Since September 2014, a saga has been unfolding in San Angelo, TX. A 5-year-old girl was murdered. Someone slit her throat. The person charged was found guilty on Wednesday, 03/28/18. At this time, the case is in the punishment phase. The jury will choose between life in prison and the death penalty for the 27-year-old man who was found guilty. My research indicates he was 23 years old at the time of the murder (important information for my psych. nerd readers and other readers who are interested in brain development). I am asking you, politely, to please brace yourself, because I am about to write what I’m sure is an unpopular statement that you will notice is accompanied by unpopular feelings: This whole thing – yes, the WHOLE thing – is hurting my heart.
If we are dealing in knee-jerk reactions, I bet you and I have similar feelings and thoughts. We feel sick, angry, outraged. We want blood, right? But, I think humanity is important.
If we are getting deep, I am comfortable admitting that what will be done to this man seems inhumane. Now, in admitting my thoughts and feelings about this situation, I am NOT condoning his actions. I am not giving him a pass. I am not saying that what he did was, in any way, humane. I am admitting that the idea of putting a 27-year-old man in a concrete box, where he will stay 22/24 hours a day, every day for the rest of his life, without the opportunity to work, attend educational programming or any other kind of constructive activity seems inhumane to me. According to a TDCJ warden who testified on 04/03/18 (please visit the San Angelo Live! website and search for “Isidro DeLaCruz” for more details because this blog is not about having a References section), this is what life is like for a death row inmate. After I read this information in the news article, I thought they must not let death row inmates do anything or have them do anything because death row inmates are just waiting to die. Why waste any resources on a person who is just waiting to die? There’s no need to even attempt something like rehabilitation or any kind of instruction because the person is just being housed until the state kills him/her. As if he does not deserve to do anything productive because he is just waiting to die.
He may never have physical contact with any of his loved ones ever again. They may visit, but they’ll be separated by plexiglass and communicate through a phone. He can’t hug his mother? What? And he’s going to be expected to behave in some kind of socially acceptable manner? He’s going to be expected to function like a typical human being? He’ll be expected to conduct himself as a reasonable human being while he lives in a concrete box and has severely limited physical contact with other human beings. I’m guessing the person who cuts his hair, medical personnel, dentistry personnel and prison guards during searches and while un/cuffing him. That may be the extent of the physical contact he has with any other human beings while he’s waiting to die. Please try to abstain from making prison rape jokes because I think we should all be at a point in life when we realize that jokes about any kind of rape aren’t funny.
The other option – life in prison without the chance for parole – at least offers an opportunity to work. He would be permitted contact visits. He will still be in prison for the rest of his life, but he could do something or learn something. I’m guessing those stages of development they teach in Developmental Psychology classes occur even in incarcerated persons. Serving life in prison without the chance for parole, if/when he needed to go to a doctor or go to some type of scheduled activity, he would be permitted to leave his cell and walk to another area of the prison. He would be allowed to hug his mother when she visits. allowed to hug his mother
I know that little girl will never hug her mother again. She will not attend school, go to the prom, get married, have children. She’ll never wear braces, she’ll never work at a job and she’ll never get a speeding ticket. She won’t buy a birthday cake for her grandmother. I understand that she is gone. Without a doubt, I believe her death was brutal, horrific and unfair. I’m not sure anything is more heart-breaking. I am not trying to minimize that. I do not have children, but I cannot even conceive of the brutal murder of a small child. I’m not advocating for rewarding this man. I’m not advocating for making his life easier or more comfortable. I am advocating for treating a human being like a human being. Whatever opinion you have of him, he is still that – a human being. He is still one of us.
This was very difficult to write and even more difficult to share. I promise you, I share those visceral reactions you have to this horrendous crime. I share that anger and disgust. I share that hurt. I worked to process this on an intellectual level, and it fucking sucks, but I wanted to do it. I did not do it just to write this. I did it because, whatever crimes he has committed, he is still a human being. I think humanity is important. While I was in college, I heard, “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” for the first time. I don’t know this guy. I don’t love him the way I love my family and friends, but he is a human being.
I’m not saying he should not be punished. I am saying that I have no clue what his punishment should be. I am saying that I am thankful that the decision about his punishment does not fall on my shoulders, because I would not have a fucking clue what to do. I do not believe I could torture someone, knowingly. I do not believe I could forbid someone hugging his/her mother, sister, cousin, best friend, etc. What is the point of taking away this person’s humanity? What is the ultimate goal? What ultimate purpose does it serve to destroy a person, essentially, and still have him existing, walking around, trying to be alive while he is waiting to die?
The death penalty is not a deterrent. Do not even try that argument. If that is all you have to offer, please get off at the next stop. We all know what may happen if we murder someone, especially in Texas. Occasionally, at work, I have to remind myself that the person at the other side of my desk does not think the same way that I think. That’s one of the reasons why that person is on that side of the desk and I am on my side of the desk. I sometimes feel shocked at someone’s behavior or a choice the person has made. I wonder, “Isn’t s/he scared? Doesn’t s/he know what may happen now?” That knowledge doesn’t land the same way with that person as it does with me. When someone chooses to risk going to prison for 5-99 years just so he can spend a few weekends in Dallas and get drunk, he is obviously not thinking the same way I would think, which is, “No way. I am not leaving this house.” I hate setting foot inside our county jail just to visit someone for work purposes. I cannot imagine how I would feel if I knew I had to live inside that jail for any amount of time. For some people, it doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal. I am grateful for my mindset.
In writing this and sharing my thoughts and feelings, I don’t know whether I am wrong or not. I have no idea. This has been lining up for, literally, years in the city where I live. I have had time to read about it, follow it and think about it. I’ve seen his mugshot from the night he was arrested and the more recent pictures of him as a clean-cut guy wearing a bullet proof vest over his button-up shirt while being walked from the courthouse back to the county jail, escorted by jailers wearing plainclothes. I’ve seen the pictures of that vibrant, precious little girl. The whole thing hurts my heart.
Her death – her brutal murder – was not fair. There is nothing that can repair what her family has experienced and what they will continue to experience. There is nothing that can bring her back or in any way make up for the loss of that child.
I will never say, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” because clichés are annoying and vacant. If you can fit your life philosophy on a standard-size bumper sticker, you need to go back to the drawing board. I won’t use that cliché because it isn’t my point. I just don’t see how we’re doing anything other than piling on more destruction.
The Oxford English Dictionary provides the following definitions of torture:
- The action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or in order to force them to do or say something.
1.1 Great physical or mental suffering.
1.2 A cause of great physical or mental suffering.
- Inflict severe pain on.
1.1 Cause great mental suffering to.
The Oxford English Dictionary provides the following definitions of humanity:
- Human beings collectively.
1.1 The state of being human.
2. The quality of being humane; benevolence.