Texas death penalty too easily doled out
On Oct. 8, a 49-year-old man who was looking death in the eyes was able to walk away a free man.
According to the Houston Chronicle, in 2005, Manuel Velez was charged in the death of his girlfriend’s son, Angel — who passed away a day before his first birthday.
The Huffington Post said Velez was with the boy when he started struggling to breathe and sought help, but ultimately the child could not be saved. It was only a few weeks after the death that Velez became a person of interest, despite not having a history of violence, and he was sentenced to death row at the age of 40.
Angel’s mother — and Velez’s girlfriend — Acela Moreno was also found guilty of the child’s death and charged with capital murder; however, she agreed to a plea deal and was only required to serve five years of a 10-year sentence before being sent to Mexico.
Back in August, a judge granted credit to Velez for the nine years he served on death row and gave him the ability to be eligible for mandatory supervision. And on Oct. 8, Velez walked out.
One of Velez’s lawyers, Brian Stull from the American Civil Union’s Capital Punishment Project, strongly believed that Velez never committed the crime he was imprisoned for, said The Huffington Post.
“Manuel never belonged in prison, let alone on death row waiting to be executed,” Stull said. “He is indisputably innocent.”
Stull also went on to say that he believed the child’s mother played the upper hand in his death.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Moreno had a history of being abusive to her children, and Stull said he believed she should have been regarded as the main suspect to the tragedy.
“This is the story of an innocent man who went to death row because the entire system failed,” Stull said to the Huffington Post.
The death penalty isn’t black and white; it’s difficult to say death penalty should be legalized all over the country.
According to the Texas Death Penalty Law, capital punishment is legal in the state of Texas should the suspect have caused the death of another individual. However, the entire institution of capital punishment goes a lot deeper. Rather than generalizing every murderer as simply being deserving of the penalty, it should be required to take each case as it comes.
“I always find myself torn on whether the death penalty should be allowed,” said journalism senior Nikki Nduukwe.
“I think it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around taking someone’s life as a punishment for a crime, but then I think of the people who have done horrible, disgusting things. So when it comes to the death penalty I think the issue is so complex that it is hard to say yes or no.”
In Texas, the death penalty is reserved for those who have caused another’s death. If the system and the victim’s family want the perpetrator to suffer the consequences for the act he committed, the death penalty would not fulfill this.
“I think the death penalty is too easy of a way out for a criminal crime,” said accounting junior Christina Nguyen. “A life sentence in jail allows criminals to think upon their actions.”
Once the criminal is dead, he’s gone. It would be more beneficial to have him serve out a life sentence and, therefore, be properly punished for his crime.
However, there are a number of individuals who are beyond help, and the death penalty may be the only course of action for them. This can be said for individuals who have repeatedly committed the same crime or who are becoming an increasing danger to society.
Each case must be taken on its own, but with some individuals it’s easy to see that they have no chance in redeeming themselves and it would be better to put them out of their misery. Psychology junior Emma Coronado said she believes the system can remove the blood from its hands by keeping criminals locked up.
“There are people who are too evil to live,” Coronado said. “They’re dangerous and have insatiable lusts that are impossible for them or anyone else to control. That being said, I do believe in a higher power and that fate will take its course; whether it be during their lifetime or after it. I think they belong in high security places where there is no danger of escape.”
Velez was extremely lucky to walk away from capital punishment, which cannot be said for a number of individuals.
The death penalty is the most inhumane form of punishment, and the system does not have the right to decide whether or not a person should live. Despite being a highly controversial topic, the death penalty is not spoken about as much as other topics — which needs to change.
Opinion columnist Trishna Buch is a print journalism senior and may be reached at [email protected]