In local news, Brandon Morris, the Roxbury Correctional Institution inmate who murdered corrections officer Jeffery Wroten during a failed escape attempt two years ago, was sentenced yesterday to life in prison without parole for the crime. He could have received the death penalty, but the judge spared Morris in order, he said, to save Wroten’s family from having to endure an endless appeals process leading up to the execution.
Since I don’t believe in the death penalty, I have no problem with the sentence. I’d wager that most people, especially in this area, disagree with me, however. Not only is Morris clearly a violently disturbed man — after murdering Wroten, shooting the guard in the head with his own gun, Morris took a hostage and fled in a hijacked taxi before being arrested — but his victim was by all accounts a good and decent man who was admired by his colleagues and by many of the prisoners he was charged to guard at Roxbury. What the hell would be so wrong with pumping Morris full of potassium chloride and calling it justice served?
How one feels about the death penalty, especially in relation to a case like this, is a deep and closely held belief, and I’d be foolish to try to persuade anyone who disagrees with me that a man like Morris, a thuggish, unrepentant killer, deserves to live a long and healthy like in a state corrections facility. The guy is an evil bastard, and to anyone close to the Wroten family my argument will sound naïve and intellectual and cold. If Jeffery Wroten had been my friend, my father, or my husband, I’d be singing a different tune. But that is precisely why justice is not left to the victim in our society, and why the trial of Brandon Morris was not held here in Washington County, where we would have been all too happy to string the bastard up in the city square, but in Howard County, where potential jurors were further removed from the emotions of the case and could be better trusted to decide on the merits of the case.
I’m not going to argue in favor of Morris. That argument is lost already, and the guy just isn’t worth the effort. He’s a punk, and a thug, and a murderer, and he deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. I’m not arguing for him or his bloody and ruined life. I don’t believe the state should have the right to execute its citizens — any of its citizens, even those as contemptible and dangerous as Brandon Morris.
Forget what a bastard Morris is. Forget the family of the victim’s supposed right to vengeance. Forget all the claims of how expensive it is to keep a prisoner incarcerated for life, or how unfair it is that men like this should be afforded educational opportunities denied millions of people who walk free in our society. Forget all the usual arguments against capital punishment: that it isn’t a deterrent to crime; that it is cruel and unbecoming a civilized nation; that it, too, is expensive to carry out; that our justice system is flawed enough to allow the very real possibility that innocent people have been executed for crimes they never committed. Focus instead on this question: Do you want the government to have the power to lawfully kill its citizens?