The death penalty: Immoral, expensive and it lets them off easy

Jun 6 2010 - 9:40pm


A demonstrator in Davis County last week said Nathanael and Stephanie Sloop deserve "swift harsh justice" for the death of 4-year-old Ethan Stacy and added "if they are given the death penalty, it will still be too good for them."

Way too good, but not for the reason he thinks.

The death penalty, generally considered to be the worst punishment around, is spoken of a lot these days.

Jeremy Valdes is accused of killing a mother and her son in Roy because they complained about him and his girlfriend being drug addicts. Prosecutors want him dead.

Jacob Ethridge, who killed two prostitutes in Ogden a couple years ago, is looking at death if he's convicted.

Prosecutors originally wanted to kill gang member Riqo Perea because he shot two people at an Ogden wedding reception. Perea got life without parole, though, and I'm glad.

This brings us back to the Sloops, whom a lot of people want dead should they be judged guilty.

The couple could easily have put Ethan back on a plane to his father in Virginia while they got married, but are accused instead of torturing and killing him, then mutilating his body to avoid identification.

That horror in cold blood makes many seethe, but killing someone in cold blood is precisely what we as a society will do if we execute them.

I'm not a killer. Even when I have covered the executions of people who I agreed were scum, I didn't feel I could kill them. That doesn't change if the state does it for me.

Consider Arthur Gary Bishop, who kidnapped and tortured five children in Salt Lake back in the '80s. He was evil incarnate. He made me fear for my children. But could I go into a room where he sat and kill him?

No. I'm not like him. I don't want my state to be like him.

There are many social arguments against the state killing people: It's immoral to kill. The application of the death penalty is racially unbalanced. Threat of death doesn't deter crime. Innocent people get executed.

Fiscal conservatives should hate the death penalty.

Box Elder County spent more than $1 million trying to kill Glenn Howard Griffin for the 1984 murder of Bradley Newell Perry, and failed. Actually killing someone costs double or triple that.

Is death punishment? If lethal injection is anything like the surgical anesthesia I had, you have no awareness of the end. There are no dreams, no fading out, no pain. You're just gone.

Compare that to life in prison without parole, which can only be described as pure hell. That's what Perea got.

A few years ago, I asked the prison what that is like. You get a cell with three concrete walls, a toilet, a bunk and a roommate as vile as you.

If you behave, they let you exercise an hour a day. If you are really good, you get a job that pays $1 an hour.

After you save $130, you can get a TV that also costs $10 a month, but no cable or satellite.

You aren't going anywhere, so you get no school, rehabilitation or counseling. They let you have TV only as leverage to keep you from throwing feces at the guards.

If the Sloops are convicted, I hope that's what they get. They can have facing cells, with nobody to look at but each other for two long and miserable lives.

And, just because they're newlyweds, nothing but "I Love Lucy" reruns on TV.

Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can contact him at (801) 625-4232 or via e-mail at He also blogs at

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