By: Anne McManis, Lincoln East High School
When we started this assignment, my partners and I didn’t think it was going to be any different from the rest of the group projects we had done over the years. Our teacher told us to pick a topic, develop a stance, and then do something about it in our community. Frankly, if it’s homework, then the possibilities of truly caring are slim at best, so to be charged with the task of choosing a subject that we might have even the smallest inclination towards seemed like a Herculean feat. Our group talked awhile and decided to pick the death penalty, something we knew was controversial and had the possibility of actually being interesting.
Our knowledge of capital punishment was lacking, but we knew enough to divide the workload into three parts. Michael Liou would research the psychological effects on the families of the victims and the inmate. Matthew Shattill was to examine the lethal injection process, and my mission was to study the economic aspect of capital punishment. We decided not to formulate our opinion until after we had investigated a little bit.
After school I got on the Internet and typed the words “death penalty” into my search engine. As expected, I got millions of hits. My mind drew up blank on how to push this daunting task to a later date so I began digging through the massive garbage heap called Google. Eventually I happened upon an article from Fox News. The headline read “Just or Not, Cost of Death Penalty Is a Killer for State Budgets”. I was hooked and it soon became obvious that the death penalty was a bigger waste of money than buying a Snuggie. On average, a trial seeking death costs $1 million more than one seeking life without parole. Guess where all that money’s coming from, yep, the good old taxpayers of America. Imagine what we could do with all of that cash! We could fund more shelters and soup kitchens, create programs to keep kids off the street, heck , if we really wanted to go all out we could design a school lunch that was actually healthy! The possibilities are endless, and all it takes is for our government to stop killing people. I know it sounds easy, but apparently it makes sense to kill people in order to show other people that killing people is wrong. The logic is flawless, I know.
When I got to school the next day Michael and Matthew told me what they had found out. For many victims’ families, seeing the person who had caused them so much pain finally meet their death wasn’t as fulfilling as they thought it would be. They were already so emotionally drained from the countless number of appeals and trials that come with a death penalty case that they had a hard time feeling anything when it came to the execution. As far as the actual execution goes, lethal injection isn’t as foolproof as many would like to believe. Because of the Hippocratic oath, the execution is not administered by a trained professional, rather it’s usually a prison guard who may or may not know what he or she is doing. Reports of needles missing the vein have been reported, and depending on which drug they were giving the inmate at the time, this can result in chemical burns, failure to anesthetize the prisoner, and a prolonged death.
After sharing everything we had learned it was easy to decide which side we were on. Now we just had to figure out what to do about it. That’s where our teacher came into all of this. Coincidentally, she happened to be friends with a woman who worked for Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and was kind enough to put us in touch. Our group was able to meet with her and together we came up with a plan of action. Michael and Matthew would work together to write letters to all of the senators in the Lincoln, area and I was in charge of writing an article for the NADP’s wonderful newsletter. That brings us to the present, and I would just like to thank everyone who’s had a part in giving me and my group a chance to learn about such an important topic. It’s been an eye opening journey and one that will affect me for the rest of my life. I’m sure my partners feel the same way, and regardless of whatever grade we get on our project, it was worth it.