The death penalty is absurd in the 21st century.
In a country founded on “give me liberty or give me death,” the ultimate punishment is contrary to our own stated belief system. Clearly, the depravation of liberty is a far more severe penalty than a quick death—not to mention the excessive costs of maintaining Death Row.
These glaring inconsistencies aside, the state of California retains the option for capital punishment. And the recent conviction of Antolin Garcia Torres, for the horrible murder of Sierra LaMar, has all the requisites for its implementation. The evidence against Garcia Torres was overwhelming.
New technology and DNA matches has left no reasonable doubt in the minds of law enforcement, the jury and the public at large. The Sheriff’s Office collected the evidence and the District Attorney’s Office laid out the evidence for the jury. Case closed.
But there is one major factor missing. There is no corpus delicti—in fact, the search goes on for the girl’s body. In the past, this lack of evidence alone has led to acquittals. With new science, however, comes new results.
DNA matches can prove a person’s guilt without the need for a body, no matter how distressing to the victim’s loved ones. The family and friends of Sierra still grieve and she deserves to be put to rest.
In this regard, Torres can save himself, while offering some solace to Sierra’s family and the community. It is not redemption—that can never occur. But if Torres were to come clean and tell authorities where Sierra is located, it would be a sign of him taking responsibility and offering some compassion to his victim and her family.
It might even keep Garcia Torres from the death penalty, though I’m not sure a “deal” would be cut for his cooperation. At this point, his best choice is to simply do the right thing, which, given his crime, might be beyond his capacity. But self-preservation is a huge incentive. If Garcia Torres wants compassion, he may want to show some contrition and remorse.
Otherwise, a jury seems unlikely to show the same to him. And then we will all carry the stain.