Friday, September 22, 2006

Amazing Statement By Prosecutor In Dru Sjodin Rape/Murder Case

...was given during the press conference after the announcement that the jury had given Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. the death penalty.

Drew Wrigley, US attorney for North Dakota, refused to make Mr. Rodriguez a poster child for the death penalty in response to a question from the press. The results came from the "proof that the crime met the standards of aggravation."

That makes sense. This verdict shouldn't be about judging the likability, respectability or nationality of the defendant. This case and the death penalty should only be about assessing his criminal actions.

Then came this (transcribed by me from live coverage):

Member of the press: "Will this change the way the rest of the country looks at our state?"

Wrigley: "... We see the meaning of this as a set of facts put out there. A crime that was committed in the fashion you all heard. You don't need me to go through it here now. To a person, as I said, who did nothing wrong. Nothing wrong to this person, nothing wrong on that day. No risky behavior going on. And what it means is that a jury ..." (emphasis
No risky behavior? While that may be true, what relevance should it have on whether a kidnapper, rapist and murderer gets the death penalty? Should the jury have given him life in prison if she had been snatched leaving a bar instead of a mall?

This verdict was supposed to send a signal to would-be rapist and murderers. Well, so does this prosecutor's statements about the victim. If you want more lenient sentences, rape and murder women who are behaving in ways a jury might see as risky.

I find that message terrifying.

What the prosecutor's statement communicates to me, unfortunately, is that seeking the death penalty is as much linked to judgments about the victim's character and non-criminal behavior as it is to the behavior of the rapist/murderer. It makes me wonder if he would have taken the plea deal the defense team offered if the defendant had been from a middle-class Caucasian family and his victim had been the daughter of migrant workers.

And that's why even in cases where there's no question of guilt, I still have a problem with the death penalty.

The death penalty should be based on judgments of the accused's actions not judgment of the chosen victim.


FARGO, N.D. (AP) -- Jurors on Friday sentenced a convicted sex offender to death for kidnapping and killing University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin, whose body was found in a Minnesota ravine nearly five months after she disappeared. It was North Dakota's first death penalty case in more than a century. The state does not have the death penalty but it is allowed in federal cases.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 1:03 PM   0 comments links to this post


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