In Illinois it takes 12 jurors to unanimously recommend the death penalty in order for that sentence to be imposed. One juror chose to spare the life of Juan Luna, convicted of multiple murder at a Brown’s Chicken store in the Chicagoland area.While we may never know the motives of the holdout, unless she decided to come forward, I want to applaud her conscious choice in withholding her vote to put this convicted killer to death.
Luna proclaims his innocence. He was convicted on circumstantial physical evidence. If there is one chance in 10,000 that the conviction is in error and Luna’s claims are, in fact, true then it is clear that life in prison is the proper course of punishment.
Every life, including that of the convicted, is sacred and worthy of being saved. To do otherwise, to sanction state murder, is not justice. It is vengeance. The death of the convicted murderer will not bring back the lives he took. It will not fill the hole left in the heart of the families of the victim. And, then there is the ever so slight possibility that we were wrong in convicting Juan Luna.
No, the proper punishment is to spend the rest of his life in prison, eating cardboard food, fearing for his safety around each and every corner, sleeping with lights on and guards staring at his every movement. He is 33 years old. He has a long time to think about what he did.
The families of the victims were split. The daughters of the slain owners of the Brown’s Chicken store took a strong stand against the imposition of death for Luna.
The Ehlenfeldt sisters, whose parents were both killed that night, had earlier taken a stand against the death penalty.
“We respect the decision,” said Jennifer Shilling, one of three daughters of restaurant owners Richard Ehlenfeldt, 50, and his wife, Lynn, 49. “At 33, Luna will spend the rest of his natural life in a maximum-security correctional facility where he will only know the sterile routine of a convicted felon.”