Wednesday, December 21, 2005

December 20, 2004

"Hang-em All
Let God Sort it Out"

I really didn't give a hoot one way or another about Stanley Tookie Williams as a person. Maybe he was, as he contended right up to the last moment, innocent. Maybe he was guilty as sin and just playing his last hand as if his life depended on it – which of course it did. If so, he lost that hand.

I don't know which is true. I only know that just one of those two possibilities can be true.

And what if the one that's true is that he was indeed innocent? What then? And not just him, but others executed before him and those awaiting execution? Are any of them actually innocent?

There was a time, not more than twenty years ago, that proof of innocence or guilt was too often an entirely subjective decision – which is why so few rich criminals ever end up on Death Row. As Mark Twain observed about the American judicial system, “The jury listens to both sides and then decides who had the best lawyer.”

New technology has changed this equation, at least in cases where physical evidence can be subjected to DNA testing. Hardly a month goes by lately that DNA testing shows some poor sap was wrongly convicted and imprisoned.

Just one group, the non-profit Innocence Project, has freed 168 wrongly convicted prisoners. Just last week another innocent man was sprung after spending seven years of his life in prison for a rape he didn't commit --freed by DNA evidence.

Which raises the haunting question; How many innocent people have been executed in the US? From the cases of those recently proven innocent before they spent their entire lives in prison or were executed, we can surmise that some of those on Death Row could well be entirely innocent.

Based on the success of groups like The Innocence Project we can no longer pretend that every one of those already executed "had it coming." Some of them were almost certainly innocent. What a horror. What a disgrace.

And stop shaking your head as though you had nothing to do with it. All of them were killed by the State – in our name – mine and yours. And with our money, our courts, in the prisons built with our tax money and with poison gas and drugs they bought with our money.

Isn't it time we insist that all states with a death penalty declare a moratorium until we find out whether or not we are executing innocent people? Such a moritorium would provide time for a national, non-partisan blue ribbon panel of criminologists and DNA experts to re-examine every execution over the last decade in which any shadow of doubt exists and for which physical evidence can still be tested.

Because, as a citizen and taxpayer, I want to know if any of those men and women executed in my name and with my money were innocent.

Let me be clear. I am no bleeding heart. And I am not unconditionally opposed to the death penalty. But I do feel the death penalty has been applied too broadly and too recklessly by politicians simply trying to look busy. A death penalty should be reserved for the worst of the worst. For example, out here in California there is a prisoner I'd pull the switch on personally if given the chance – Richard Allen Davis. This piece of human garbage raped and murdered 11-year old Polly Klass. When his sentence was handed down his last public act was to turn to still grieving Klass family and flip them the bird. I'd pay for ten minutes alone with that guy.

Those who want to continue with executions, despite the alarming number of mistaken convictions turning up, remind me of Wild West Judge Roy Bean. When faced with a decision on which among a group of men murdered someone, he reportedly ruled, “Hang-em all and let God sort it out.”

Since “sorry about that” can't return to life an innocent person executed, and since we are seeing so many inmates freed on DNA evidence now, shouldn't we put the brakes on executions until we complete a thorough audit of recent executions? Because if we've been executing innocent people – and I no longer doubt that we have – it's about as wrong as wrong gets. It's a crime. It's murder, pure and simple. (Or, for those right to lifers out there who support the death penalty, consider it a very late-term abortion. Chew on that you pack of pious hypocrites.)

From the Bah Humbug Department:
Lyrical Torture
I want to report an crime against humanity. No not the death penalty. It's worse. It's the repeated playing of the Christmas ballad, The Twelve Days of Christmas. This maniacal song was clearly written by someone suffering from advanced obsessive compulsive shopping disorder -- and a serious stutter.

Seriously, has there EVER been a more annoying song? Even the Chipmunks Christmas songs pale by comparison. If the US wants to make al Qaida prisoners talk, throw away the water boards and thumb screws. Just pipe The Twelve Days of Christmas into their cells.

After three weeks of being forced to listen to this song's shopping list from hell, I have reached the breaking point myself.

* Twelve drummers a drumming? Oh yeah, that's what I want in my living room Christmas morning.
* Eleven a pipers piping? They'd need a proctologist to recover their pipes if I got my hands on them.
* Ten lords a leaping? What? Why are they leaping? Are the escapees from a Fellini film or the Castro Street Gay Parade? The mental image alone is enough, thank you very much. If I discovered ten lords leaping around my house I would assume they were either nuts hopped up on meth or suffering from terrible hemorrhoids. Either way, get them the hell out of my house!

Did I mention that I hate that song. Hate it hate it hate it! Has there even been a stupider gift list?

Seven maids a milking. There's something you'll find on everyone's wish list. Just what I want, seven women with rough hands and reeking of manure in my living room milking seven 1500 pound bovines. A dream come true -- if you're into things too weird to mention on a family Web site.

Four French hens? Great. Four snooty chickens that make fun of me and refuse to lay eggs because they consider me “unworthy” of their production? Thanks for nothin'!

Then again, the two doves and a partridge in a pear tree might actually be useful. The doves and partridge could be slowly baked and then smothered in a delightful pear sauce. (Bite me PETA.)

There. I feel better for getting that off my chest. I have hated that song since the day I first heard it. The Twelve Days of Torture, it should be called. The Twelve Days of Stupid, Annoying and Largely Useless Gifts, it should be called. It's enough to make a fella wish he'd been born Jewish, except that Hanukkah is almost as bad. The Eight Days of Hanukkah means eight gifts, most of which you can bet will be useless.

They even have their own annoying holiday song:

I Have a Little Dreidel
I have a little dreidel
I made it out of clay
And when it's dry and ready
Then dreidel I shall play!

Eight days of lousy gifts. Great! No Xbox 360? And what's this clay top thing, that wobbles when it spins and then falls over? Another dream come true.

With such “festive” tunes blaring at us for weeks on radio, TV and over department store PA systems, no wonder the suicide rate jumps during the holiday season.