Saturday, March 22, 2014

Kill Him Before He Saves Another One

A quick review.

Chapter 1: January, 1993. Ron Phillips brutally (and really, there was no way to do it that wasn't brutal) raped and murdered 3-year-old Sheila Marie Evans.

Chapter 2: Ron Phillips is sentenced to die. His case works its way through the courts, state and federal. Lose. Lose. Lose. He gets an execution date: November 14, 2013.

Chapter 3: It's getting close. The Parole Board said to kill Ron Phillips. The governor agreed.

Chapter 4: Ron Phillips offers to donate his organs. His mother is on dialysis from kidney disease. His sister has serious heart problems. The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, which is what we call it here in Ohio, says nope. No can do. No way to do that. Julie Carr Smyth reported.
Prison officials scrambled to review Phillips’ last-minute request, which they called unprecedented, but ultimately could not figure out a way to get the 40-year-old to and from an offsite hospital while following security procedures leading up to an execution.
Chapter 5: Reprieved! The gov steps in and puts off the killing until July 2, 2014, so they can try to figure out how to take the organs and then murder Phillips.  The press release says
Ronald Phillips committed a heinous crime for which he will face the death penalty. I realize thisis a bit of uncharted territory for Ohio, but if another life can be saved by his willingness to donatehis organs and tissues then we should allow for that to happen.
Chapter 6:  Outrage.  Art Caplan, the founding head of the Division of Bioethics at NYU's Langone Medical Center, told Julie Carr Smyth and Amanda Lee Myers of AP.
"It's unethical because this guy who's being executed raped and killed a 3-year-old. When you donate your organs, there's a kind of redemption," Caplan said. "Punishment and organ donation don't go well together. I don't think the kinds of people we're executing we want to make in any way heroic."
Ethics, you see, requires that the people we kill must be purely evil.  So they can't be allowed to do anything decent.  

World Enough, and Time

Here's the thing.  Maybe Ron Phillips, evil sombitch that he is, with the aid of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, could end up saving a life or two.  And still we'd get to kill him.  Really, a win win you might think.

Oh, Phillips giving up his kidneys or some bone marrow or whatever wouldn't make up for the pain he's caused, won't bring Sheila Marie Evans back, won't change the past.   And DRC isn't really in the business of saving lives.  But still.

Except there's a problem. After serious surgery, people don't just bounce back.  There's ICU and then recovery in the hospital and then rehab and really, there's got to be time to acknowledge all the get well soon cards.  DRC figures that's 100 days.  Minimum.  And Phillips is going to be killed in 102 days. And the extractions haven't even been scheduled.

So there's just not time enough to cut him open, and then get him back on his feet and ready to be laid on the table and murdered.  

What to do? What to do? What to do?

Ask Kasich for another reprieve?  DRC could do that.  But like I say, they're not in the business of saving lives.  They are, though, in the business of taking lives.  In our names.  The people's business, is perhaps how they think of it.  Alan Johnson in the Dispatch.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction told Phillips today that because he would not be able to complete the transplant by Sunday, he would not be allowed to proceed with the surgery. 
And then, and without any apparent awareness of the irony - or the absurdity.
Prison officials said they wanted Phillips’ surgery done at least 100 days in advance so he would have time to recuperate before being executed. 
Because deadlines.  Because killing Ron Phillips is more important than saving a few lives.  (Call it anti-deterrence if you like.)  

Because Fuck You.
I took the title of Chapter 7 from Andrew Marvell's poem, "To His Coy Mistress."  Here it is.
Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love would grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near:
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vaults, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball,
And tear our pleasure with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.


  1. Jeff, you do such a good job of keeping your sense of humor and humanity in a very grim context. Official killing frequently involves absurdities. You can laugh or cry, I suppose.

    But the poem! A paean to fornication, of all things. Still, I guess I'd like to think that after the somewhat over-wrought pitch he met with some success. I've never made so good an argument on my own behalf, and even if I had it would have been grotesque over-promising.

  2. Not a paean to fornication - though certainly an enticement.

    Really, it's about the fleeting, the rush to death, the desperate effort to hold it off - and how the effort itself speeds the inevitable. It's one of the great, perhaps the greatest, example of carpe diem literature in English.