Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Interesting death penalty case in Nevada

Posted by sanityinjection on September 21, 2009

The Las Vegas Sun reports that federal authorities face an interesting dilemma with respect to one Ronald “Joey” Sellers – whether or not to seek the death penalty against him.  Sellers was already in prison for life when he allegedly became the ringleader of a violent white supremacist gang called the Aryan Warriors, for which he is now facing federal murder and racketeering charges. (Note that while death penalty opponents always complain that the death penalty is applied disproportionately to blacks, Sellers is demonstrably white.)

A little more background: Nevada brought back the death penalty in 1976. In the last 20 years, only a dozen people have been executed and none of them were federal cases. So once again, death penalty opponents cannot reasonably claim that the death penalty is applied excessively or indiscriminately in Nevada.

So what’s the problem – should be a slam dunk, right? Well, perhaps, except for one small problem: Sellers is suffering from liver failure caused by hepatitis. If he doesn’t get a transplant, he will almost certainly die within three years’ time. However, Sellers’  brother and son have both offered half their livers in order to save him. That operation, though, would come at taxpayers’ expense.

This raises all kinds of questions. Instead of paying the costs of a death penalty prosecution with its endless appeals, why not just let Sellers die on his own? Well, you can’t, because you can’t deny him proper health care. Then again, does it make sense to spend the money to do a transplant on this guy just so the government can then have him in perfect health for his execution?

 Just to complicate things further, Sellers alleges he contracted the hepatitis from unsanitary conditions at the prison he was in.  Does that make it the state’s fault (and hence the state’s moral obligation to do the transplant)? Or is it Sellers’ fault for committing the crimes that put him in prison in the first place?

Ultimately, as irritating as it might be for taxpayers, I don’t see how you avoid giving Sellers the transplant if he’s got willing kidney donors. But I also don’t think having a nice new kidney should give Sellers immunity for the violent crimes he committed after being incarcerated. I hope that the feds go ahead with the death penalty regardless of the cost. I think that most Americans, while frustrated with the problems of the justice system, would be comfortable spending money to make sure the guilty are punished and the innocent protected.

Still, it’s a good example of how issues such as capital punishment are rarely simple.

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2 Responses to “Interesting death penalty case in Nevada”

  1. joshua place said

    That man is my dad and while I believe in paying for your crimes what if the accused was your father? Kiling someone is kiling someone weather your a judge or not its not right.

  2. Shelby Basham said

    I do not think you have the right to judge him based on the gossip of others. I have been talking to him for a short while now. He is funny and a nice person, if you too were talking to him you would not believe a nice person like him could commit crimes like that. It is different if you know the person especially if you are related.

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