The existence and the application of the capital punishment have been a disputable matter in the developed countries for many years. The legislation of the European Union (EU) banns the death penalty in all member countries except three ones like Belarus where the last death punishment was carried out in 2014. The capital punishment is still applied in the United Stated where the attitude towards it is contradictory. The partisans of both opinions point out moral and constitutional considerations as well as the effects in deterrence, retribution, irrevocable mistakes, cost of death v. life in prison, income level and attorney quality. Having in consideration all pros. and cons. about the death penalty we may admit that the capital punishment is uncivilized, its costs exceed more than three times the costs of life imprisonment, and its effect in deterring further crimes is not significant. In addition, we may underline the fact that it affects predominantly the coloured and poor people who cannot afford good attorneys to represent them during the trial and defend their interests.
We experience quite opposite feelings watching the Frontline’s episode “Angel on Death Row”, telling about three murder cases in Louisiana. The main character is Sister Helen Prejean, who wrote the book “Dead Man Walking” giving the same name to a movie with Sean Penn acting in it. These were the first cases she counseled on the death row in Louisiana. The first one was of Elmo Sonnier, who killed two teenagers David LeBlanc and Loretta Burque. He committed that crime together with his brother Eddie on November 4, 1977. The girl was raped and then both were shot. The other case was that of Robert Lee Willie who with his friend Joe Vaccaro caught Faith Hathaway as she walked home alone along the shore of Lake Ponchartrain coming from a bar in Mandeville on May 28, 1980.
The interview with Deputy Sheriff Mike Varnado, who found the girl’s dead body and investigated the case, reveals the picture of sinister, inhuman behavior of two creatures hardly to be called human beings. They raped, hit and raped the girl again. Finally, they cut her throat so deeply that her head fall apart when her body was moved. Her face kept a grimace of horror expressing her will to die and not to be tortured anymore. Three days after Faith Hathaway’s murder Willie and Vaccaro kidnapped Debby Morris and her boyfriend Marc and held them for thirty hours. Willie said that he did not kill her because “she was too damn pretty”(Frontline, Angel on Death Row, Web). Willie was sentenced to death and Vaccaro was sentenced to life prison as it became obvious during the trials that the leading role belonged to Willie.
We agree with the application of the death penalty as we go through these cases and we can find many similar to them where the criminals are hardly called people, but the question if we should resemble them if we act the same way punishing with death.
Frontline, Angel on Death Row, Web www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/angels/