Wednesday, May 19, 2010

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

A little after 6 this evening, the State of Texas murdered Rogelio Cannady.  It was just the sort of case the retentionists tout.  Cannady was serving 2 life sentences for murder when he killed his cellmate, Leovigildo Bonal, beating him to death with a belt and a padlock.
Cannady said it was self-defense, sort of.  He also said he shouldn't have been doing the original sentences.  The courts weren't interested.  I don't pretend to know whether his claims had even a glimmer of merit.  Frankly, until tonight I don't think I'd ever heard of him.  But he was the 10th person executed in Texas this year, the 456th since they started killing folks there.
Cannady was pronounced dead at 6:19.  Twenty minutes later, at 6:39, someone in Mississippi pronounced Paul Everette Woodward dead.  
He was 62.  He'd been sentenced to die for the rape and murder of Rhonda Crane in 1986.  At least one report said that Woodward had "at least 5 children and 11 grandchildren."  None were on his approved call list, and he didn't have any of them in attendance.  His was the first execution in Mississippi since July 2008, only the 11th since that state began killing people.
I'd never heard of him before tonight, either.
Another person I don't think I've heard of before is Richard Tandy Smith.  He was due to be murdered in Oklahoma next Tuesday for the drug-related murder of John Cederlund in 1986.  Except it won't happen.
Back in March the Pardon and Parole Board recommended clemency for Smith.  Governor Brad Henry considered, put off the execution twice so he could keep reviewing things.  He met with defense counsel and with prosecutors.  It was a hard call, he said.But today he commuted the sentence.
“This was a very difficult decision and one that I did not take lightly,” said Gov. Henry. “I am always reluctant to intervene in a capital case, and I am very respectful of a jury’s verdict, the prosecutors who tried the case and the victim’s family who suffered because of the crime.

“However, after reviewing all of the evidence and hearing from both prosecutors and defense attorneys, I decided the Pardon and Parole Board made a proper recommendation to provide clemency and commute the death sentence.

“As a result, Richard Smith will be punished by serving the rest of his life behind bars without the possibility of parole.”  
Let's understand what we're talking about here.  Death on the installment plan.  Death in prison.  Life without the possibility of parole.  It's a horrific sentence.  But it's not death.  That's no small thing.  And it's no small thing that this is the third time Governor Henry has done it.  
Like I say, I don't know anything in particular about these men's cases.  They're not nationally famous.  I don't know the particular outrages they claim or might claim about their cases.  I don't know about brain damage or mental illness or how they were victimized as kids.  I don't know the details of their likely-shoddy representation.    Until tonight, they weren't even names to me.  
And they're just three of the 3200 or so men and women who have been condemned, who sit on death rows waiting to be killed.  As I've said before (here and here and here, for instance), few of them get any attention.
So let's at least take this opportunity to consider these three.
  • Rogelio Cannady
  • Paul Everette Woodward
  • Richard Tandy Smith
Two now dead.  One who gets to live.
Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma.
Two steps back.  One forward.
Richard Nields. Ohio. June 10.  A recommendation of LWOP.  
They can do it in Oklahoma.  
Ted, the ball's in your court.

1 comment:

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