Some guy was sentenced to death yesterday for murdering a Philly cop who walked in on an armed robbery. I've got no special brief for criminals and especially anyone who shoots someone whose job it is to stop knuckleheads like him, but as I get older I have less and less stomach for capital punishment. The local media seemed very eager to see this guy on death row. It just seems bizarre to me to think that killing someone is somehow more just and is going to make the victim's family and the public feel better, and that life in prison with no possibility of parole would be a gift to the murderer.
The jury deliberated for less than an hour before deciding to impose the death penalty. I'm very big on juries' ability to do their jobs in a fair and impartial way, and try to push back against people who criticize juries' decisions. But deciding whether someone lives or dies in less time than it takes some people to eat lunch? This tells me they didn't bother to actually re-read the jury instructions and deliberate. They had, either as a group or individually, decided in advance that the sentence was death.
Of course, in a blue collar town like Philly, you can't expect the decision to come out differently when a cop is murdered. But I do expect people to take the job of juror seriously, and to do it the right way. They owe that duty to the victim's family, the defendant and his family, and the court. They also owe it to themselves. In this case, there was no rush. It was mid-day when they went into the room. Either way the jury came out, life or death, it was a decision they would have to live with for the rest of their lives. I do, because I have served on a death penalty jury. If I could have advised them, I would have told them to take their time. I think that they're going to regret that they didn't.
The flip side of the general pro-cop attitude in Philly is that bad cops get away with too much. This past Saturday, an off-duty cop with a history of repeatedly flying off the handle and waving his gun around charged into a fight in the street outside his house to break it up. Witnesses say he was drunk. At some point, the cop claims he was attacked and fired his gun in self-defense. He shot and killed an unarmed 21-year-old neighbor who was also trying to break up the fight. Despite that, the cop is free and, while he's under investigation, I don't expect him to be charged with anything. If a civilian had done what he did, he'd be in jail on a murder charge, no question. It's double standard in this town, with one law for cops and another for everyone else.