[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----MD., OHIO
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jan 4 18:41:53 CST 2006
Thoughts on the death penalty
To the editor:
As I read the recent flurry of letters regarding the death penalty, one
very important point kept coming to mind which, unless I missed something,
was not addressed: many of these murderers do not work alone.
Far too often, the same public officials to whom the general public has
surrendered the authority and power to protect them from dangerous
criminals will, in fact, side with the latter at the expense of the
former, becoming, in effect, their sponsors or silent partners.
Thus, the lesson these people learn is not that crime doesn't pay but that
they are above the law and can do anything they want.
So, when the opportunity arises to kill someone, it's nave to think they
will pause to remind themselves that there is a death penalty and they
might be executed for the act.
They've gotten away with so many other things before; why not this as
Here are a few examples, to illustrate my point:
Long before they began roaming the halls of Columbine High School,
assassinating teachers and fellow students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold
made it clear to local authorities that they were an accident waiting to
In the 2 years leading up to the shootings, the 2, both individually and
together, had at least 15 "contacts" with the police and were frequently
in trouble with school authorities.
The police had also received numerous complaints about the 2 but did
nothing, effectively giving them the "go ahead" for their shooting spree.
A few years ago in Centreville, Md.,3 police officers were sent to a
mobile home to investigate a noise complaint. The resident, Francis Zito,
who had a long history of charges involving violent behavior, had recently
been released from prison after serving time for assaulting his mother
and, according to his defense attorney, was known throughout Centreville
as the man who talks to garbage cans.
As the policemen tried to enter the trailer, after being given permission
to do so by Zito's mother, who lived across the street, they were greeted
by several shotgun blasts.
One officer died immediately; a 2nd, soon afterwards. Later, the mother of
one of the slain officers was quoted as saying: "Frank Zito pulled the
trigger that killed my son. But perhaps the system helped him load it."
My 3rd example didn't involve murder, but, given the nature of the case,
it may just as well have.
About a year-and-a-half ago, a man who admitted abusing about 300 boys
during his "career," and was on probation for related offenses in Florida,
was released from the Arlington County jail on $3,000 bond.
Before his release, he warned the judge: "I am strongly attracted to
males. If I walk out this door and a young boy is standing there and I'm
around, it's all over."
The judge let him go anyway. It was not until he did not appear for his
court date that the police realized he had fled the country to Guatemala.
Fortunately, he was recaptured and jailed before he had the opportunity to
fulfill his promise to the judge, but this was a direct result of his own
act of skipping bail, not through any preventative action by the courts.
I'm sure there have been spouses who decided against killing their
partners because they were afraid they might be found out and put to
death, and the executions of brutal murderers do sometimes provide a
needed catharsis to the families of their victims, but in these examples
above, and in many other cases, the existence of the death penalty did
absolutely nothing to deter these killers.
In fact, by creating the illusion that there is a meaningful process in
place to deal with capital crimes, the incentive to do something realistic
about them does not exist.
If there are already laws in place, it only stands to falsely reason that
there is no problem and no point in trying to fix something that's not
In theory, under our form of representative government, it is the role of
elected officials to write laws that protect the general public from those
who intend it harm and to see that these laws are effectively implemented.
In reality, the priorities and energies of our elected officials seem to
be directed more toward personal, parochial matters than they are toward
ensuring the safety of their constituents.
The social issues and problems that the death penalty and other
punishments are intended to resolve are complex. What is needed is a set
of legal, institutional and social solutions that intercept these people
early in their careers, before an innocent person is seriously harmed or
Moreover, these solutions need to be made ironclad against the many types
of abuse and misuse they will invite. It requires a great deal of time,
effort and thought to understand this complexity and come up with workable
solutions that are suited to the real nature of these issues.
But why waste valuable time doing all this work when, for too many of our
lawmakers, the real priority seems to be preparing for their real jobs,
the ones they will accept when they are again private citizens.
While politicians are making empty threats against people who believe they
are outside the law, our schools have been turned into high-security
zones, policemen are still being killed for just doing their job, and
people who have made it clear through a lifetime of violent acts that they
will eventually kill someone are allowed to roam unchecked until they
accomplish this task.
Justice may then be served and the murderer executed but someone will
first have had to die without reason. Something is very wrong with that
kind of justice.
Robert Wessel -- Onancock
Death penalty clemency cases in Ohio
A look at clemency for death row inmates in Ohio:
- 1965: Former Gov. Michael DiSalle, moved by the clemency decisions he
made in office, writes a book titled, "The Power of Life or Death."
-1991: Gov. Richard Celeste spares 7 death row inmates 2 days before
-1999: Ohio resumes executions and inmates begin appeals to the state
parole board for clemency.
-2003: Gov. Bob Taft sets aside the death sentence of Jerome Campbell, a
Cincinnati man convicted of fatally stabbing a man who'd befriended him,
over concerns about evidence presented to the jury. -2005: Condemned
inmate Willie Williams instructs his lawyer, a state public defender, not
to request clemency.
Supreme Court upholds conviction, sentence
The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the murder conviction and death
sentence of a man who allegedly helped kill a woman's ex-husband to
collect insurance money.
Nathaniel Jackson, 33, was convicted in the 2001 shooting death of Robert
Fingerhut of Trumbull County. Fingerhut's former wife, Donna Roberts, also
was convicted in the shooting and is 1 of 2 women on Ohio's death row.
Jackson's lawyers tried at his trial to suppress a statement he gave to
police. The unanimous ruling agreed with the trial court, which ruled that
Jackson had been advised of his right to remain silent and waived that
Jackson said he was not provided an attorney, but the court said he never
explicitly asked for one.
He also claimed that prosecutors should have not been allowed to argue
that Jackson was not mentally ill, but the trial court ruled that it was
allowed because the defense had raised the mental health issue in the
first place. Fingerhut was shot in the head after arriving home from work.
Prosecutors said Jackson and Roberts were having an affair and Fingerhut
was killed so they could collect a $550,000 insurance policy on
(source for both: Associated Press)
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