Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Enough Already

Down at Chillicothe Thursday morning, they'll be killing Donald Palmer.  He says he's OK with that.
"I killed Mr. Sponhaltz and I killed Mr. Vargo and I deserve to die for it," Palmer, 47, said.
That was during an interview with Fred Connors of The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register last week, and it's the headline, too.
Palmer Says, 'I deserve to die."
Except, if you read the article, you've got to wonder just what he means.  I'm not doubting his remorse.  He accepts responsibility for the killings, says he was out of control on drugs and alcohol and out of touch with god (who'd apparently have saved the lives of his victims if she had a better relationship with Palmer, but that's just my atheist snark seeping in), but he was at fault, he alone is responsible, and he's truly sorry. Which may be true.
He talked at length during the hour-long interview about his victims and their loved ones but asked that his apologies not be published until after his death.
"I don't want (my apologies) to be cheapened or be seen as a ploy to somehow stop what's going to happen," he said. "I'm not trying to forgive my way out of this. I'm not."
And I have no reason not to take him at his word (though I notice that Connors didn't honor his request).
But there's also this.
Palmer said he did not ask for clemency because he does not want to spend the rest of his life in prison.
"I mean, either way is a death sentence in prison," he said. "I don't want to sit around and wait for forever to come down. I'm just at the end of this. I'm tired. I want it to be known that it's OK that I am being executed.
Enough, after all, is enough.
Palmer said he has known his execution date for 14 months.
Asked how he is dealing with knowing the exact date and time he is going to die, Palmer said, "I've been dealing with it since day one. I didn't know that I had more than five years coming. Then 10 years went by. And then 15 years went by. And then 20 years. ... By the time 20 years go by, I was ready to die. I'm just ready."
Just get it over with.
And there's this from Aaron Marshall in the Plain Dealer.
Palmer, who freely admits to killing Charles Sponhaltz and Steven Vargo after a traffic accident on a rural country road in what he calls his "postal moment," said he hopes Ohioans realize that he will be executed in their names.
"The citizens need to understand this is being done on their behalf. They should know that," said the inmate, who spoke calmly and quickly, shackled at the legs and arms in his prison-issue clothes. "This thing is something that should be on the ballot and people should vote with their conscience."
Told that the number of inmates being sentenced to death is shrinking in Ohio, the born-again Palmer attributed it to the spiritual beliefs of Ohioans. "I hope people are going to have some consciousness about what is happening," he said. 
Which doesn't exactly sound like the statement of someone who favors his execution because it's the right thing.
Palmer hopes his execution will make a point about how executions are wrong.  And he's so damn tired of living in prison and doesn't want to be there for another whoknowshowmany years and then die of natural causes or something.
Enough is enough.
Just get it the hell over with.
Let me die.
(As, by the way, he tried to kill himself a couple of months before he killed Sponhaltz and Vargo.)
And when his last thoughts (regardless of his last words) are
Finally. At last. Thank you.
Then we can no that we've inflicted an appropriate punishment, done the most severe thing we could do to him.
We've granted his last request and made him happy.
Look, I get it that most of those charged with capital offenses that they actually committed don't want to be murdered by the government.  Hell, I make a portion of my living fighting to help them avoid the executioner.  And I'm opposed to the death penalty always and ever, in every case, for all sorts of reasons.
But in the case of volunteers, whether they're fully sane and competent or crazy as bedbugs, there's something wrong beyond the moral and policy questions.  The fundamental idea is simply at odds with killing in those cases.  Really, if there's anyone we shouldn't kill as punishment, in revenge, in retribution, to deter others, whatever the reason, it's the people who want the state's help committing suicide.
I mean, when we kill them, there's really no explanation other than that we're doing it for sport.


  1. It's kind of a Catch-22, almost exactly as Joseph Heller meant it. A crazy person can be relieved of facing death, but only a sane person would ask.

    I agree that killing someone who wants to die to make a point doesn't serve any societal interest, but, on the other hand, he wouldn't be at the point he is today unless we, as a society, had sentenced him to life in prison. He might not even be at the point he is today if we hadn't sentenced him to death, the stress and inevitability of which may have pushed him to his current outlook.

    1. The idea (the original idea) behind the penitentiary is inherent in the word. It was a place for penitence. And that, of course, might lead to rehabilitation. We don't much call them penitentiaries any more. And although Ohio's is the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, rehabilitation has clearly taken a back seat. The primary purposes of felony sentencing, according to the Ohio Revised Code, are specific deterrence and punishment. General deterrence isn't a goal, but neither is rehabilitation, which is fairly stupid since even in Ohio most prisoners do get released back into society.