Crime and punishment

By Timothy Rollins
web posted December 18, 2000

The Dallas Morning News reported recently that the Texas death machine rolls on, recently executing its 38th, 39th and 40th prisoners of the year, thus breaking the 1998 record that was set when Karla Fay Tucker among others were put to death for their involvement in the ultimate crime. Yet their continues to be a hue and a cry going up from those opposed to capital punishment that such actions on the part of the state are extreme and only serve to lower us to their level – a statement and/or opinion with which I must respectfully disagree.

It is also said that the numbers of prisoners on death row across the country are disproportionately high for blacks and Hispanics. The number incarcerated may be high on that front, but the numbers of those executed certainly do not bear that out – that is, if 1999 was any yardstick by which to measure executions in America.

In an article in yesterday's Washington Post, it indicated that the tenure of prisoners on death row increased by 13 months on average last year. That is, they waited 13 months longer before they were executed as compared to the year before. In fact, all 98 inmates executed last year were men, including 61 whites, 33 blacks, two American Indians and two Asians. Texas also led the states last year with 35 prisoners executed, followed by Virginia with 14.

Ninety-eight prisoners executed in a year is the most in America since 1951, that being the year that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were electrocuted for selling atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, and the floodgate of executions in America will only increase as the appeals process on these animals exhaust themselves and the ultimate punishment is carried out in 38 states across the nation, not to mention the Federal Government and the Military.

One issue that has been legitimately raised is the DNA factor, a reason why Governor George W. Bush (R-TX) granted a 30-day postponement on one of the scheduled executions earlier this year. Illinois has gone one step further by issuing a moratorium on all executions statewide until they can take a closer look at sentencing guidelines and the establishment of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The reasonable doubt issue and/or the DNA factor has also caused Nebraska, Arizona, North Carolina, Maryland and Indiana to take a closer look at the imposition of the death penalty in those states as well. It seems that Illinois officials have high-profile egg on their faces for screwing up a number of death-penalty cases over the last number of years and they are seeking to use state funds for nobler purposes than damage control with its attendant seven-figure apologies.

It does stop repeat offenders
It does stop repeat offenders

With the increasing numbers of capital punishment cases being carried out in their finality, we have states executing people that while they had laws on the books, had not executed anyone in quite a long time. Ohio had its first execution last year since the Supreme Court reinstated it in 1976, and this year, Tennessee had their first in almost 40 years. The bottom line here remains that decent, law-abiding people are sick and tired of these animals being convicted of capital offenses and getting only a few years behind prison walls – a slap on the wrist for them and a slap in the face to the memories and families of their victims. As I have said on numerous occasions in the past, say what you want about the death penalty, but cultivating repeat offenders is not one of its inherent drawbacks. After all, it puts to a permanent end the criminal resumes of those convicted in a court of law of a capital offense.

The kind of murder that gets someone a trip to death row goes by different names in different states. In New York, it is Murder 1; in California, it is Murder 1 with special circumstances and in Texas, it is Capital Murder, among others. But it is not enough to end the criminal resumes unless the sentences are carried in their finality. If anything, the death penalty and its use and application should be broadened to include the following offenses in addition to murder charges at the capital level. The death penalty should be a sentencing option for the following crimes as well: Forcible rape, kidnapping, and child molestation. I say forcible rape in the sense that it takes something from the victim that in all likelihood will never be replaced, and that is peace of mind.

The same should also apply to kidnapping and child molestation, with this added bit as it pertains to molesters: I have been actively involved in the legal system in one capacity or another for almost 25 years, and the one inescapable truth I have come to is that pedophilia defies rehabilitation. This was evidenced most recently in Toronto, Canada, where a twice-convicted pedophile named Terry Whitmore was let out of a Toronto jail after serving a stretch for breaching the terms of his bail. It seems that he fled to Mexico rather than face the music for breaking bail. Anyway, the Mexicans sent him back, and he sat in jail and bided his time. How he survived in the joint as a not once, but twice-convicted child molester amazes even me, and I am not easily surprised. The fact that Whitmore refused treatment for his condition only served to reinforce my belief that he couldn't wait to get out and re-offend.

With his time served, he was free once again to roam and wander the streets. Normally, Canadians are docile creatures who are quick to say "BOHICA" when government takes action that isn't in their best interests – BOHICA means 'Bend Over, Here It Comes Again'. But this time, they fought back and fought like hell. Upon his release, police stashed him at an undisclosed location in the West End of town. A few days later, a little boy of about 10 or 11 walked by this house and saw what looked like a familiar face looking out the front window. Upon realizing it was Whitmore (who had been stashed at the home of a minister), the neighbors banded together and were successful in driving Whitmore out of their neighborhood.

Less than 30 days after his release, Whitmore was caught with an underage boy (13), and the conditions of his release were once again breached. He once again sits in jail – where he belongs – and awaits what is surely a new trial date and more taxpayer dollars going to prove to the world what anyone with half a brain has already figured out, and that is that the Crown Attorney up there lacks the guts to have Whitmore declared a dangerous offender - maybe this time, he will. This action if granted, will allow the government to keep Whitmore locked up indefinitely as an imminent risk to public safety, much like the Ken and Barbie schoolgirl killer Paul Bernardo, who will never again see life outside of prison walls. Say what you want about folks the likes of Whitmore and Bernardo, I believe that they should be put to death and not enjoying three meals a day at taxpayer expense, long with free housing, medical and dental as well free clothing and cable television.

So anyway you look at it, the death penalty serves a valid purpose in eliminating the worst of society's bad apples. And while they need to have appropriate safeguards and expedited but established appeals processes that do not allow a prisoner to spend over 20 years on death row before execution, we also need to expand the scope of offenses that qualify for the death penalty. The big four – murder, forcible rape, child molestation and kidnapping, are all crimes with extremely high recidivism rates that will not bring a sense of finality whether to the community at large or the families of those so affected unless an execution is effected.

There were laws on the books in the 1950's and early 1960's that kept crime in check to a large measure. It was not until the social experimentation with the judicial system and the institution of the bleeding heart liberal philosophies that brought about the skyrocketing violent crime rates that only recently began to go down as more prisons were built and more executions were carried out. Contrary to what some may think, the death penalty is a deterrent when you consider that murders are down in Texas, Virginia, Florida and Delaware – the four states that use the death penalty the most often.

Which when you look at the back-to-basics philosophy, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

© 2000 Timothy Rollins

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