Thursday, January 27, 2011

Death Penalty: To kill or not to kill, what's your stance?

The ultimate penalty for the ultimate crime?  An eye for an eye?  A justifiable punishment for those who have killed?  Is it state led homicide?  All questions only you as a person can answer.  The number of arguments is incalculable.  They vary from legality to religious beliefs.

35 of the 50 states have a death penalty.  There are approximately 3,260 Death Row inmates in the US.  61 of those are women.  46 inmates were executed in 2010, that’s down from 52 in 2009 and up from the 37 in 2008.  The state of Texas led the charge with 17 executions.  This is more than double the next highest state, Ohio, with 8.  There were 4 states with a death penalty that didn’t execute anyone last year.  Missouri was one of those states.  Indiana, South Carolina and Tennessee were the other three.  However, Missouri is 5th overall in executions since 1976 with 67.

Texas executed about 40% of its Death Row inmates and California only about 1%.  The comedian Ron White, I think says it best, “you kill somebody in Texas, and they will kill you back.”

On an average there are approximately 20,000 murders per year in the US.  There are approximately 15,000 arrests made.  About 14,000 in up in court and approximately 10,000 are convicted.  Of those 10,000 convictions, 3,000 are eligible to receive the death penalty.  Only about 115 get it.  The Grim Reaper will only visit approximately 45 of them.

Many will argue the death penalty is arbitrary.  I agree with that.  Each person that receives a murder conviction should get it.  That would take the arbitrary out of it.  Sounds harsh?  Harsh is what the convicted did to get to their present residence.

What about the innocent ones on Death Row?  There are a few, very few.  In the years of 1973-1999 there was an average of 3.1 exonerations per year.  During the years of 2000-2007 there has been average of 5 per year.  However, take this into consideration as well, of the 52,000 state prison inmates serving time for murder in 1984, approximately 810 of them had been convicted of murder prior and had killed 821 people following their previous murder conviction.  It is estimated that criminals free on parole or probation commit almost 85,000 violent crimes per year.  Back to the 821 people; 821 lives may not seem like many.  What if just one of those 821 was your child?

About 15% of those on Death Row had committed at least on additional murder prior to committing the murder that placed them on Death Row.  67% had prior felony convictions and 42% had active criminal justice status.  Do you see a pattern?  How many chances do they get?  How many chances did their victims get?

“Just put them in prison forever, that’s worse than death.”  Is it?  They have a place to sleep, hot meals and medical care.  They are still above ground and breathing.  The few Death Row inmates I have had contact with, the thought of the Last Walk, being strapped onto the gurney and the little prick in the arm terrifies them.  Ted Bundy taunted everyone about not being afraid to die.  It all changed when the guards came and had to drag him out of his cell.  How many defense attorneys do you hear arguing for their client to receive the death penalty because life in prison is worse?

Many will argue the death penalty is not a deterrent.  I think if it was enforced across the boards it would be.  Maybe it wouldn’t be.  I can with 100% certainty say there has never been one case in history been a repeat offender after an execution.  It may not deter, but it will remove murderers from society.

It is cheaper to put them in prison than to execute them.  This is where the system is flawed.  We allow the millions of dollars in legal fees for the appeals to ensure the rights of our biggest human rights violators are treated fair.  This is where I throw the Bullshit flag.  The average stay on Death Row is a little over 14 years.  One appeal, maybe.  These people are convicted beyond a shadow of a doubt right?

We have a convicted murderer from here in Jefferson County, Carmen Deck who is an example of cheating the Reaper.  Deck has had numerous appeals from numerous reasons.  The outcome has always been the same, death.  How many appeals are there?

I guess the most prominent argument is it is cruel and unusual punishment.  I here throw my 2nd Bullshit flag.  I follow that with, 1st “who  cares” and 2nd “are you kidding me?”  If you are being strapped into the chair or onto the gurney, you have done something really bad to be in this position.  I don’t care if you hurt or not.  Lethal injection is about as humane of way to check out that I can think of.

In 1999, the execution of Allen “Tiny” Davis in Florida’s electric chair brought national media attention to executions.  Davis suffered a nose bleed and burns on his head, leg and groin area during his execution.  His post execution pictures are all over the internet.  I admit they are rough to look at.  These pictures and reports of his injury threw the cruel and unusual punishment argument into full speed.  Before everyone who opposes the death penalty jumps up with that Perry Mason “a-ha” moment; let’s look at what Davis did to end up in this position.

17 years earlier (yes 17 years), while on parole for armed robbery, he broke in to the Weiler home.  He encounters the woman of the home, Nancy Weiler.  Davis beats her almost beyond recognition with a .357 Magnum pistol.  He beat her until the trigger guard, wood grips and metal frame of the gun broke.  Oh, I forgot to mention she was 3 months pregnant.  Davis was just getting started.  He then tied up the Weiler’s 10 year old daughter, Kristy, and shot her in the face.  Twice.  The remaining child, 5 year old Kathy (who was the same age as my youngest daughter right now) tried to run and escape.  Davis shot her in the back and then beat her, crushing her skull.

So I ask, was it cruel to execute Davis?  Obviously it was a rough ride when he rode the lightning, this according to the pictures.  I would be willing to bet the crime scene pictures from inside the house would be worse.  Do you really care if it was cruel for him?  I don’t.

You kill someone; you forfeit your right to live.  You made the choice to pay the quarter to get on the ride.  Don’t bitch about the ride.  I couldn’t care less if your ride is a little bumpy.  Yet, Protestors will come from all over to defend and try to block the execution of an Allen Lee Davis.  They cry for his rights and hold candle light vigils.  What about the Weilers?  What about their rights?  Think of the horrors those little girls went through.  Think of 5 year old Kathy running for her life.  The state of Florida got it right, Davis will never kill again.

Many will say only God has the right to judge.  I agree.  I guess I think of it as a travel service and we are expediting the trip so the face to face judgment can occur.

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