Shawna Forde Sentenced To Death

What Women Really Think
Feb. 23 2011 12:15 PM

Shawna Forde Sentenced To Death

Few news items have provoked mixed feelings as strongly in me as learning that Shawna Forde was sentenced to death yesterday, after being convicted of a hate crime that's up there with the dragging death of James Byrd in Jasper and the killing of Matthew Shepard , though Forde's crime has, for some hard to discern reason, not received nearly the same levels of attention.  I'm torn, because I oppose the death penalty broadly, but I also believe that hate crimes and domestic terrorism are ideal crimes for maximum sentences that send the message to future would-be terrorists that they do not have community support.

With many crimes, the potential for severe sentences being a deterrent is questionable.  Most murderers already accept that they're operating outside of the law and the wishes of the community, and so being forceful about that fact doesn't seem like it would do much to change their minds about their behavior. But domestic terrorists are different.  Many of them believe that they do have community support behind them, and that most of the community is just cowed by political correctness from speaking out.  Certainly Forde believes this, positioning herself as a martyr by claiming she's oppressed as "a white, conservative, Christian woman."  Just like Scott Roeder, the man who killed Dr. George Tiller, Shawna Forde spent many years immersing herself in right wing subcultures, where she convinced herself that the community shared her beliefs and would support her actions.

Advertisement

Forde's beliefs were basically that Mexican immigrants are subhuman and deserve to be wiped out.  Certainly, one can see why she would think the community supported her--she lived and acted in Arizona, a state that has gone to extremes when it comes to anti-immigrant sentiment. Forde's racism led her to join the anti-immigrant vigilante group the Minutemen, and then spin off her own group, and then finally break into a house she selected because she didn't like that the family was Hispanic, and shoot everyone in the house on the pretense of stealing drugs to sell to fund her group. The mother, Gina Gonzalez, survived, but her husband Raul Flores and her 9-year-old daughter Brisenia Flores were killed.  There were no drugs in the house.

I don't like the death penalty, but it's critical that domestic terrorists are punished to the full extent of the law, because that sends the signal to future would-be terrorists that the community does not, in fact, support them.  Since they rely on the belief of community support to rationalize acts of terrorism, this can make a big difference in preventing crimes like these.  If only the maximum sentence across the land was life in prison without parole, and then I could support throwing the book at Shawna Forde without reservation.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 3:07 PM Everything Is a "Women's Issue"
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.