In the wake of the Quintero verdict, there has been much discussion over the appropriateness of the punishment. Clearly, a Life sentence was not punishment enough for the State or for the family and friends of Officer Rodney Johnson.
Of course, Life without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP) is a punishment, and a significant one at that. I certainly don't disagree with that principle and I don't think anyone else does either.
What I do disagree with is the theory set out by some that Life in Prison is a worse punishment than receiving the Death Penalty.
Although a person may be spending the rest of their natural life in prison, that doesn't mean that they won't learn to adapt. They will develop a new routine and social structure. They will go on. There are many plus sides to being alive as opposed to dead -- even in prison.
A long time ago, I had the rare experience to be back in the holdover with a young kid who had been convicted of capital murder. He was still a teenager and I wasn't all that much older than he was.
When we spoke, a jury was back in the jury room, deliberating over what his capital punishment would be.
"If I were in your shoes," I told him. "I don't know what I would want the jury to do."
He made a face and then nodded.
"That's what I kind of thought when this all started, you know," he said. "I was like, I don't know whether I would want to live or die."
He paused for a second and then said: "But trust me, when you've got those twelve people back there deciding what to do with you, you want to live."
I've never forgotten what he said to me that day, and ultimately, he did live. I bring it up now, just to point out that, although "LWOP" is certainly a serious punishment, I don't think anyone can really make the argument that it is more severe than the death penalty.