A Pennsylvania couple has finally been sentenced to life in prison without parole approximately 10 months after they murdered a man they found on Craigslist. So, why did it take so long to settle on a sentence?
Well, up until last month when the couple plead guilty to second-degree murder, the state had charged them with first-degree murder "” a conviction that can be punishable by death in the state of Pennsylvania, according to Reuters. By finally making a plea to second-degree murder, the death penalty was ruled out completely.
But, what if the death penalty wasn't even an option? Would it have taken so long to convict coldblooded and premeditated murder then?
The couple, Miranda and Elytte Barbour, clearly knew what they were doing when they placed an advertisement on Craigslist selling female companionship as a way to lure in an unsuspecting victim. They've even publicly admitted they had intended on killing someone together as a way to bring them closer.
On November 11, 2013, the couple picked up victim Troy LaFerrera in a parking lot and drove him to a nearby town. When they parked, Elytte strangled LaFerrera while Miranda stabbed him 20 times. The couple simply dumped the body in an alley, cleaned the car, drove home, and then went out to dinner at a local strip club.
I can understand how anyone, especially the victim's family, would want for the Barbours to be killed as a punishment for their horrific crimes. But, moral issues aside, I have to argue that the death penalty's existence has been the cause for billions of wasted tax payer dollars in the United States. If the death penalty weren't in the picture at all, this case may have been wrapped up in far less time than it actually was.
That's because pursuing the death penalty is a much longer and far more expensive alternative to life imprisonment. The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice estimated that the state pays around $137 million per year with our current death penalty system. But, if the state didn't have the death penalty, the Commission estimates we'd only pay about $11.5 million per year.
And that's just in the state of California. The New Jersey Policy Perspectives found that over the duration of the past 23 years, New Jersey taxpayers have spent "more than a quarter billion dollars on a capital punishment system that has executed no one." That's millions of dollars wasted on preserving a system that hasn't even been proven effective, or in this case even used.
The main reason the death penalty is so much more expensive than a life sentence is because the process is lengthier and more complex, according to Amnesty International. Conviction trials alone can take years, and if the jury finds the person guilty, they still have to hold separate trials for sentencing. Not to mention all of the money and time spent on selecting a jury.
If the Barbours had received a death penalty sentence, Northumberland County District Attorney Ann Targonski said "this matter would have dragged on for many, many years." Not only is that years of suffering for the victim's family, it's also years of accumulating taxpayer money.
But the negatives for taxpayers don't stop there. By spending millions of dollars on the death penalty process, we are essentially ensuring that more important resources don't get the funding they deserve. Amnesty International states that we have reduced resources for "crime prevention, mental health treatment, education and rehabilitation, meaningful victims' services, and drug treatment programs."
I can't imagine just how difficult it would be to lose a loved one to a horrific crime. And I can't say for certain that I wouldn't want the person(s) who killed said loved one dead. But, I do know this: Getting revenge wouldn't bring back the person I lost. In fact, it would prolong the pain and suffering. It would cost hardworking taxpayers millions of dollars.
Had the death penalty been off of the table for the Barbours, the victim's family may have been able to spend more time grieving together, seeking counseling, and preparing to move forward with their lives. Instead, they were forced to attend trials and look at the pathetic people who killed their loved one for 10 months.
At a more selfish and economic level, it would have saved the taxpayers a lot of money as well. So, ask yourselves this: Is the death penalty worth it?