Arias & Castro: Women & Men & the Death Penalty


BY AIMEE MURPHY

"Juries are a little more reluctant to mete out the death penalty to a woman than a man," Andy Silverman, a law professor at the University of Arizona and a member of the Coalition of Arizonans to Abolish the Death Penalty, told Reuters.

"We don't look at women as being as violent . . . We don't think of death row as a place for them," he added.

The above quote is from a commentary on the Arizona trial of Jodi Arias, a woman charged with the torturous murder of her boyfriend, Travis Alexander. There is a lot of buzz surrounding her trial and whether she will receive the death penalty for her crime. I find Silverman's above comment to be quite insightful when it comes to how we view the human person: it would seem that we view women as typically more worthy of compassion, less violent, and in their nature more worthy of respect, somehow. We as a society jump to desiring the death penalty for men so much more quickly than for women -- seeking "justice" and "keeping society safe."

I find it an interesting double standard that seems in some way totally opposite from our common problem with misogyny and rape culture: because we have been raised (thanks to the efforts of some great feminists, in addition to historic chivalry) to see women as worthy of protection, and violence against women as a terrible crime, we somehow put the pieces together that the death penalty is nonetheless a violence against a human person. Whether or not murderers "deserve death" for their crimes, it is without question an unnecessary violence. I believe we have a responsibility to do our utmost to seek nonviolent means in recourse to justice, for the taking of human life is without question the gravest action we can take: a life taken can never be returned.

But what I see in the difference between the Arias trial and the Ariel Castro trial in Ohio is an amazing method of "othering" Castro, whereas we attempt to relate to Jodi Arias on a much greater scale. The jury itself cannot make a decision about the death penalty because they actually view her as a person. Instead of being a "monster" in her own nature, she is a woman who did some grave evil. Unless we start to see all persons -- criminals too -- as persons worthy of respect, we exclude some from our love and our care, and we do not truly value the human person for the individual they are, and for which they deserve respect and protection.

For more information about the Arias trial: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/26/18430597-on-death-row-jodi-arias-would-be-the-rare-woman

For more information about the Castro trial: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/05/26/ariel-castro-death-penalty-ohio-kidnap/2362045/

#capitalpunishment

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