BY: Luis Felix
On March 31, 2013, Jodi Arias’ attorneys were denied the opportunity to have the death penalty taken off the table in her murder trial, as the Arizona Supreme Court rejected their petition for an appeal. Arias was convicted of murdering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, and is currently awaiting sentencing. However, this case is far from the typical murder case seen in news outlets across the country every day. The media has followed the Arias case heavily, casting it directly in front of the public’s eye. The gruesome nature of Alexander’s murder – 27 stab wounds, a slit throat, and a gunshot wound to the head – captured the attention of the public in recent months. There can be no doubt that Arias’ murder of her ex-boyfriend was a particularly heinous one, and justice must be served. However, is sentencing Arias to the death penalty the appropriate remedy?
Those in favor of sentencing Arias to the death penalty focus their arguments on the brutality and excessiveness of her crime. Much like Hammurabi’s “an eye for an eye,” proponents of the death penalty argue that retribution must be sought, and the only way for Arias to pay for such a heinous crime is with her life. Those opposed to Arias receiving the death penalty argue that it is unethical, and two wrongs would not make a right. However, I would take a slightly different approach in arguing against the death sentence for Jodi Arias.
Death is the ultimate price. Although murder is among the most culpable of crimes, the murder of one victim should not receive the greatest sentence that our criminal justice system has to offer. I am not attempting to downplay the culpability of a single murder; I am examining the sentencing phase of our criminal justice system in a different light. A light that does not focus on each particular crime and each particular victim, but instead focuses on our society and the criminal justice system as a whole.
There are crimes that carry a higher level of culpability than a single murder. For example, a defendant who maliciously murders two victims, is certainly more culpable than a defendant who maliciously murders one victim. If we then sentence both defendants to death, we as a society are not distinguishing between the culpability of their crimes. As a society, we have evolved passed the European medieval times where every crime was punishable by death because we decided to distinguish between the varying culpabilities accompanying different crimes. We must stay true to this distinction and reserve the death penalty for only the most culpable of defendants. While murder certainly carries a high level of culpability, a single murder cannot be deemed as culpable as a mass murder, a serial murder spree, or a terrorist attack. While the ladder three are certainly deserving of the death penalty, the former is not and must be distinguished because it carries a lower level of culpability. Thus, a more deserving sentence for a single murder, such as the murder of Travis Alexander, would be life imprisonment without parole – not the death penalty.
Ultimately, this is merely my opinion and there are certainly compelling arguments on both sides. Above all else, this article is an invitation. It is an invitation to think, an invitation to research, and an invitation to speak your mind. Consider this an open forum to any and all who agree, and especially those who disagree. You may now take the floor.