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America's Oldest Death Row Inmate Dies of Natural Causes

The oldest death row inmate in the United States, Viva Leroy Nash, died of natural causes last Friday at age 94. His criminal record, which...

The oldest death row inmate in the United States, Viva Leroy Nash, died of natural causes last Friday at age 94. His criminal record, which included a handful of armed robberies and murders, dated back to the 1930s. He was sentenced to death in 1982. His lawyers had been delaying the execution with a series of appeals for the last 28 years.Once all the appeals were tallied, Ted Bundy's nine years on death row cost the public $5 million. The tab for Nash's 28 years on death row must have been in the millions as well. And the public paid for it all, the prosecutors and public defenders both. Given his age, the state of Arizona probably spent tens of thousands more on health care for Nash over the last 10 years as well.Imagine if Arizona had managed to execute Nash a day before his natural death. Would society have gained anything beyond a symbolic justification for the ridiculous expense of the legal process? I'd say no. According to his lawyer, Nash was "deaf, mostly blind, mentally ill and had dementia" at the time of his death. It's unclear if that's true, but he certainly wasn't any sort of threat to society. And executing a decrepit 94-year old is hardly a deterrent to young potential criminals.And yet, most Americans are still in favor of capital punishment.


This support for the death penalty comes from a base desire for retribution that is saddling taxpayers with incredible costs and only distracts us from the worthwhile purposes of punishment: deterrence, protecting society, and rehabilitation.
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