Dead Man Walking…

March 21, 2009

Justin Thurber - Photo courtesy of Ark City Traveler

Yesterday a judge officially told Jodi’s killer that he was sentenced to be executed by the State of Kansas.  After attempts to further delay the sentence failed Thurber was officially sentenced.

The day began with the defense attorneys requesting a new trial based on their claim that Thurber’s “prior bad acts” should not have been admitted as evidence.  This was denied.

Thurber’s attorneys then tried to have him legally declared mentally retarded thereby making him ineligible for the death penalty.  After the prosecution presented the evidence that Thurber himself held a C-average, worked to destroyed evidence and submitted a report from the Larned State Mental Hospital doctor stating that Thurber was not mentally retarded that claim failed as well. 

Additionally, the defense team claimed to not receive some pre-trial documents regarding Thurber’s past criminal history.  Court was recessed for a short-time while this was investigated and the defense was given the option to review the documents.

So on the first day of Spring.   A day of new beginnings.  Justin Thurber who so brutally murdered Jodi Sanderholm was taken to El Dorado to the prison. 

It is reported that upon entering the facility Jodi’s killer appearred very nervous.  It is also reported that he received a welcome chant from all the other prisoners.  Their chant was “Dead man walking. Justin Thurber.  Dead man walking. Justin Thurber….”

He will never again by able to hurt someone like Jodi. 

He will undoubtedly have several years to think about his actions on January 5, 2007 before the state of Kansas executes him.


Debate of the Death Penalty

March 15, 2009
Jodi Sanderholm
Jodi Sanderholm

During the recent debates over whether or not to keep the death penalty I have often been asked what is the difference between justice and vengeance.  There is a clear difference.  Justice punishes a wrongdoing as determined by the state and a jury (12) of the person’s peers. Vengeance is a personal action not supported by the laws of civilization.  If in the process of justice if the prosecution deems the crime not worthy of a capital sentence or even one person on the jury determines that the death penalty is not necessary the penalty reverts to life in prison.  This is the check and balance in our system. 

In the case of Jodi’s killer, I feel it would have been an injustice to Jodi to not sentence death.  The jury’s responsibility was to deal with the current laws (including the death penalty) and determine an appropriate penalty.  As Assistant Attorney General Vic Braden stated, “If this is not a death penalty case then what is…”  Jodi’s death was extremely cruel and not fast.  The death penalty is reserved for cases like hers.

The following are some of the question I have been asked recently regarding the death penalty debate in many states:

Do you think the death penalty works as a deterrent?

Probably not in the general public; however, I do feel it could be a deterrent for those already serving a sentence of life with no parole.  Our prison guards would be less protected without the death penalty in place.   What is to stop a prisoner from killing a guard without the death penalty?  After all, they are already serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole.

Do you think the execution of Jodi’s killer will bring you any closure?

No, I do not expect to find closure with the execution.  I find a little more closure every time the anti-stalking laws are strengthened in another state.  However, every time Justin Thurber (Jodi’s killer) delayed the hearings/trial Jodi’s friends and family were forced back into the steps of grieving.  With his execution I expect to find an “end.”  To clarify, Jodi’s friends and family can stop reliving the time Jodi was missing and focus on the positive of changing the laws and increasing stalking awareness.  Justin Thurber would no longer be in control as he has been since January 5, 2007 when he chose to murder Jodi.  He made the choices on that day.  Jodi did not.  Therefore, he now must abide by the consequences of his actions (under our laws). 

Would you witness the execution?

Yes, I would.  It is not something I would look forward to, nor is it something that would be easy.  However, I feel it is a necessary conclusion.  (The state of Kansas estimates it would be at least 15 years before Thurber is executed.)


What are your feelings on the studies that indicate the death penalty costs states more than a life in prison sentence?

One question back to the people who ask this question.  What is the price on the life of someone you care about? What was Jodi’s life worth that day?  The obvious answer is very little to Justin Thurber.  However, the studies that exist are not conclusive.  There are simply too many variables in each case.

What do you think about the prisoners on death row that have been later found to not be guilty of the crime?

I am not suggesting increasing the use of the death penalty as a sentence.  Currently, our society has utilized the death penalty in cases that include pre-meditation, death during the act of a sexual assault and the murder of law enforcement.  I am not suggesting this change.  Most death penalty cases are prosecuted with a combination of DNA evidence, eyewitness accounts and in the case of Jodi’s killer a last minute confession.  It is my opinion that the confession would not have come if Justin Thurber were not trying to save his own life.

What are your thoughts on the family of a death row inmate?

I am a big believer in that it is your responsibility as a parent to raise a child that contributes positively to society.  It is the parent’s responsibility to see any problems in their child and obtain help for them if necessary.  As a parent (or at least a good parent) I believe you know what your child is and is not capable of throughout his/her life.  Parents of death row inmates have failed the rest of us in society.  Not that they should be punished, but simply in my opinion they made their own choices (by not getting their child help) and must deal with the consequences as well.

In the case of Jodi’s killer.  Assistant Attorney General Vic Braden stated in his closing argument that Justin Thurber “brought his family in on this early on.”  If that is the case, his family knew Jodi’s fate while Jodi’s friends and family worried and searched for days.  They have continued to see Justin (albeit through prison bars) on his birthdays and holidays.  However, Jodi’s family has a picture of Jodi on those days.  A picture and memories of what Justin did to her that day….