Malvo: Justice Not Vengeance

USA Today correctly notes in an editorial that John Lee Malvo's life sentence in the sniper case reflects justice, not vengeance. Try as they might, prosecutors trying to blame the verdict on a sympathy factor borne of the holidays, are wrong. The jurors affirmatively stated the holidays never entered their discussions:

Plainly, capital punishment is a crapshoot. Across the nation — even within aggressive death-penalty states such as Virginia — juries, prosecutors and judges apply it in an arbitrary fashion. This reflects the public's abiding equivocation, which often produces the erratic application of justice and, in some cases, death sentences for those who have been wrongly convicted.

In Malvo's trial, jurors landed on the more appropriate alternative — life without parole. No risk of mistaken execution. No risk of release. Indeed, one pro-death juror said she changed her mind because she believed that spending 60 to 70 years behind bars was a harsher sentence.

That's not exactly the Christmas spirit. But it shows how even those who endorse the death penalty can find comfort — even vengeance — in a sentence that ensures certain punishment and avoids uncertain justice.

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