Tag Archives: Death-Row

My Death Sentence

Hi, my name is Bob.  I grew up in a country and a time where the death penalty was the acceptable punishment for taking a life.  I had no reason to question this law, not even when I saw others do so.  It did not pertain to my life.  Murderers and rapists deserved to be removed from society permanently.  Why give them a cushy, rent free life in prison when we know that they hardly ever serve their full sentences, and that they are very likely to re-offend upon release?  How many stories have we not heard of killers given time off for good behaviour, only to kill again and again?

Well, my opinion changed one evening in 1984.  I was 25 years old.  At 7:15 I answered a knock at the door and found two policemen outside.

“Good evening, are you Bob ******?”

“Yes, I am.  What is going on officer?”

“We would like for you to come down to the station to answer a couple of questions”.

The officer looked stern and I suddenly felt my heart in the grip of icy fingers.

“Questions about what?”  I tried not to sound frightened, I knew those are all signs cops looked for.

“It is in connection with your neighbour, Rachel ******.  But we cannot discuss it here, come down to the station with us and we should have you home in no time.”

I agreed, hurriedly told my wife that I was needed for questioning and tried to ignore the panic in her eyes.  We got in the car and drove off.  That was the last day I spent in my own home in twenty-eight years.

Rachel had moved in next door to us two years previously.  She was a mousey, quiet woman who lived on her own.  My wife and I introduced ourselves to her upon her arrival but only saw her thereafter in greeting over the fence, or when we pulled out of our driveways together.  I knew that she was a kindergarten teacher and guessed her age to be in her mid-thirties.  She had a cat and liked to potter around in her garden, which was lush.  She mentioned to my wife that she also grew herbs and vegetables successfully.  Neither of us had ever seen the inside of her home.

That was the extent of my knowledge about Rachel *****

And here I am on death-row, convicted of her gruesome murder the night before the cops came knocking on my door.  She had been raped, sodomised and beaten.  Death came by strangulation.

The jury decided my case purely on circumstantial evidence.  It was before the scientific breakthrough of DNA.  And anyway, samples of the DNA left behind at the crime scene had been contaminated and lost to the extent that today there is not enough left even for mitochondrial DNA testing.

I have spent all my appeals.  My execution by lethal injection is scheduled for next month.  I will then once again be free, but not to enjoy my family or anything in this world.

I am no longer for the death penalty.  I still feel that it is a just punishment for those who murder, but now know that too many innocent people are found guilty for too many reasons.

And, if just one innocent person is executed, it should be abolished.   Ask my wife, children and grandchildren, for whom I am saddened above all.

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What Justice? Where?

It is my opinion that the justice system does not, and will never work.

Take the Stayner brothers for example.  7 year-old Steven Stayner was abducted by Kenneth Parnell, kept in captivity and sexually abused for seven years before he escaped.  The return to his family was fraught with adjustment difficulties.  The family did not receive trauma counselling.  Sadly, Steven died at the age of 24 in a bike accident.

The older brother, Cary Stayner, later landed up on death-row as a convicted serial killer.  He was sexually abused during his childhood but never told.

Kenneth Parnell was a paedophile with previous convictions and sentences.  For the Stayner kidnapping he received a seven-year sentence of which he served only five.  After his release and already quite advanced in age, he tried to buy another little boy.  For this he was sentenced 25 years to life under California’s three strikes law.  This law and not his crimes, finally removed him from society.

A stranger tale cannot be conceived but it serves to highlight some problem areas:

  • The Accused.  How is man with Kenneth Parnell’s background given seven years for the crime he committed against Steven Stayner?  He received equally light sentences for his other offenses.  It is because they only charged him with the kidnappings, never for the sexual offenses.  We must keep in mind though that some things have changed since the 70’s.
  • Defence Liars (exceptions excluded).  Who defends a man like Parnell, and why?  Okay, so the court appoints an attorney to defend the accused because every man has that right, and is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  But to defend him as though you want him back on the street?  As though he is innocent?  Come on!  And if a Liar is highly paid for defending someone like Parnell, his crime is the greatest.
  • Counselling.  Would Cary Stayner have turned into a murderer had he received trauma counselling?  For something as little as an armed robbery my family had to.  It is virtually impossible to deal with trauma, to file away what had happened and to have a healthy mental outlook afterwards without it.  Apparently it was offered to the Stayner family at some point, but rejected.  Again, in the 70’s the importance of counselling was not yet understood.  Of course I do not know if Cary would have killed had he properly dealt with Steven’s disappearance but I do know that if the family had been helped to work through the loss and eventual return of Steven, they would have been better equipped to deal with their emotional losses and wounds.  Cary stated that he felt neglected during the years his parents were grieving for Steven, and this is normal in most households where parents lose a child.  In fact, the disappearance of a child is almost worse than a death because the bereavement never reaches its logical conclusion.  Cary also said that upon Steven’s return they had to share a bedroom and that he resented that.  He was jealous of all the attention and gifts that Steven received.   The child needed help.
  • Evidence.  The business of not entering into evidence ALL known facts about the defendant misleads the jury.  It is impossible for them to fully understand the accused, what drives him and what his habits are if half of the facts are inadmissible.
  • The Jury System.  It is difficult enough to have a husband and wife agree on important issues, how much harder for twelve people?  And ‘a jury of your peers’ is a laugh.  A peer is someone of a similar age, race, education and background.  Someone who can identify with you.  [Definition of Peer: one that is of equal standing with another: equal; especially: one belonging to the same societal group especially based on age, grade, or status].  It therefore stands to reason that in a shoplifting trial, real peerage would mean that the jury is made up of shoplifters.  Who knows?  Perhaps they would actually give a proper and fair verdict.  In a first-world society I believe that a judgement by a judge (????) is far more accurate.  A person with knowledge of the law and hopefully, a good insight into human behaviour.  In third-world countries unfortunately, it opens itself up to abuse like threats and bribery.

So what is the solution to the lack of justice?  I think that after examination it becomes clear that there is none.  We live in an imperfect world, populated by imperfect people who implement imperfect systems based on imperfect ideas.

Because of that we will always have those who are imprisoned innocently as well as the guilty walking free.  The only hope is if everybody, from the lowliest cop right up to the judge, and further onto the lawmaker, strives for the truth.

John 8:32  “…… and the truth shall set you free”.

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