Friday, October 18, 2013

Rhode Island, New York & Nebraska

You remember Jason Pleau and the squabble between the Feds - who wanted to kill him until they changed their mind once they actually had the chance - and Rhode Island who fought the feds so that Pleau could be sentenced to death in prison and then lost the fight but got what it wanted anyway once the Feds proved that they had the bigger dick and acknowledged that it was all about power and that they were just toying with little Rhodie and really didn't give a shit about killing Pleau.  ("As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods./They kill us for their sport," says blinded Gloucester to his son Edgar who's playing a madman.  King Lear, Act IV, Scene i.)

* * * * * * *

It's less contentious in upstate New York.  

David Renz was on electronic monitoring, wearing an ankle bracelet, awaiting trial in federal court on child pornography charges, when he escaped from the monitoring, abducted school librarian Lori Bresnahan along with a 10-year-old girl from a mall parking lot, took them to a remote spot where he raped the girl and murdered Bresnahan.  In July, he entered guilty pleas to the rape and murder in state court and agreed to a sentence of death in prison.  But as John O'Brien at explained, there was a catch.
But under that agreement, he would be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea if federal prosecutors decide the case was death-penalty eligible.
Because, you know, they can.

The actual call gets made by Eric Holder.  He has to personally sign off on it before the Feds can go after a death sentence.  But there are committees and the opportunity to make a pitch for why they shouldn't do it.  O'Brien explains.
The Federal Public Defenders Office gave a 60-page letter to federal prosecutors arguing against certifying the case as death-penalty eligible, according to Federal Public Defender Lisa Peebles.

Among the arguments was that the federal government's motive should not be revenge, she said.
Revenge, you know, because it was the Feds who didn't object to him being on electronic monitoring, so they feel, er, burned.
The Syracuse federal probation office has come under fire over the case. Probation officers ignored 46 signals from Renz's monitor before the murder. One officer was fired and another demoted as a result of an investigation into the handling of the case.

But just because Renz committed crimes while under federal supervision shouldn't justify it becoming a capital offense, Peebles said.
And there's that the families of the victims don't want the death penalty. 

Renz is scheduled to be sentenced to death in prison January 10.  Unless Eric Holder decides he wants to try killing him in revenge.  In which case, the prosecutor will calmly turn him over.  No Lincoln Chaffee he.
You want to try and kill him?  Be my guest.

* * * * * * *

New York has no death penalty.  Nebraska does, though they don't use it much.  They've executed three people there, one each in 1994, 1996, and 1997.  That's it.  They have 11 on the row now.  Joseph Paul Franklin is one of them.

Franklin was a serious hater, a white supremacist.  Maybe he still is.  I don't know.  What I know is that Nebraska plans to kill him on November 20.  And that Larry Flynt doesn't want them to.

Larry Flynt?  The Hustler guy?  Yep.  Him.  He took to the pages of the Hollywood Reporter to explain. It's worth a lengthy excerpt.
On March 6, 1978, as I stood on the steps of the Georgia courthouse where I was fighting obscenity charges, a series of gunshots rang out. I remember nothing that happened after that until I woke up in the intensive care unit. The damage to my central nervous system was severe, and it took several weeks before doctors could stabilize me. From then on, I was paralyzed from the waist down, and have been confined to a wheelchair ever since.

Years later, a white supremacist named Joseph Paul Franklin was arrested for shooting and killing an interracial couple. He soon began confessing to other crimes, and that’s when he admitted to having shot me. He said he'd targeted me because of a photo spread I ran in Hustler magazine featuring a black man and a white woman. He had bombed several synagogues. He had shot Vernon Jordan Jr., the civil rights activist. He hated blacks, he hated Jews, he hated all minorities. He went around the country committing all these crimes. I think somebody had to have been financing him, but nothing ever turned up on who that somebody may have been.

In all the years since the shooting, I have never come face-to-face with Franklin. I would love an hour in a room with him and a pair of wire-cutters and pliers, so I could inflict the same damage on him that he inflicted on me. But, I do not want to kill him, nor do I want to see him die.
Which cuts to the chase. Vengeance? Sure, Flynt wants to get even, to inflict pain. But it's personal.  And it's not killing.
Franklin has been sentenced by the Missouri Supreme Court to death by legal injection on Nov. 20. I have every reason to be overjoyed with this decision, but I am not. I have had many years in this wheelchair to think about this very topic. As I see it, the sole motivating factor behind the death penalty is vengeance, not justice, and I firmly believe that a government that forbids killing among its citizens should not be in the business of killing people itself.
We'll see by November 20 how Nebraska responds.

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