Debate of the Death Penalty

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….

One Response to Debate of the Death Penalty

  1. Jordan Fryhover says:

    My mother is cousins with Brian and Cindy Sanderholm. It was 2 days after my birthday when she told me that Jodi was missing, I never once thought that this could happen to such a good family. I’m grateful to know that Jodi is in a place where no one is every going to hurt her EVER again. She dances with the Angels. R.I.P. Jodi Sanderholm

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