Terminator or Vaccillator?
It’s election season again and make no mistake about it, capital punishment is the law in the majority of our “united states” and it remains a punishment that the federal government reserves for certain murderers. The urge to politicize the death penalty is something that reasonable persons should resist. Sometimes we fail.
Murderers are not usually in the habit of choosing their victims by their politics. They don’t ask for voter’s registrations. There are exceptions like the men who murdered the Kennedy brothers years ago. Some try to assassinate political types to gain attention (John Hinkley). And not executing a proven predator has it’s own set of consequences that are unique in every case, just as executing murderers on occasion does. None of these exceptions or conditions (alone or combined) makes politicizing capital punishment right. A jury should decide each case, and when executions are conducted the will of the jury (at the time of sentencing) is demonstrated.
Registered voters in 2004 are faced with one candidate that has an unwavering track record of support for capital punishment and another who has voiced only a tepid support for an occasional and deserved execution. George W. Bush as governor of Texas saw many executions and saw a few more as president. 1 John Kerry on the other hand has listened to persons who would halt executions while family members of victims endure the learning curve of lawyers who want to make sure capital punishment is dealt out fairly.
Whatever your feelings about executions and the appropriateness of capital punishment happen to be, you can’t be just a little bit for it or a little bit against it. Only lawyers would come up with means to measure murder in degrees or different kinds of so called “life sentences” (murder victims aren’t dead in degrees, they either are, or they aren’t). No legislator, law enforcement officer or presidential candidate can personally guarantee that once a murder is sentenced to “life” or “life without parole” that the murderer will never cause harm to others, escape or maybe murder again. So it’s no small wonder that the candidates don’t run on a simple platform that identifies them as either “for” or “against” the death penalty and just that. This year one could say that both candidates understand that executions are the law (but only one, Bush, has had a real opportunity to demonstrate his resolve on the issue). 2
Capital punishment is no tricky issue. You demonstrate your faith in the system when you exercise the will of juries. John Kerry seems to be playing for votes by saying he supports the idea of an occasional execution but also supports a halt to executions while persons review fairness or claiming that he supports executions of terrorists (but not murderers?). 3 He can’t have “this issue both ways” like he has tried to with others. Duplicity and evasiveness shouldn’t work in our courts and semantic disguises shouldn’t work in the court of public opinion. Voters deserve to know if a candidate is really “for” or “against” capital punishment. How long will Kerry deliberate on this issue or others? Should Kerry’s resolve to do what he thinks is right (whatever his position really is), be dictated by the number of votes it might get him at the polls? I don’t think so.
1.United States Bureau of Prisons,” Executions of Federal Prisoners Since 1927” , http://www.bop.gov/ipapg/ipaexechart.html
2.Texas Coalition to abolish the Death Penalty, “Executions Under George W. Bush”, http://www.tcadp.org/bush.html
3.Jeff Jacoby, ”
Friday, October 29, 2004
Terminator or Vaccillator?
More information about the process can be found at:
It’s striking how dismissive some columnists can be when they refer to lethal injection (a punishment for a heinous and brutal murder) as a “cocktail”. Steve Ford’s article on October 10th came dangerously close to crossing a line in terms of dismissing the families and friends of the real victims or little seven year old girls who are raped before their existence on this earth is permanently snuffed out. Do such persons care more for murderers than they do for victims or innocent lives that might still be in danger for as long as the murderer is allowed to live? This reader wonders about that sometimes.
Ford and other advocates for murderers on North Carolina’s death row seem obsessed with the protocol or the combination of drugs that are administered when executions are allowed to proceed. It’s a shame that the time and energy that these persons waste on saving proven murderers from some perceived (or imaginary?) pain isn’t spent on more useful things such as job creation or education. Perkins was in fact violent at times during his incarceration. Was Sammy Perkins or any of the other recently executed predators really worth Ford’s attentions? I guess only God knows now.
Why do the columnists and trial lawyers entertain such notions or state that the procedure “might be” cruel or unusual? Those who are executed certainly aren’t complaining! I’ve not seen Mr. Ford (or trial lawyers or any other persons/organizations that represent murderers) mention anything about what Lashenna "Jo Jo" Moore might have endured in her final moments compared to her murderer (Sammy Perkins) when he laid down on the gurney and “took a nap”. Where’s the fairness there? The terms “cruel or unusual” applies to the crime (murder), not the punishment (execution) and thank goodness the Supreme Court of the United States saw that, as did Governor Easley. Perkins’ execution resulted in justice. For those who take the time to read the constitution, murderers aren’t entitled to a “serene execution”.
Foes of lethal injection (like Ford) object to “the process” no matter how it is administered. One can easily see why such persons only find fault when the warden altered the North Carolina protocol to mirror other states. Obviously these persons never considered that the dosages administered during executions pretty much ensure that the murderer is already dead before the final drugs enter his system. If a lethal dose times ten is given with the new procedure and the old protocol delivered only half of that, the “honoree” at the execution would still be equally dead. I doubt Ford, the trial lawyers or other death penalty foes would consider lying down on the gurney for a “half dose” and not because “it might be painful”, but because the result is the same (a quick death).
Perhaps what upsets death penalty foes most about North Carolina’s execution protocol is not the fact that it mirrors other states today. It’s that they have “less to haggle about in court”, or elsewhere (in the media?) now that it’s not so different. That’s probably why death penalty foes don’t t take the warden for his word and what motivates them to fault the courts, when their point of view is overriden there.
Perkins committed at least 13 infractions during his incarceration including : ACTIVE RIOTER, SEXUAL ACT, PROFANE LANGUAGE, DISOBEY ORDER, FIGHTING, VERBAL THREAT, NO THREAT CONTRABAND, and GAMBLING. Obviously keeping such an inmate under close custody or even on death row did not slow Perkins down in terms of harming others or breaking laws.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
In a column published on October 28th, 2004, the News and Observer criticized Attorney General Roy Cooper for his decision to try Alan Gell a second time for the murder of Allen Ray Jenkins. The case ultimately resulted in exoneration after the second trial was conducted (with the benefits of new evidence and testimony that was withheld in the first trial). Attorney General Cooper’s decision to retry the case amounts to a display of his confidence in the system. It’s also worth noting that a jury made the final decision concerning Gell’s ultimate release from prison, not just one person (an Attorney General, prosecutor or a judge).
A jury’s decision should have more meaning for all of those involved. Many who advocate for condemned murderers didn’t consider that notion. Who at the N&O is more qualified to acquit Gell (or anyone else) that might be wrongfully convicted than a jury? It’s just as arguable that Cooper’s decision represented an opportunity for the system work the way that it should and that it did. Objective readers might have different views about actual innocence or guilt in that case, but the N&O's criticisms of Attorney General Roy Cooper concerning the Gell case are dead wrong.
More information about North Carolina's Attorney General Roy Cooper can be found at: