Vigilante Justice in the Name of the State


by Connor Roe, Summer Associate

A lot of attention has been paid recently to the trial of William Inman, a man convicted of strangling his wife with a zip tie and disposing her body in a church's septic tank. Due to the disturbing nature of this homicide, the jury may decide to impose the death sentence on Inman. However, in these modern times, the death penalty is outdated. One reason being that the Justice System does have cracks in it, and the outcomes of cases do not always reflect the truth. For example, in 1984 Dale Johnston was convicted and sentenced to death for the killing of his step-daughter. In his appeal in 1990 he was cleared of the charges and freed from prison. Then in 2008, another man confessed to the murder. This all happened in the Hocking County Court of Common Pleas, the same court in which Inman was just convicted.

But what if Inman really is guilty? The evidence presented in the trial convinced the jury of 12 people that Inman was, in fact, his wife's murderer. The State of Ohio has a few conditions on who qualifies to be put to death by lethal injection. One of those conditions (as stated in the Ohio Revised Code, section 2949.28) states that no person shall be executed who is insane. Inman has demonstrated numerous qualities of insanity to a defense psychologist. The defense psychologist recognized several factors that could suggest a person's insanity such as suicidal thoughts, a history of head injury, difficulties in school, drug usage, and problems with his parents.
There are too many legal factors that prove that the death penalty is not a viable option for sentencing in this case or in any case for that matter. Inman must pay for his crimes but in a manner that makes sense for the citizens of Ohio and the Justice System in general. The death penalty needs to be abolished, not just in Ohio but all across the US. Even if a person exhibits purely evil behavior the death penalty should not be used. It promotes "an eye for an eye" mentality. Ohio, and the US for that matter, should not be in the business of killing its own.

For a punishment to be effective it must do three things: deter, punish, and rehabilitate. State executions do none of those. No one about to commit murder stops because they suddenly fear the death penalty. Anyone about to take another's life is not in there right mind. Therefore, they will not be deterred by the threat of the death penalty from killing someone.

Although one could argue that the death penalty does punish the offender, the punishment is not effective. It is a medieval form of punishment. It sends the message that "an eye for an eye" is an effective form of justice to every citizen.

Finally, state executions do not rehabilitate the offender. Who is to say that a person with a life sentence will not come to terms with what they did and seek repentance? A life sentence is a very long time for a person to reflect on and reform their life.

The US has moved past so many bad ideas in its darker times. In the 19th Century public hangings were common. In the 1920s some considered eugenics to be acceptable. In the 1960s lynching minorities was a crime that often went totally unpunished. Now every one of those examples is considered cruel and unusual by a more informed interpretation of the 8th Amendment of the US Constitution. When will the 8th amendment catch up to state executions? When will people realize that killing a convicted murder in a room filled with the victim's family is no different than a public hanging. The death penalty is antiquated and should be stricken from law entirely. One day people will look back and ask how could the courts of the 21st century kill murderers in front of their victim's families with a shot of poison?