Friday, November 18, 2011

The Death Penalty and Our Screwed Up Justice System

In the immortal words of Richard Milhouse Nixon, “Let me make this crystal clear...”

I am not opposed to the death penalty.  There are people in this world that, by their own actions, have proven themselves to be sufficiently evil to warrant being taken to a convenient location and, with all due ceremony, shot to death.  Their remains should be cremated and the ashes disposed of in a secret location so as to help prevent some twisted form of hero worship or equally despicable martyrdom.  What I object to is the current process, from beginning to end.

My objections are best illustrated by the recent execution of Oba Chandler and the sentencing to death of Anthony Sowell, both cases being so screwed up by our system of injustice that it seems incredible.

A crime or crimes that warrant the death penalty is difficult to define, unless you use the good old Potter Stewart definition for pornography, “I know it when I see it.”  For a crime to be punishable by death, a dozen or so above average adults have to be able to point to the situation and declare the crime punishable by death.  By above average, I mean far and away above average, and I'm talking about intellectually, spiritually and morally.  This leaves most legislators in the dust.  For all I know, this criteria leaves all politicians scrabbling around in the dust trying vainly to find the right direction to the finish line, but I'm in danger of digressing here.  So assemble one or two dozen of these people and show them the crimes, and if they all individually agree that, yes indeed, anyone who could commit such a crime should be sentenced to death, then the ponderous wheels of the justice machine can be reattached to the wagon and we'll move right along to phase two: competence.

I think it's morally repugnant and a crime to execute a mental incompetent.  Being mentally competent the perpetrator must be legally sane and have average or better intelligence.  Taking the legal definition of sanity first, even if the criminal is mentally ill, and many of them are, the criminal must be able to tell the difference between right and wrong.  If, for example, the criminal believes he was forced into killing someone because of a secret mission he was assigned by the C.I.A. and so the killing was justified, the death penalty comes off the table.  I would also stipulate that this evaluation must be performed on the accused while he is in an unmedicated state.  A mentally ill person can be arrested and medicated against their will before trial, thus providing the justice system with a relatively sane person.  This is unacceptable.

Likewise I would not execute anyone who's right at home on the short bus.  The accused must have an IQ that is greater than 84, meaning the accused is of average or better intelligence.  Anyone with an IQ below 84 on the Terman's Stanford-Binet Fourth Revision Classification IQ Reference Chart is classed as dull, slow or on a par with an average elected official.  That's a shot at many (not all) elected officials and I hope they are offended.  The argument here is that the criminal might be smart enough to know the difference between right and wrong and to plan the crime or escape detection, but he is considered dull or below average.  People like this are extremely easily influenced or manipulated, so I would error on the side of caution.  It's better not to execute someone who is not the sharpest knife in the drawer than to kill him and satisfy society's thirst for vengeance.

If the crime and the criminal passes these three tests, is processed through the justice system, is found guilty as homemade sin by a jury of his peers (which is a joke that I'll get started on later, thanks) and is summarily sentenced to death by Hizonner, Hangin' Harry Highminded, a confirmation hearing must occur, and it must be staffed by individuals that have had little or nothing to do with the first trial.  My reasoning here is that the criminal is going to be executed, so there's a considerable amount riding on the outcome.  Relax the rules of evidence for the defense, give the accused the benefit of the doubt and put intelligent, well educated and even tempered people in the jury box.  The confirmation hearing must review the trial, all the evidence presented at trial, evidence excluded from the trial, interview all the witnesses and eventually arrive at a verdict which can be anything from not guilty, guilty but not sentenced to death and guilty with the death sentence intact.  If the confirmation hearing ends with the same verdict as the first, then the execution can be scheduled and the normal appeal process started.

We need the appeal process.  Without appeals the justice system will be even more screwed up than it already is.  The problem is that appeals take too long, but that's easy to fix.  In the case of a death sentence, move the criminal to priority one.  We the People are paying for this.  We pay the police to separate our neighbors when they start a glorified World Wide Wrestling Federation championship on the front lawn at 3:00 AM, we pay them to deal with Shaniqua and Tyrone when they park the family SUV in our driveway and object to the idea of moving it at 7:00 AM on Monday morning when we have to go to work and earn a living, and we pay them to bust the bad guys.  What we the people are forgetting is that we also pay for the court system in its entirety.  This is the same system that allows an arrogant, ill-willed Judge to ignore a death penalty case until such time as it becomes convenient for his sweet, noble fat ass to hear it.  That must change, right along with the prioritization of both attorney's calendars – meaning both prosecutor and the public defender can rearrange everything until this death penalty case is appealed and the appeal is either accepted and the case retried or it's denied, in which case the process continues... but with a difference.  The case must continue at priority one.  That means we the people have a zero tolerance for wait time.

So what about Oba Chandler and Anthony Sowell?  You can look at the Chandler case here, here and here.  They say that Chandler invited a mother and her two daughters out on his boat to watch the sunset from the middle of Tampa Bay (Florida).  Chandler stripped each girl from the waist down, raped them, tied a cinder block to the neck of each girl and pushed them into the water, one at a time, while they were still alive.  The youngest girl was 14 years old.  The crime is heinous enough, Chandler passes both the IQ test and the insanity test, but here's the problem: In everything I've read about the case, there is no evidence that states that these three women were with Chandler on his boat at any time.  The prosecution cannot, in any way, put Chandler and the three victims together out on the water.  That's a reasonable shadow of doubt in my opinion.  Yet Chandler was sentenced to death on November 4, 1994, and finally executed on November 15, 2011.  That's seventeen (17) years spent on death row, which is cruel and unusual to everyone concerned.  If we're going to execute someone, and make no mistake that it is we the people who are funding the execution, then let's get the job done in a reasonable amount of time.  Personally, I believe that one year is too long, but given the state of our system today I'd settle for one year on the outside.  Furthermore, if the State can't bring a case to trial in one year, the prisoner gets released back into society, his record should be completely erased and he be given a hungry lawyer that specializes in constitutional rights lawsuits – let him sue the judge for violating his constitutional rights.  My final complaint about the Chandler case is that if Chandler actually was guilty, which I doubt, this murder would not have been his first.  I think it's likely that this crime is the work of a serial killer who may well be still on the loose.

By way of contrast, Anthony Sowell is a serial killer.  Again, the crimes are sufficiently heinous (and numerous) to warrant the death penalty.  The man passes the IQ test and the sanity test.  Sowell couldn't possibly get any guiltier than he already is, but the cost of the trial exceeded $1,000,000 – that's one million United States dollars – just to prove that Sowell is guilty of murder and should be executed.  Now the appeal process has started, which will take even more time and cost even more money.  This man is a serial killer without any shred of remorse.  What else would we the people do except execute him, and by that I mean tomorrow or the next day at the latest.

Our society is made up of a nice cross section of people, which is a good thing.  That is, until it comes down to doing a nasty, dirty job.  Then society gets pared down to a manageable size.  Take execution, for instance.  We've tried the hangman's noose, the electric chair, the gas chamber, the firing squad and lethal injection.  The only method that the namby-pamby public has the stomach for is lethal injection, and that, if I may say so, is absolutely one of the stupidest ideas ever to come out of Moonbat heaven.  Execution isn't supposed to be pretty; it's supposed to be as infallible as we can make it, and it should be quick.  Now, to the best of my knowledge, no one has survived a firing squad.  The firing squad requires very little by way of specialized equipment, there has never been a shortage of volunteers and the success rate is 100%.  If we wanted to get ceremonial and complex about the firing squad, we could, but I think that would be something of a waste.  Just put the target up in front of a back stop, make sure the squad is locked and loaded and give the old ready, aim, fire command.  That's it.  Done deal.

Our justice system is as screwed up as our economy, and I don't see it getting any better.  Certainly the legislators don't want to change it.  Some of the attorneys might, but they'll be shouted down and incarcerated by the judges.  Meantime Chandler was executed and Sowell might not be executed; but if he is, it'll cost a whole lot more money.

As an aside, some years ago Main Lady and I were at a New Year's Eve party with a few friends and a bunch of other people I'd never met.  Friends of friends, that kind of thing.  We were at a nice restaurant, and I was seated next to a local judge, one who presided over an Ohio obscenity case involving Playboy magazine.  It was the worst evening of my life.  The man sprayed saliva and food particles whenever he talked, and he had a lot to say.  His numerous opinions were uninformed and stupid.  He was a crass and odious person.  The frightening part was that this miscreant served on the bench for a long time before retiring.  We have no defense against this idiot, and we should.


Unknown said...

Good start. That's just the tip of the iceberg...

I too, believe that the death is an appropriate punishment for some crimes, but in this country its application is an obscenity. If we can't be bothered to do it right, we shouldn't be doing it.

Unknown said...

I may not agree with all you say, but you have certainly said it well.

Mad Jack said...

Thanks TLM. I wouldn't expect everyone to agree with my rants - I'm surprised when anyone actually does agree.

Mad Jack said...

Thanks Suz. I originally intended to write a few paragraphs and the stupid thing kept growing. I think I could write a book on this subject.

Momma Fargo said...

Great post, Jack. I don't agree with everything you have said, but you made good arguments.

Being in the justice system...I want to point out one thing. It is overcrowded with good and ridiculous cases. It does take a year or longer to bring a homicide trial to fruition. Part of that is the flood of cases that overload the system. It is also up to the defense to have a speedy trial or delay it as they see fit...most often. Sometimes the prosection may also need more time. In our system...the delays most often come from the defense needing time to put on a good case and do their work.

I think the death row wait is really long also...but maybe it is a checks and balances for those that still want to defend themselves with appeal.

Our system is far from perfect.