Death of Fellow ‘Dane’ Evokes Anger, Questions (February 2011)

28 11 2011

Laura Marshall
February 7, 2011
Barnes, AJRL 475
Assignment: Controversy
_____________________________

Last Thursday De Von Callicutt was sentenced to life without parole for the October 2008 murder of UAlbany senior Richard “Rick” Bailey.

But was justice really served for Rick?

Bailey’s parents, James and Lisa, have been hopeful but tenacious throughout the investigation and trial processes. In two and a half years they have not let anyone forget their loss, their mission, or their beloved son.

Lisa Bailey told reporters, including Rob Gavin of the Times Union, “Life in prison is not enough for me. I don’t think any sentence would ever have been enough. He’s breathing and my son is not…”

James Bailey addressed the court and Acting Supreme Court Justice Dan Lamont through a prepared victim impact statement. He asked that Callicutt, 20, be penalized “as harshly and severely as possible.”

But Justice Lamont cannot punish Callicutt in a way that many would deem perfectly appropriate. New York, along with 14 other states, does not have a statute for capital offenses.
Instead of losing his life in a much more humane way than how he killed Richard Bailey, De Von Callicutt will sit in jail for the rest of his natural life.

New York has a sordid history with the death penalty, with controversy first arising in 1860 when a moratorium was established. Legislators were trying to determine a method of execution more humane than hanging. Since then the practice has been instated and repealed half a dozen times.

In 1995, Governor George Pataki upheld his campaign promise to sign death penalty legislation into law.

The New York Times described the decades long problem in a 1995 article, “Death Penalty in New York Reinstated After 18 Years; Pataki Sees Justice Served.”
“The state’s highest court declared New York’s last death penalty law unconstitutional in 1977. Every year since, the Legislature has approved death penalty bills, only to have them vetoed by Democratic governors,” wrote James Dao.

After the highly publicized signing, Dao spoke with Devorah Halberstam, a Paktaki supporter whose 16-year-old son Aaron was killed on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1994.  “[Number] 1, there has to be justice, and we talk about deterrence after,” she told Dao.

Families and friends of crime victims across the country, across the world, feel that the adage “an eye for an eye” is adequate, albeit cliché. Executing the person who committed an offense on their loved one of course cannot bring the person back or make the loss hurt any less, but they would sleep better knowing the offender cannot hurt someone else this way ever again.

Many argue that capital punishment only perpetuates the violence so rampant in our culture, to which I must ask: How? We’re getting rid of the rapists, murderers, and drug-addled thieves who are committing crimes.

Currently, prison overcrowding contributes to repeat offenses. People who should be locked up, get out. They steal, rape, or assault again. Why do they get out? Because there are spaces being taken up by people who committed even more horrific acts and were told to sit in, what is basically ‘time-out,’ for the rest of their lives.

When I was a freshman in college, a friendly conversation with my roommate quickly turned when she boldly stated “Its wrong, we shouldn’t do it,” but had no real reasons or facts for her feelings.
So I asked her, “If your sister was raped and murdered, would you want the guy who did it to be alive, sitting in jail, with your parent’s tax dollars feeding and clothing him?”
She sort of burst in to tears and never answered me, but I think I made a valid point. Just about everything in life comes down to money. Who has it, who doesn’t; how you use it, how far it gets you; whether it’s being taken from you, whether it’s being mismanaged by our government.

The National Institute of Corrections calculated that in 2008, New York state spent $55,670 per inmate — 48 percent higher than the national average of $28,771 — despite the fact that New York incarcerates 32 percent fewer people than the national average.

If you Google information about the history of death penalty legislation, or the costs of incarceration versus execution, you will find dozens and dozens of impassioned message boards, with people swearing up and down that it is cheaper to detain for life than euthanize.
They are wrong.

Further financial support for states following through with capital punishment cases, are the statistics on cost of an execution. According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the drugs used in a lethal injection cost about $85. The final figures are of course higher, much higher, because of all the manpower and coordination that goes into facilitating an execution.
Still, paying $200,000 (or less) is far more financially agreeable than paying almost $2 million dollars per inmate, if each “lifer” serves 35 years in prison.

Capital punishment has been legal in the United States since 1976, but is one of the laws states can choose whether or not to employ.

This matter should not simply be decided by whatever party has more members in the Assembly that year. I think that regardless of religious motivation or political affiliation, people are entitled to decide more specifically where our money is going. I think if more people knew these figures, more people would be in favor of the Death Penalty. Residents should be allowed to vote on the existence of capital punishment in their state — because clearly elected officials do not always carry out the will of the people.

This all sounds a little callous now that I read it back — so practical, even passionless — but the only sure things in life are death and taxes.
And I want my taxes paying for the death of people like De Von Callicutt.

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