January 17, 2006

Is advanced age and infirmity a good argument for clemency?

Arnold Schwarzenegger rejected that argument, made by lawyers on behalf of the murderer Clarence Ray Allen, who was just executed. It almost seems that there was an argument that keeping him alive would be a way of inflicting more punishment on him. At least, one might say that execution has lost the meaning it is supposed to have for the condemned man. But none of that states a reason for clemency.

26 comments:

David said...

Execution is the meaning for the condemned man. The anti-death penalty advocates ignore the fact that there is no recidivism among the recently departed and the state does not have to continue the cost of supporting his sorry self in a prison.

JAL said...

Since when does age and infirmity give one a pass to commit multiple murder? Allen was in his 50s when he arrange for the murders of his most recent victims and serving a life sentence for murder.

Perhaps we can include along with the initial social security check a "Get Out of Jail Free" card allowing one free hit on anyone.

Pastor_Jeff said...

He was sentenced to death for ordering the murder of three people in 1980 while he was serving a life sentence for another killing.

He was responsible for the deaths of three more people while already in prison. The man was a perfect example of why we need the death penalty.

The only thing California did wrong was not executing him 25 years ago.

Mark the Pundit said...

This guy defined scum, and I was not sad to see him go.

Nor, do I think, would many people make much of a fuss if some of those old-timers were tried, convicted, and executed in some of those civil rights murders that happened on the South in the 50's and 60's.

Simon said...

I wrote at some length about this case (Allen v. Ornoski), its antecedents and where it's likely going - both yesterday, and again this morning. I was going to e-mail Ann about it, I was interested in what she thought about this (which this post doesn't address) but I didn't want to be fishing for links, and I wasn't sure about my analysis. ;)

Meade said...

David said...
...and the state does not have to continue the cost of supporting his sorry self in a prison.

from the linked BBC article: Trial and appeals meant he ended up spending 23 years on Death Row.

Which cost taxpayers more - The support while serving a life sentence or the appeals while on Death Row?

Art said...

If I were John Stewart I would report the execution and then run the scene from Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles in which the hangman puts the noose on the old man in the wheelchair.

The guy should have played with conservatives' minds by demanding help with assisted suicide (Hey, It's legal now, at least in Oregon.)

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pogo said...

Re: "Which cost taxpayers more - The support while serving a life sentence or the appeals while on Death Row?"

Since it does indeed cost more to fund appeals, you point strongly to the need for more rapid decisions. To reward a man who delayed his own execution until he became so frail that he comes to argue that frailty per se buys him exemption is simply stupid.

Either have a death penalty or do not. Abolish foot dragging and execute killers promptly, or abolish the death penalty.

Meade said...

"Was his children's book any good?"

Mr. Clarence Ray Allen, I served with Ted Kennedy, I knew Ted Kennedy, Ted Kennedy was a friend of mine. Mr. Multiple Murderer, you are no Ted Kennedy.

Meade said...

Well put, Pogo.

David said...

Observations on the Death Penalty:

1. Appeals have fostered a cottage industry in delaying tactics,
2. Follow the money to find out who benefits the most on the backs of America's condemned,
3. Who speaks for the victims?
4. Is it okay that 9 guilty go free instead of one innocent sent to jail?

I support capital punishment, one appeal, and time limits.

PatCA said...

"Was his children's book any good?"

Probably not. That would explain the dearth of activist and media supporters, wouldn't it?

Jake said...

It wasn't an execution. it was assisted suicide for a terminally ill man.

Simon said...

"It wasn't an execution. it was assisted suicide for a terminally ill man."

Since he appealed to the Supreme Court for a stay of execution, that would suggest that it was an involuntary suicide. "Involuntary suicide by proxy of the state" - sounds a lot like an execution to me.

Jake said...

Simon:

I won't be too sure about that.

Clarence Ray Allen's last words were ''It's a good day to die. Thank you very much. I love you all. Goodbye.''

Simon said...

Jake,
I'm pretty certain. Gary Gilmour's last words were "let's do this"; he not only declined to appeal to the Supreme Court, but point-blank prohibited his attorneys or the LDF from doing so. If there was going to be a guy who volunteered to go, that was the way to do it.

But Allen sought a stay of execution; the fact that, the stay having been denied, he offered some choice words is besides the point. He tried to prevent his execution; not the action of a man who wants to die.

Dave said...

The death penalty is not used correctly; far more muderers should be executed by the state but they are not.

A shame.

Sean E said...

"Allen was originally jailed for life for having his teenage son's 17-year-old girlfriend murdered, fearing she would go to the police over a burglary he committed.

From his prison cell, in 1980, he ordered the murder of another witness."

He's serving a life sentence for murder and is worried about getting rid of a witness to a prior burglary? What am I missing?

Ann Althouse said...

Sean: Maybe "he" refers to the son.

Joseph Angier said...

Wasn't this the case that inspired the movie "At Close Range"? I haven't seen that referenced in any of the news reports (and I live in L.A.), so I'm either mistaken, or it's another example of how quickly [financially] unsuccessful films fall down a black hole.

miklos rosza said...

I go back and forth on the death penalty. Life in prison is not necessarily all that bad for some of these guys. Richard Speck did drugs and grew breasts (anyone else see that obscene video?), while Richard Ramirez "the Night Stalker" has groupies and been married while on Death Row.

The Gainesville Ripper (I forget his name) married his attorney.

Living in a controlled environment is more stress-free for some of these people than life out on the streets.

Incessant masturbation, phone-sex, worshipful penpals, drugs...

I know a detective who works on nothing but death-penalty cases, together with lawyers who are morally or politically against it. Intellectually, sure, I understand their position.

But when I look at how this all works out in real life, and review the actual crimes, I'm not so sure.

Appeals lasting 23 years? Ted Bundy didn't get that long.

He would have killed for just a little more time.

Simon said...

Like Miklos, I go back and forth. I am not convinced by the moral case against the death penalty, and I think the Constitutional case advanced by Brennan et al is ludicrous, but I do feel that I have arrived at the view that my concerns for the reliability of our system of justice is insufficient to support it at this time. Because I have concerns about the miscarriage of justice -- that is to say, the execution of someone who is innocent, rather than the fundamental morality of killing guilty murderers and rapists -- if the issue were actually placed before me in a way which demanded a choice (a ballot initiative, for example), at this time I would vote to suspend the death penalty for the foreseeable future, or whichever option most closely effectuated that position.

JAL said...

He's serving a life sentence for murder and is worried about getting rid of a witness to a prior burglary? What am I missing?


Nobody said he was smart.

I'm generally opposed to the death penalty. Witnesses lie. Science is't foolproof. But I'm not going to loose sleep over this guy.

wac said...

In 1974, Allen committed a burglary of a store called Fran's Market with the help of his son Roger's girlfriend, Mary Sue Kitts. Afterwards, Kitts had regrets. She told Bryon Schletewitz, whose father owned the market, that Allen had burglarized it. Allen then had Mary killed. In 1977, he was convicted of the 1st degree murder of Kitts and received a sentence of life with the possibility of parole (the only available sentence for murder in Calif for a crime committed in 1974). In Folsom Prison, Allen met Billy Ray Hamilton. When Hamilton was paroled in 1980, he conspired with Allen to murder the witnesses who testified against Allen at the 1977 Kitts trial, including Bryon Schletewitz. Hamilton went to fresno, then went to Fran's Market. He pulled out a sawed off shotgun and then executed Bryon Schletewitz and two store employees, Josephine Rocha and Douglas White.

brylin said...

Did anyone notice that Justice Breyer dissented from the denial of certiorari?