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In response to Lauren Konkol’s recent column, “James Holmes deserves the death penalty,” emotionally, I can understand why Konkol believes that James Holmes should die for the hideous crimes he committed.

However, Holmes is severely mentally ill and schizophrenic. He does not have the ability to interpret reality normally. I believe it is highly immoral for anyone to suggest execution for mentally ill people who do not understand the consequences of their actions.

If Holmes had received death, his victims’ families would have been sentenced to decades, if not a lifetime, of enduring a long and tortuous appeals process and having to re-live that horrific experience over and over again. How is that justice?

In her commentary, Konkol said, “It is imperative that we take responsibility for protecting Americans by dealing the deserved punishment, which in this case, was indisputably a sentencing to death row.”

If the threat of capital punishment actually did act as a deterrent, and if it actually did make us safer by “protecting Americans,” there wouldn’t be such high murder and violent crime rates in the biggest death penalty states. Clearly, the death penalty is ineffective.

It is also inefficient, costing much more than the alternative of life without the possibility of parole. But far worse than that is giving a government — that often gets things wrong — authority over matters of life and death. Why should I trust the government to handle the death penalty properly when I don’t trust it to deliver the mail properly?

The reality is that less than 10 percent of all death penalty cases have DNA and other physical and forensic evidence. That blew my mind. It made me wonder how many innocent people are in prison or on death row. We already know that more than 150 people have been set free from death row for being wrongfully convicted. Our state of Florida leads the nation in death row exonerations with 25 to date.

Another startling discovery for me was learning that Florida remains one of only three states to not require a unanimous jury verdict when sentencing a person to death. That is simply inexcusable when someone’s life is on the line.

It’s all about education. When people are educated about alternatives to the death penalty, such as life without possibility of parole, I think it makes people turn away from capital punishment. It means we don’t have to risk killing innocent people, we don’t have to make murder victims’ families suffer through a prolonged legal process and we don’t have to waste endless amounts of money for nothing in return.

I urge my fellow UCF students to research capital punishment and to think critically instead of just emotionally. We don’t need the death penalty to protect society. And we should not give the power to kill to an inherently fallible government.

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Brittany Turner is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.

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