do 2 wrongs make a right?

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-28-2007
do 2 wrongs make a right?
Wed, 06-13-2007 - 11:46am

Death for killer of pregnant mom, children?

A woman who is accused of cutting a 7-month-old fetus from her friend's womb will face the death penalty. Tiffany Hall, 24, will also be charged with killing her friend's three other children ages 7, 2 and 1. Their bodies were found in a washer and dryer, drowned, two days after 23-year-old Jimella Tunstall's body was found in a weedy lot. Ms. Hall allegedly confessed to killing the three children for whom she used to baby-sit. The St. Clair County, Ill., state attorney called the slaying "cold, calculated and premeditated."

But Illinois has a moratorium on capital punishment since 2000 when the governor put executions on hold. The moratorium has never been lifted. Two questions arise for me in contemplating this heinous case: First, why seek the death penalty if the governor has it on hold? And second, why seek the death penalty at all when, presumably, the reason it is invoked in this case is because a sacred line has been crossed -- the sanctity of life. When an unborn fetus is slain and innocent children are murdered, the outrage is visceral. But why respond to killing by state-sanctioned killing, particularly in a state where the government is loathe to sanction it?

Most states have the death penalty, but not all do. Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin do not, according to The Death Penalty Information Center. New Jersey is in the process of abolishing the death penalty. New York has overturned its law as unconstitutional and has not reinstated it. Eight other states including California, Missouri, Maryland, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio and Delaware have halted the death penalty over the issues raised by lethal injection. Most states use lethal injection as the method of execution, having for the most part abandoned death by electrocution, hanging and the gas chamber.

The debate over capital punishment is an active one throughout this country as each state gets to choose whether to enact the death penalty and which manner of execution to use. There is a federal death penalty statute for those federal crimes that qualify, thus a person may be executed after a federal conviction in a state that has a constitutional prohibition against the death penalty, such as Michigan.

The issues raised by the death penalty debate range from arbitrariness to innocence to legal representation to mental illness to morality and fairness. As a former prosecutor I believe I understand the emotion involved in a murder case. I have seen firsthand the rage and fury and grief that families of murder victims express. The pain is indescribable. But I have never understood how killing the killer in return achieves justice or relieves pain. Why isn't life in prison without parole punishment enough?

If we punish killers, because killing is wrong, why is it right to kill a killer? As shocking and gruesome and cruel as Tiffany Hall's alleged murder of her 23-year-old friend, her 7-month-old fetus, and her three children, isn't killing Tiffany Hall equally wrong? If Tiffany Hall is convicted, she should spend the rest of her life in prison without parole.

Some would argue that if the victim was not allowed to live, why should the murderer be allowed to live with "three hots and a cot" for life? We also say that one of the reasons one may not take the law into one's own hands is to prevent vigilante justice based on emotion and a thirst for revenge. We have established a system based on the democratic principal that we leave punishment to be meted out by objective, neutral and independent magistrates who dispassionately dispense justice. Wouldn't this negate the need to kill a killer because a killer has killed?

Some say the death penalty is appropriate in a case like this to send a clear message that this kind of killing is wrong—that it will act as a deterrent. But there have been decades of studies and yet no conclusive proof that the death penalty acts as a deterrent at all. It is still an open question, and a question that some say may never be answered.

To say "if this case doesn't deserve the death penalty, which case does?" raises the question of who decides what crimes are the worst, and who decides whose murder is worse than the other? This smacks of emotion. The law must be based on reason and rationality. That is why we don't let crime victims determine punishment. They may be heard at sentencing, and their remarks considered, but we don't and can't let crime victims drive the criminal justice system.

So should we make it all or nothing? Either every murder deserves the death penalty, or no murder deserves the death penalty? This would destroy prosecutorial discretion, which is necessary so that each case can be decided on a case by case basis. Prosecutors aren't sausage makers.

Jimella Tunstall, her 7 month old fetus, and her three children deserve justice. But how does a state-sanctioned killing achieve that? How do two wrongs make a right?

© 2007 MSNBC Interactive



iVillage Member
Registered: 02-15-2005
Wed, 06-13-2007 - 11:56am

I honestly can't make up my mind WRT the death penalty.

I hear strong arguments for, and they sway me.

I hear strong arguments agains, and they sway me.

I think what's preventing me from leaning on the opposed side is the risk of error - innocent people ARE convicted; and the fact that poverty place such a role in sentencing. If you can buy good defense, odds are, you won't end up on death row.

To me, in some cases, it is a just punishment. But the above doubts keep me from fully supporting it.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-03-2007
Wed, 06-13-2007 - 1:37pm

There is a robust conversation about capital punishment going on over at the hot debates board, FYI.

Personally... I feel it's a losing idea on all fronts. The concept is shaky - let's kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong! The societal effect is not helpful - states that have capital punishment and use it continue to have higher average rates of violent crime. The costs are ridiculous - much more expensive to go through the hoopla necessary to be even mostly accurate about not killing innocents. And the individual effects are poor - encouraging revenge behaviors is encouraging an immature response and leaves no opportunity for facing and issue and perhaps finding remorse and forgiveness.

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-11-2005
Wed, 06-13-2007 - 2:40pm

If there was a case for the death penalty, this would be the one. No need for a trial, just put this witch before a firing squard and shot her @$$. Now very PC of me I know~~but I just hate so called people like this.


~~Sam stitches well with others, runs with scissors in her pocket. Cheerful and stupid.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-08-2007
Wed, 06-13-2007 - 3:04pm
I'd like to say that I'm against the death penalty, but if someone murdered my child or husband I am not sure I could honestly say I'd perfer they live out their life.

Ella Grayce

Lilypie1st Birthday Ticker
iVillage Member
Registered: 01-07-2007
Wed, 06-13-2007 - 4:51pm

I don't think it's a black and white issue. I also don't think it's a matter of 'teaching people killing is wrong by killing them'.

Rehabilitation is key as is the heinousness of their crime. If a person is shown to be so far gone (think:Jeffrey Dahmer) and no amount of rehabilitation would render him useful to society (whether he be behind bars or eventually parolled) then I believe the death penalty to be the best option.

It is less expensive for taxpayers for a convicted felon to spend life in prison than it is for them to be given the death penalty.

It's not a solid argument but it's all I have right now. :)

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Thu, 06-14-2007 - 8:47am

I have very mixed feelings regarding the death penalty...on the one hand, I don't feel she deserves to live, on the other, what better punishment than to allow her to live with what she did to her "friend" and the children she has been caring for? I also feel that if the punishment should fit the crime...she took a life, or in this case, many her life should be given in are the lives of these people's family supposed to feel justice if this woman is allowed to go on living? And what deterrent is there for others not to commit the same crime(s)? But then, on the otherhand, even though I feel the family deserves justice, you could not pay *me* enough to pull the switch, or administer the drugs that would kill this woman for the crimes she committed. And I know that we have laws in place that prohibit us from inflicting terror and pain when putting someone to death, but when we do put someone to death, their death is usually very peaceful...they usually just go to is that justice? But then if they are allowed to live they are a tax burden on society...see, I am very split on how I for how I feel only morally? My flesh says put her spirit says two wrongs don't make a right...she is still a life....but then *I* still wrestle she worth saving? She did a HORRIBLE thing, not only to one person, but to babies!! That is horrendous...she obviously *planned* this thing out, and for how long? From the beginning of her friend's pregnancy? Who knows? How much did the children love and trust her? How many times did she put her hand on her friend's belly and feel the baby move? What she did was an evil thing and I just do not know what is the right thing to do. Yes, I am a Christian and I do believe in forgiveness, but forgiveness does not absolve us from having to pay for our legal's not a free pass.


iVillage Member
Registered: 10-14-2003
Thu, 06-14-2007 - 11:31am

Solitary confinement 23 hours a day for life. One hour exercise, one shower a week. Minimal television, once a week visits limited to 2 people, chores in the prison system, no communication other than prison screened letters,monitored visits and the guards.

That to me is a fate worse than death. Let her be alone with her thoughts for the rest of her natural life so she can ponder the actions she committed to get her so much time for introspection. Leave her there so society can forget her.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 01-07-2007
Thu, 06-14-2007 - 11:55am
Throw in there that she can work her *debt* off by making license plates for free for the rest of her life.
Avatar for hydromommy
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Thu, 06-14-2007 - 1:43pm


iVillage Member
Registered: 04-03-2005
Thu, 06-14-2007 - 11:39pm

"I agree with you except the visitors...why should she be allowed to see her loved ones when the only way the loved ones of those she murdered can see them is at a grave site? Death...or everything you said except her only human contact is other prisoners/prison staff, no calls, no letters, no visitors!"

Well, what about maybe allowing for only the victims' family members to come and see the person once every week (only if they want to), to tell them how vile they are, and to every week drive home the point- to make sure it stays omnipresent in their mind- that they are the scum of the earth? I kind of like that idea...

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