There is a price to pay for everything we do in life.
It may cost us money, other opportunities, or a friendship.
It’s the way of nature. Every action has consequences no matter how trite. If you don’t water a plant, it will die. If you don’t clean your floors they will look filthy. If you don’t nurture a child, their heart will grow cold.
Often times it is years before the bill comes due for your action or inaction. Fail to save money and spend like a drunken sailor while charging so much that it would make the Light Brigade woozy and you will pay the price in retirement. If you mentor a child it can pay the world in a million ways down the road that you never dreamed possible.
Most of us accept the fact if we do something that is wrong we have to settle the bill.
It is why the lawyers for 45-year-old J.W. Ledford Jr. — who was legally put to death Wednesday to pay the price for a despicable act against civilization committed 25 years ago — are demeaning their argument against the death penalty.
It was bad enough they filed a lawsuit at the last minute demanding that the State of Georgia use a firing squad to execute Ledford instead of a lethal injection on the grounds the use of drugs constituted cruel and unusual punishment. That’s right. The lawyers argued there was a high risk the pentobarbital being used would not knock him out meaning he would feel pain while the lethal drug was doing its job. To say a firing squad — which isn’t a legal form of execution in Georgia is preferred — essentially argues there is no pain from bleeding out from a bullet.
The lawyers, though, topped that absurd argument a federal judge dismissed as an 11th hour stalling tactic. They argued that because Ledford was 20 years of age when he slaughtered his 73-year-old neighbor that he was not as culpable for his actions because his brain wasn’t fully developed.
They contend science asserts a man’s brain isn’t fully developed until after age 23, so the state was obligated to treat Ledford as a juvenile. That standard would mean he was less culpable for his actions like a juvenile would be under the law. Those who push such a liberal application of science to push their specific cause should be careful what they ask for. If it becomes the law of the land it would be justification for laws banning those under 23 from entering into contracts on their own, drinking, smoking, having abortions, voting and a whole repertoire of behavior that civilization deems needs to be reserved for adults.
In their blind zeal to torpedo the carrying out of a lawful death sentence, Ledford’s lawyers were employing situational ethics. Of course, lawyers are expected to represent the interests of their clients to the best of their ability and not the loftier concepts of civilization and justice.
That said, let’s look at the “woe is me” defense they employed in an unsuccessful bid to spare Ledford’s life.
Ledford admitted on Jan. 31, 1992 that he went to the home of Harry Johnston to ask for a ride to the store. The 73-year-old neighbor did not oblige him. Instead Johnston accused the 20-year-old of stealing from him and — according to Ledford — slapped him. Ledford responded by pulling out a knife and making continuous slices to the neighbor’s neck and left him to bleed out.
An act of rage or passion for being “dissed?” Not exactly. Ledford tied up Johnston’s wife, took money and four guns, and then stole the victim’s truck.
From virtually the moment he was arrested Ledford went into “woe is me” mode. He told the police his judgment was marred because he had numerous beers and smoked marijuana a few hours before that blurred his judgement leading him to kill.
Over the years he told a jury and parole board that he couldn’t be held 100 percent responsible for the killing because he abused alcohol and drugs from an early age, had intellectual disabilities, plus his childhood wasn’t a bed of roses. Perhaps he should have been honest and argued he had no soul, no respect for the life of others, and was no longer a child.
As long as the defenders of the death penalty pursue the excuse du jour in trying to stop executions, you’re never going to convince me the option of life without parole is a more palatable and even less expensive option.
The reason is simple. If you are willing to go all out to deploy the “woe is me” arguments to absolve first-degree murderers of having to pay the price for their actions, it isn’t a stretch at all to use the same zeal to chip away at life without parole once the death penalty has been abolished.
It’s a slippery slope that leads to not holding people like Ledford accountable for their actions on the premise it’s not their fault due to having a hang nail, a bruised ego, drinking booze and smoking pot, or being a 20-year-old with neither a fully developed brain or a fully developed soul.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.