Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Third Horseman Is Death

Winda Snipes was murdered, horribly, brutally, on September 9, 1997.  In response, Brett Hartman is to be murdered, perhaps peacefully, by the State of Ohio on November 13.  

If you wanted to set yourself up to be convicted of the horrific murder of Winda Snipes, you might do some of the stuff Brett Hartman did. 
  • You might make repeated anonymous calls to 911 giving increasingly specific information about  where to find her dead and mutilated body.
  • You might enter and leave a bar a whole bunch of times, looking nervous and hyper, not long after she was killed.
  • You might go up to the cops, where they're working outside the blood-soaked apartment where you got them to find Ms. Snipes, mention how gruesome the scene is, and then stop by again to tell the cops that Snipes was a whore and that you'd slept with her the night before.  Then you might stop by a third time to tell them that she got what she deserved.
  • You might have her watch and your clothes covered with her blood in your apartment.
  • And, of course, you'd probably ask to have an anal swab tested for DNA, have it come back as yours, and then say that, well, yeah, you'd had anal sex with her a couple of days before she was killed.
On the other hand, if you were Brett Hartman and were trying to show that you happen to be factually innocent despite all of that, you'd point out that you have - and have offered - explanations, that at least one piece of trial evidence against you was flat out wrong, and that there's a shitload of stuff you've been trying for years to get tested for DNA but that the prosecutor and won't let you have and that the courts, so far, won't order her to permit testing.

Not for the first time, I'll say that I don't know what happened.  Someone certainly murdered Winda Snipes.  And then mutilated her body.  It was a horrible, brutal, gruesome crime.  

And maybe Hartman did it. And maybe not.

And maybe testing all the rest of the stuff for DNA would answer the question.  And maybe not.

And maybe if his lawyers had done a real and serious mitigation investigation the jury might not have decided he should be killed.  And maybe not.

Hartman just discovered that he has a daughter, 20 years old.  They were to meet, for the first time, earlier this month.  And maybe her loss in having her new-found father killed is something to be cared about. And maybe not.  I mean, after all, he's a stone killer (or not) so she should be comforted to see her dad removed from the earth. Or maybe not.

To some of us, these questions, these alternatives, seem troubling.  We ask questions like

What's the point?

What if, despite seemingly compelling evidence, we're wrong?

And my constant question in these cases: Why not test the fucking DNA?  I mean, what's the harm.

But it was a terrible crime. And the family of Winda Snipes wants Hartman killed.  Because that'll bring her back, satisfy revenge fantasies, exact justice. Whatever exactly justice might be.  And of course they know that the evidence is right and he's guilty. Because there are never mistakes when the evidence is compelling.

Last Thursday, October 18, the Parole Board announced that Hartman should be killed.
  • Because there's a boatload of evidence that he's guilty, yet he keeps insisting that he's not.
  • Because if the jury heard the mitigation they hadn't heard before, they'd have been even more sure to have said he should be killed.
  • Because being a terrific inmate, of value to the community, doesn't really matter.
  • Because there's no point in giving him time to test the DNA since the prosecutor won't do it and the courts won't order her to.
  • And because, gee, it's too bad about the daughter, but, hey, them's the breaks.
Hartman's been down this road before.  The Parole Board unanimously voted to deny clemency in a report issued March 5, 2009.  They did it again in a report issued July 19, 2011.  Some people would say it's about time. He should have been killed long ago. Or in 2009.  Or last year.

Then again, he's been on death row for 15 years.  Still the republic survives.

Here's a thought.  There's really no need to kill Brett Hartman.  And there's a pretty fair case for saying that any unnecessary killing is gratuitous.  Killing for its own sake.  Whatever pretty name we give it.  However we dress it up.

Sure, the law sits out there and provides a sort of justification.  But that makes it legal (maybe - a question I'm not tackling today).  Doesn't make it necessary.

If it ain't necessary, then really, it's not just legally murder.

It's morally murder.

At least, in my universe.  Though not, it seems, in the Parole Board's.  And, I suspect, not in Governor Kasich's.  Though the ball is now firmly in his court.

Brett Hartman Clemency Report

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