Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Crazy Is As Crazy Does

[A]nyone who lives in a house for two years with the rotting remains of his murder victims must have a mental problem.
John Parker, lawyer for Anthony Sowell, during closing arguments today according to AP
You might think that's self-evident and that there's really no arguing the point - at least if living in that house was a voluntary act, which it was.  You, of course, are not a prosecutor trying to ensure that Anthony Sowell gets sentenced to be killed.
Assistant prosecutor Pinkey Carr said Sowell deserves to die for his crimes and responded to the comments about his mental condition by saying: “He’s crazy like a fox. He’s evil.”
Then Carr
reminded jurors of Sowell’s comment to arresting officers when he said, “I just want to die.”
She seized on that and urged jurors to make it come true “because it’s what he wants. He wants to die.”
Just think about that for a moment.  Put aside the fact that it's not a legal basis for imposing the death penalty.*  Just think about the claim.  The reason Sowell should be sentenced to die is that it will make him happy.
There's punishment for you.
As I keep saying at these sorts of times, I don't know Anthony Sowell.  I've never met the guy.  I've never represented him.  All I know is what I read in the paper.  From that, it seems pretty clear that Sowell doesn't actually want to be sentenced to die.  Which makes Carr's urging to the jury not just disingenuous but dishonest.  
Still, all of this tells us something about what goes on in these cases.
  • Start with a guy who may or may not be legally insane but is obviously crazy.
  • Deny that he's any crazier than anyone else. (Sure, we'd all live with those dead bodies; hell, it's a mark of sanity to have killed them all.)
  • Insist that his enormity requires that he suffer extreme punishment.
  • Emphasize that the jurors can feel good about sentencing him to die because he wants that sentence so it won't be punishment at all.
  • Remember that helping someone die who wants to die is assisted suicide which is illegal in Ohio.
  • Remember that an Ohio execution is the felony offense of aggravated murder.
  • Remember that everyone who assists or encourages the commission of aggravated murder is guilty of that offense.
  • Remember that every prosecutor, juror, and judge who signs off on a death sentence has, then, committed aggravated murder (or attempted aggravated murder if the guy doesn't happen to get executed for some reason) although nobody will ever bring charges.
And try to figure out if any of this makes even a little bit of sense.
The jury returns in the morning to deliberate some more.

*Under Ohio law, the death penalty may be imposed only when the statutory aggravating circumstances that the jury found to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt are found beyond a reasonable doubt to outweigh any mitigating factors.  That Sowell might have wanted to be killed is not an aggravator, not something that can be even a small part of the reason to find that he should be sentenced to die.

1 comment:

  1. Oh well.