The un-justice system
August 27, 2008 · Updated 8:32 PM
In 1999, our family became crime victims due to the murder of my mother, writes Jim Statler of Marysville.
In this case, we believe without any doubt that it was premeditated. But just like you talked of the cost and time required (for trials and appeals where the death penalty is possible) a deal was offered and accepted. Sad to say that just a few weeks after sentencing, because of a new law change, the sentence was reduced. Whatever happened to hard labor? Changes should be death or life with hard labor for a murderer.
I couldnt find anything in my extensive file on the death penalty that even mentioned hard labor so I called the state Department of Corrections and asked about it. It depends, Chad told me, on what you want to call hard labor.
There isnt that much rock that needs breaking and prison authorities prefer having inmates do something they can make a living at when they get out. Building office furniture is taught in our penal institutions.
Security must be considered with the dangerous ones, but during the forest fire season, prisoners are frequently called into action to help out. Fighting forest fires certainly is hard labor but the prisoners like doing it because it gets them out into fresh air.
As for the law change Mr. Statler mentions, thats the Andress decision of 2002, which prosecutors said could mean that about 300 murderers convicted since 1976 could go free. Shawn Andress stabbed two men during a brawl outside a West Seattle bar, one of whom died, and was convicted of second degree felony murder. His lawyer challenged the law that found anyone committing an assault that resulted in a death guilty of murder.
The Supreme Court agreed that prosecutors must prove intent, or file the lesser charge of manslaughter. The Legislature amended the law but the court made it retroactive, forcing retrial of hundreds of cases. Earlier this month, Ross Renecker, who killed a Seattle woman in 1977, was freed because of the Andress decision.
And from Gerald M. Schackman of Arlington: It is wonderful that we have compassionate judges and lawyers in our society to sometimes alleviate harsh or unjust sentences, but to have these people be part of a criminal justice system with their minds already made up for them takes no brains or conscience. Since much of our justice system is derived from the Bible, it appears the biblical people had a pretty good handle on criminals death or a sanctuary city, if the criminal could make it.
Like Mr. Schackman, one of the most frustrating things about our legal system to me is excess concern about the rights and welfare of the criminal rather than the victim.
He can forget about consulting the Bible, however. Colorados highest court, in March 2005, threw out the death penalty sentence for a man found guilty in 1995 of raping and killing a cocktail waitress because jurors consulted their Bibles.
The jury had been sent into deliberation with an instruction from the judge to think beyond the narrow confines of the law. Each juror, the judge told them, must make an individual moral assessment in deciding whether the man should live or die.
The jurors voted unanimously for death, but the Supreme Court changed that to life in prison without parole after learning they had consulted their Bibles in reaching a verdict. The Bible, the court said, constituted an improper outside influence and a reliance on what the court called a higher authority. Defense attorneys had urged consideration of biblical wisdom, hoping for mercy in their hearts, but jurors admitted studying Leviticus Chapter 24, in the Old Testament which decrees eye for eye, tooth for tooth.
Adele Ferguson can be reached at P.O. Box 69, Hansville, WA., 98340.