April 4, 1985. That's when Robert Van Hook was arrested. He told police he wanted to talk to a lawyer. Instead, he talked to his mother, who told him, as the transcript of his statement says, "[B]e cooperative an' jus' tell the truth."
August 8, 1985. That's when Robert Van Hook was sentenced to be killed by the good people of Ohio.
November 9, 1988. That's when the Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed Van Hook's death sentence by a vote of 5-2.
March 12, 2015. That's when Van Hook is supposed to be murdered.
Robert J. Van Hook was born January 14, 1960. He was 25 when David Self was killed, 25 when his mom told him to confess to aggravated murder, 25 when he was sentenced to die. If all goes as the prosecutors in Hamilton County hope and as 6 of the 7 who sit behind the bench* ordered yesterday, he'll be 54 when he's killed. In just over two years.
To the prosecutors down in Hamilton County, he's an evil son of a bitch, a monster to remove from our midst. I suspect but don't actually know that the family of David Self would agree. To the 6 justices who said to kill him (and frankly to the seventh who said not to) he's basically a faceless, technical consideration.
Not one of the men (they were all men at the time) who was on the Supreme Court when it reviewed and affirmed his conviction and death sentence is on the Court today. Several of them are now dead. None of them, I'd wager, ever laid eyes on the man whose case was before them. Neither did any of the 7 who sit on the court today.
I haven't met him, either. Nor have you, I imagine.
A judge I know once sat on a panel trying a capital case. He voted for life. He explained.
I just couldn't look at him and say, "Fuck you," to him
Which is, I suspect, a minmal test. Look on the person you condemn and say
So here is Robert Van Hook.
No horns. No tail. Not the devil. Just a guy we plan to kill in a couple of years.
*As he did three weeks ago when the Supremes set a May 6, 2015 murder date for Jeffrey Wogenstahl, Justice O'Neill dissented. This time without opinion.