The Collegian
Friday, June 21, 2024

Capital punishment: the cost of a life

Teresa Lewis, the first woman to be executed in Virginia since 1912, was put to death by lethal injection last Thursday.

In 2002 Lewis paid Matthew Shallenberger (her lover) and Rodney Fuller to kill her husband and stepson so she could collect their life insurance.

Shallenberger and Fuller were sentenced to life in prison without parole. Lewis, however, was sentenced to die.

What Teresa Lewis did is inconceivable, cruel and twisted. Do I think Lewis deserved to rot in prison for what she did? Yes.

Do I think that her plea of low mental capacity (given that she scored barely above a mentally retarded level on an IQ test) is a justifiable excuse for why she did what she did? No.

Do I think a person has the right to end another person's life? No. But I mean that both ways.

I am against capital punishment for a number of reasons. Some of those reasons are ethical, some are fiscal and some just plain realistic.

An all too common question that comes into play during capital punishment debates is: "What if someone killed your [insert loved one here]? I bet you'd want them dead."

But the truth is, in all honesty I wouldn't. How does having the murderer put to death bring my loved one back? It doesn't.

Some may say, "Well, wouldn't it put your mind at ease knowing they were going to Hell?" First of all, no, I don't believe in hell and secondly, says who? No one knows what happens after we die.

Who's to say nothing happens after you die, in which case, you thought you were sending the evildoer on a one way ticket to hell, meanwhile it's all just a bunch of nothingness.

If this is the case, then what was the point of wasting all that money (tax payer dollars) on death penalty practices (including fees associated with lengthy trials and years of appeals) when that person could have easily just been sitting in a jail cell staring at a white wall all day every day (and that's on a good day).

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I honestly can't even imagine/don't want to know what goes on in some jails. Rub a dub dub, 40 sexually frustrated men in a tub.

To me, the idea of spending your entire life in a jail is not only depressing, but not worth living through. Imagine that, forcing someone to pay the time for the crime. As opposed to taking it upon yourself, a human being of no higher value than another, to decide whether or not a person has the right to live or die. The whole concept is just ridiculous.

But what about JUSTICE?! An eye for an eye, I say! OK, well ... put down your pitchforks for a quick sec and remind yourself that killing someone in the name of justice is still murder. Not to mention costly.

Since it is highly frowned upon to sentence people to death who are innocent, it is incredibly common for judicial process involving capital cases to be long, complex and expensive. Capital costs range from covering lawyer and heightened security fees to DNA testing and evidence processing fees.

According to an article on MSNBC (To execute or not: A question of cost?), imprisoning people for life is tens of millions of dollars cheaper than putting someone on death row.

So many people are misled to believe that it is cheaper to have people put to death than to imprison them for life, but this is entirely false. According to documents from the Office of Defender Services of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the average cost of a capital punishment trial is $620,932 (just on case costs alone), which is eight times more expensive than a case where the death penalty is not an option.

On another note: There may be such a thing as beyond a reasonable doubt, but until the day comes when that term gets whittled down to "beyond doubt indefinitely," I don't feel comfortable killing someone because I'm 98 percent sure they committed a heinous crime.

Teresa Lewis may be no Einstein, but at least the lifetime she could have been spending in jail might have taught her a lesson. What does killing her teach her about the value of human life? There's a difference between having a low IQ and knowing the difference between right and wrong.

By killing Lewis we have given up our ability to teach her a life lesson. Instead she is dead. No lesson learned. Where is the justice in that?

Contact opinion editor Liz Monahan at

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