questions of life or death

I’ve been following this trial in the local paper (where I work) since it started two weeks ago. To get you up to speed: Last week, a jury found Areli Carbajal Escobar guilty of capital murder in the 2009 sexual assault and fatal stabbing of his 17-year-old neighbor, who was home with her nearly 1-year-old son. When I’ve been reading about the trial thus far, my thoughts always hovered on his guilt or innocence. It was like the second half of a Law & Order episode. But today, I got a glimpse into what happens after the episode ends, because I got completely sucked into the reporter’s tweets during the sentencing phase, which is in its fourth day.

Basically, since the guilty verdict, Escobar faces two options: life in prison or the death penalty. This week, lawyers have been arguing over whether this guy lives or dies. And 12 people have been sitting in that room, knowing that at the end of it, they have to decide his fate. The testimony so far seems to have focused on the danger Escobar poses to others, as well as his mental status. Testimony today also highlighted the difference between general prison population and death row, which was fascinating:

trial tweets

@StevenKreytak

Escobar’s lawyers are literally fighting for his life. And the prosecutors are trying to convince 12 people that this man doesn’t deserve to live, that the world will be a safer place without him. I wish I could be a fly on the wall in the jury deliberation room. In what process does a group of people make a life and death decision like this?

Yes, this man did a terrible thing. He raped and killed a teenage girl, while her son watched. It was barbaric.  But isn’t it also barbaric to sit in a room and vote on whether someone lives or dies? Is the practice a necessary evil to keep people safe? Or to further deter people from heinous crimes? I wish I had more answers than questions. I go back and forth on this issue, and I’m glad I’m not the one to have to make the decision. I don’t think I could bring myself to.

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