Randy Weeks

Published on September 21st, 2023 | by Randy Weeks


The View From The Balcony: “Danelo Cavalcante: Animal or Human?”

Danelo Cavalcante is the convicted murderer who escaped from a Pennsylvania prison recently and evaded capture for two weeks. Law enforcement carried out a grueling search that tested their endurance and tenacity but proved successful in the end. Minutes after Cavalcante was apprehended a group of about two dozen law enforcement professionals dressed in tactical gear posed for a picture with him front and center. This has led to a debate about the appropriateness of such action. Should the picture have been taken or not?

A little background…
Cavalcante left Brazil, escaping to the United States in 2018. He began a romantic relationship with Deborah Brandao, a Brazilian woman who had immigrated to the United States. When the relationship ended he stabbed Brandao 38 times in front of her children (aged 4 & 7), killing her, fearful that she would let authorities know he was still wanted for murder in Brazil.

Cavalcante was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life imprisonment in Pennsylvania.
Cavalcante is guilty of the crime by his own admission. Sources report that he said he knew he would have to pay for his heinous actions, but that he wasn’t going to pay with his life. He is clearly a significant threat to society and must remain behind bars to protect the public from more monstrous violence. I have no argument with that. What I do question is the dynamics behind taking a trophy photo of another human being, captured like a wild animal.

Many will say that Cavalcante’s crimes show that he is no more than an animal, ergo, he should be treated as such. If that’s the case, why wasn’t he shot dead, strung up, skinned, and gutted like a deer? Why not send his body to a taxidermist and hang him—at least his head—at local law enforcement HEADquarters? Because we are above that—or are we?

I have a good friend who is a prisoners’ rights attorney. I’ve heard him speak about the inhumane and horrid conditions in most of America’s prisons. Most prisons in the South don’t have air conditioning. That fact sets up inmates for heat stroke and death, especially when there are contributing medical factors. Would you put your dog or cat in such conditions? The ASPCA would be all over you in a second!

Most people who are incarcerated will one day be released. If we treat them like animals while they’re in prison, how can we expect them to behave otherwise once they are free?
We live in a country that many call a “Christian nation.” I defy anyone to prove that degrading and demeaning anyone—even a convicted murderer—is consistent with the teachings of Jesus, who forgave his own murderers, even while he himself was dying.

Ultimately my stance in this case is about the dehumanization of wrongdoers. The photographing of two dozen law enforcement officers with their captured prey is a slippery slope. There’s plenty of video coverage of Cavalcante after his apprehension that was neither staged nor planned. The picture in question was. There was no need for it. The desire for it was rooted (unconsciously for some) in pride and self-justified vengeance. But I understand how, in the heat of the moment, following the exhausting search for a known killer and prison escapee, it could happen. After all, we’re only human, right? Well, like it or not, Danelo Cavalcante is only human, too.

As Sgt. Phil Esterhaus (played by Michael Conrad) would say after every roll call of police officers in the 1980’s television series NYPD Blue, “Let’s be careful out there.”
Let’s be careful, indeed.
…and that’s the view from The Balcony.

Randy Weeks is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Certified Shamanic Life Coach, an ordained minister, a singer-songwriter, and an actor. He makes no apologies for the views he’s expressed in this article. Randy may be reached at randallsweeks@gmail.com.

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About the Author

Randy Weeks is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Certified Shamanic Life Coach, an Ordained Minister, a Singer-Songwriter, and an Actor, who lives in Oxford, Mississippi. He may be reached at randallsweeks@gmail.com.

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