Every now and then we like to feature essays written by our interns, who have a unique point of view on the criminal justice system. The one below is by Mary Crocker, a Drew student who grew up in Berwyn, a town outside of Philadelphia. (Any R5 riders out there?) Mary was particulary struck by the death of Elijah Page, who was executed last night in South Dakota. This case really challenged her deeply held beliefs -- which just happen to be the beliefs of the Prison Society.
The Prison Society is against the death penalty in all cases and life without parole in many cases. When one has beliefs that seem as black-and-white as these, there comes a time when these beliefs are challenged by a bit of gray.
Last night, Elijah Page was executed by lethal injection, and declared dead at 10:11 p.m. Page was sentenced to death in 2000, for the murder of 19-year-old Chester Allan Poage (pictured) during the course of a robbery. The murder was nothing short of brutal. Page and two others forced the young man to take off his clothes and go into an icy creek. There they stabbed, kicked and beat him with large rocks, and tore his ears off. They forced him to drink hydrochloric acid. The torture, during which the victim begged for his life, was over the course of two to three hours. During that time, Page and his partners kept this person alive, but on the brink of death, all the while experiencing unimaginable pain.
If there were ever a case where I could say honestly that I believed that a person deserved the death penalty, this would be it. If any good has come of this whole ordeal it is that we can be sure that Page will never be able to do this again. That might help me sleep a little easier, and for that reason, it would be incredibly easy to say that his execution was a good thing, but I will not.
Page committed a horrendous crime, and deserves to be punished accordingly. However, I believe that his punishment should reflect society’s beliefs and values. One of those values that we as a nation and we as a species hold highest is the value of a human life. What good does it really do, to add another body to the count of one crime? What good does it do to remove a person from this world, who could have gone on to give back to the society he stole from? This execution, and all executions for that matter show me the exact opposite of what they are supposed to. They show me that we do not value human life. How could we, when in order to prove how highly we value it, we end it?
And what of the other lives touched by this execution? What of Page’s family? Will they now get the same kind of support and sympathy from the community that the victim’s family got and probably continues to get? What of the people who administered those lethal doses of sodium pentothal, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride? While they are not murderers, I can’t imagine that they don’t feel that way sometimes.
At 21 years old, I haven’t seen enough of this world, and the way it works, to be so jaded as to say that there is no such thing left as black and white. I am beginning to see less and less that way. There is one thing however that I will always be able to say with certainty: I am against the death penalty. I know that I will always be able to say that, because of days like today, when something challenges that belief. These challenges are what make my beliefs stronger, so I guess that is the only good that has come of this execution.