explain it to other children when they ask, “Why don’t you live with your mother?” And worst of all is knowing how sad it is to have more memories of your mother’s case than of her.
Here we are 28 years later, sharing some of my reality because it took 28 years to close my mom’s business and be her voice. No family deserves to wait that long for justice. In one instance, I lost everything and everyone I knew. For every milestone that passed — whether it was the first day of school, a birthday, a holiday, learning to drive, graduating, getting married, or having my own child — I was reminded that I didn’t have my mom to share those moments with me. During those moments, however, I was also reminded that her killer was comfortably waiting for his day, sharing letters with his family.
So ask yourself what makes a killer’s life more valuable than the life he or she took? And why do we as a society need to keep them comfortable? This is one of the many mistakes that the system has let us down as a whole. My mother’s case is unique in that her killer was an escapee who had already been locked up in minimum security for the attempted murder of another woman before taking my mother’s life. The system failed on the first sentence, ultimately resulting in my mother’s death. And it’s sad to say it failed again, and 28 years later we’re still waiting for justice.
I share all of this in the hope that instead of taking sides and being for or against the death penalty, you as a society reflect on the impact the crime has had on those who are truly affected by the outcome of someone’s selfish actions. Catherine Pulsifer once said, “Life offers many choices, the choices we make determine our future.”
Yeh-Shen White-Hicks’ mother, Sharonda White Clark, was murdered in 1995. Clark’s killer, Jemaine M. CannonWHO seeking clemency is scheduled to be executed on July 20.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Guest: In the dilemma of the death penalty, consider the toll on victims’ families