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White supremacist put to death: was justice served?

by Alexandra Weaver- Lifestyles Editor
Wed, Sep 6th 2017 12:00 am

I am vehemently against the death penalty. It's a cruel and unusual punishment in theory and in practice. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 159 people have been exonerated and freed from death row since 1973. There have also been many cases in which people were executed despite strong evidence that they may have been innocent. Remember: in this country you are only supposed to be guilty if there is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

As a mixed race woman and an all-around not terrible person, I am also firmly against white supremacy. It was genuinely difficult for me to decide what I am against more. In the end, the death penalty won out. I'm certainly not shedding any tears that there is one less white supremacist on this Earth, but I am still against the death penalty. Let me explain why.

First, I'd like to address the myth that putting criminals on death row is cheaper than giving them life in prison. It simply isn't true. When seeking capital punishment, a second trial with new witnesses and a new jury is needed (which will be harder to select since the first case will have been publicized, complicating the selection process). The death penalty comes with an appeals process that can last 15 to 20 years, during which prisoners are kept alive in death row facilities. These facilities have their own maintenance and staffing costs.

The DPIC has calculated that in Florida, death row costs taxpayers $51 million a year more than holding an inmate for life without the possibility of parole. In North Carolina, it costs $2.61 million per execution. In Maryland, the estimated eventual cost to taxpayers is $37.2 million dollars.

People often make the argument that it doesn't make sense to use taxpayer money to keep criminals alive. Does it make more sense to use even more taxpayer money to kill people, though?

The long appeals process is put in place to give people a chance to save themselves if they can prove themselves innocent. While this is necessary to keep more innocent people from being killed by the state, it also leads to an issue.

In this particular case, white supremacist Mark James Asay received the death penalty for killing two people in 1987. The first was a young black man, who he shot in the stomach. When he was later asked to explain why, he used a racial slur. The second was a white and hispanic individual, who he had perceived to be a woman and paid to perform oral sex. Asay committed the murder after finding out the individual was male assigned at birth.

While these crimes are inexcusable, they happened in 1987, when he was 23 years old. There's no way to be sure what Asay really believes at this point. He claimed that he got his white supremacist tattoos for protection in prison and that he removed all but one that he couldn't reach.

 While this could have been an attempt to make himself more palatable to a jury and therefore more likely to win his appeal, it could have been a legitimate change of heart. Either way, Asay was certainly not the first person to receive the death penalty for a crime he committed at a young age. He was 53 years old at his time of death. People are not static. They change throughout their lives. How moral is it, really, to be executing people for crimes they committed 30 years ago?

This moral argument is the most obvious concern. While it is a moral grey area because killing one person could potentially save the lives of many, the fact is that we have a way to save the lives of future victims without killing anyone. It's called "life in prison without parole."

Another element of the story complicates it further: Asay was killed with a chemical cocktail that had not been tested yet. Etomidate was used to sedate him, then he was given a heart stopping drug, which had only ever been used in an execution by mistake.This is only a few months after Indiana faced controversy for several botched execution attempts using an experimental drug mixture. Botched executions can have many results, including extreme pain, paralysis, seizure and stroke, and often cause extreme suffering but not death.

It's not clear what the best option for dealing with the worst among society is. It is clear that the death penalty is not it. As terrible as Asay and others like him are, the death penalty is immoral, ineffective, expensive and outdated. 


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