Was Justice Served in Parkland Shooter’s Sentence?

The crime that 21-year-old Andre Thomas, a Black man, dedicated in Sherman, Texas on March 27, 2004 was, and stays, unimaginable.

In a psychotic rage fueled by a historical past of drug/alcohol abuse and profound self-destructive psychological well being points, Thomas crashed into an condominium his estranged white spouse shared with a boyfriend.

Two youngsters have been within the condominium with the previous spouse—a four-year-old son she had with Thomas and a 13-month-old daughter she had with the boyfriend.

Thomas, armed with three knives—one for every sufferer he deliberate to kill that day.—stabbed and maimed them horribly.

Not completed, Thomas stabbed himself thrice within the chest and lay down on the ground subsequent to his ex-wife to die. When demise didn’t arrive, he received up, walked 5 miles to his house, and known as the police.

5 days after his arrest he gouged out his proper eye, citing a New Testomony proverb.

Thomas was convicted of one of many youngsters’s deaths in 2005 and sentenced to demise. No less than three members of the all-white jury expressed express racial bias in opposition to interracial marriage.

One Texas news outlet has brazenly known as the jury “racist.”

In December 2008, whereas on demise row, Thomas gouged out his left eye and reportedly ate it.

On October 11, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Courtroom denied Thomas’ final attraction. The State of Texas should now resolve whether or not to execute the sightless man.

On February 14, 2017, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz entered the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Excessive Faculty in Parkland, Florida at 2:19 p.m.—and over the subsequent 9 minutes, killed 17, and injured 17 extra, college students, school and workers members in one of many worse mass shootings in U.S. historical past,

Like Andre Thomas, Cruz has a disturbed mental health history.  It concerned killing and cruelty to animals; a Nazi-inspired hatred of Jews and African-Individuals. He manifested a need to kill and harm individuals, and tried to pressure her into suicide.

He steadily displayed weapons on social media.

Not like the Andre Thomas jury, three jurors deciding the Cruz case voted on October 13, 2022—simply two days after the Supreme Courtroom’s rejected Thomas’ attraction—for a life sentence with out the advantage of parole, sparing Cruz from the demise penalty.

The life sentence verdict shocked, angered, and even enraged a few of the households of Cruz’ victims who needed a demise penalty verdict.

Andre Thomas and Nikolas Cruz are each undeniably responsible of committing unspeakable acts of violence. Each males are, because the late Texas Courtroom of Legal Appeals Decide Cathy Cochran stated of Thomas, “clearly crazy” however nonetheless legally sane below most state legal guidelines.

Three jurors in every case have been instrumental within the verdicts returned within the instances: an all-white racially biased jury in Thomas’ case and a racially various and unbiased jury within the Cruz case.

The query that stirs debate in each the anti-death penalty and pro-death penalty communities is whether or not justice was served by both verdict.

What’s “justice” truly?

The Sixth Century codification of Roman legislation, the Institutes of Justinian, outlined justice as “the fixed and perpetual will to render to every his due.”

Extrapolating on this definition, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy added in 2021 that, “Justice is the alternative of arbitrariness.”

There shall be punishment and struggling sufficient for each Thomas and Cruz for the remainder of their imprisoned lives.

Given its longstanding affinity for the demise penalty within the post-Furman period, the State of Texas will extra probably than not execute Thomas with a deadly dose of pentobarbital within the Huntsville jail demise chamber.

And on condition that the American life expectancy is 78 years for a male and that jail shortens that expectancy by 4 to 5 years, Cruz will spend roughly 50 years within the Florida jail system—the third largest within the nation—which has been described because the “worst jail system within the nation.”

And even when Thomas is spared execution, he’ll spend roughly 35 extra years within the Texas jail system earlier than demise frees him from that system,  given his present age of 39.

With out sight and dealing with a lifetime of compelled psychotropic remedy, most likely administered in some institutional “psych unit,” it might moderately be argued {that a} single deadly dose of pentobarbital can be a extra humane end result for Thomas’ than a lifetime of imprisonment.

Earlier than the 1972 Furman v. Georgia choice, only two states (Maine and North Dakota) had what might greatest be described as “pure life sentences” however even these sentences could possibly be commuted to fastened phrases of years with parole eligibility.

In direct response to Furman, legislatures in three states (Louisiana, Alabama and Illinois) enacted particular life with out parole (LWOP) sentences. Two dozen different states would observe go well with all through the Nineteen Seventies and Nineteen Eighties. Texas created its LWOP sentence in 2005.

Whereas the manager energy to commute sentences, even LWOP, is unfettered, there’s completely no likelihood that any Florida governor would commute any of the a number of life sentences Nikolas Cruz will obtain.

man in dark tie

Billy Sinclair

The households of Cruz’s victims, outraged that he didn’t obtain the demise penalty haven’t been cheated by the scales of justice. LWOP in any American jail, particularly a most safety jail in Florida, is a worse punishment than demise.

Nonetheless, the unanswered query hangs in each the Andre Thomas and Nikolas Cruz instances: have the pursuits of justice been served by the destiny the State has imposed on every of them?

There’s no good reply to that query.

Billy Sinclair spent 40 years within the Louisiana jail system, six of which have been on demise row. He’s a printed creator, an award-winning journalist (a George Polk Award recipient), and the co-host together with his spouse Jodie of the felony justice podcast, “Justice Delayed.”