This story was corrected from the misprint in the 03/01/06 issue online only on 03/03/06.The punishment, unfortunately, does not always fit the crime.
Michael Morales, 46, a prisoner in San Quentin, California, was sentenced to death for torturing, raping and murdering a 17-year-old girl 25 years ago. The date of his execution was set for last Tuesday. But just one hour before he was to be executed, the punishment was called off due to questions of constitutionality.
In the past, California, along with 35 other states that perform capital punishment by means of lethal injection, has given its death row prisoners three drugs – the first to anesthetize them, the second to paralyze them and the last to stop their hearts.
However, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel ruled that such a procedure is cruel and unusual punishment, thereby violating the Eighth Amendment.
Morales’ representation claimed that, after the first injection, the prisoner might feel severe pain if still conscious once the paralyzing agent is inserted.
We have no way of knowing whether the prisoner would actually feel pain. But the process could not be nearly as painful as being beaten to death with a claw hammer, which is exactly what Morales did to young Terri Winchell in 1981. Why is he deserving of a humane and painless death after killing a young girl in ways that were unspeakably horrible?
“I think they handled it poorly,” Nathan Kaspar, a sophomore premajor, said. “This man brutally raped and murdered a young lady, and he gets to have a comfortable death? That is not right. He needs to be brought to justice. People are too caught up in how harsh a punishment is and not the fact that innocent people are being taken advantage of every day.”
Morales was found guilty in a fair trial and sentenced to capital punishment, which is legal and been upheld by the Supreme Court. He is more than deserving of the little pain he may receive.
“How can he put a person through so much pain and expect to come out with no consequence?” freshman nursing major Whitney Huffaker said. “What he did was wrong, and he deserves his just punishment.”
The case has become explosive. The implications of lethal injections being cruel and unusual may launch Morales’ case to the Supreme Court. It has already caused a moratorium on capital punishment in California, which has the largest death row in the nation, according to the Associated Press.
“People today are much too concerned with being politically correct. If he’s proven guilty then he deserves the punishment of the state,” sophomore business major Kirk Oliver said. “‘Unusual’ would mean killing him in a way that no one else has been killed before. But the other people in the state have had the same punishment.”
Meanwhile Winchell’s family members are forced to cope with the stinging injustice of this man’s pending clemency. While this trial bears on, they must deal with reliving the horrors of the past. As long as Morales lives, they are denied closure.
What kind of justice system causes a victim’s family to endure endless emotional hardships while postponing the criminal’s penalty because it may hurt a little bit?
Not only are the moral implications of the situation unjustly skewed, the financial means to keep this killer alive are costing taxpayers their hard-earned money.
Morales has already lived for 25 years with free room and board, and yet we continue to fund his means of living because putting him to death might cause him “unconstitutional” pain?
The focus should be on ridding this heinous murderer from our society instead of letting him live and wasting even more tax dollars on him.
“Our country needs to crack down on crime and deliver swift justice in order to make a statement to criminals,” Kaspar said.
During his years in jail, Morales has become devoted to religion. His mother, Josie Morales, said he has transformed into a loving and caring person, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Some argue that because Morales’ conduct has changed radically, his sentence is no longer justified.
I fail to understand any reason why Morales is deserving of a second chance. His victim didn’t get one.
We should not consider the pain Morales may or may not go through as cruel and unusual. What we should consider cruel and unusual is the crime he committed.
Jordan Cohen is a freshman English major from Lewisville, N.C. Her column appears every Wednesday.