Saturday, December 16, 2006

Botched execution

I see where Florida botched an execution. Florida and California have suspended executions till the procedure can be fine-tuned. That's all well and good.

Folks have been botching executions for as long as there have been people. Botched hangings led to the electric chair, or the gas chamber. The problems with those devices led to lethal injection.

Some take issue with the death penalty and that debate has gone on for years. It will continue to go on.

Captain Ed takes issue with the death penalty, and names three prisoners who were exonerated through the use of DNA evidence. He uses that as an argument against the death penalty and goes forward to offer life without parole as an alternative. Life imprisonment is a poor alternative, without closure for the victim.

While it is true that we didn't have DNA evidence when a lot of the current prisoners on death row were convicted, we have it now and it has helped to clear people who were wrongly convicted. Everyone in the criminal justice system is happy when an innocent man goes free. We don't want to see anyone in jail who doesn't deserve to be there, but one part of sentencing is to provide closure for the victims. Therein lies the problem with a life sentence.

Often, it isn't.

Victims families are told that a prisoner who murdered a loved one will be held until they die. This promise is often a lie, best illustrated by the case of Wilbert Rideau. Tried three times for murdering Julia Ferguson in 1961, the facts of the case are not in doubt. Rideau robbed a bank and kidnapped three persons. Before the crime was completed, he had shot one and knifed one. Julia Ferguson was his knifing victim. His case was fraught with legal problems, but the facts have never seriously been disputed. He was sentenced to die, but kept winning retrials until in 2005 he was again retried, convicted of manslaughter and released.

The fact that there were problems with the makeup of the juries used to convict him did not change the facts of the case. Rideau murdered a woman who didn't deserve to die. He cold-bloodly stabbed her to hide his identity. After each trial, the family of Julia Ferguson was told that Rideau would never be a free man, that he would spend the rest of his life behind bars.

That was a damned lie. The case of Wilbert Rideau is a blot on the record of criminal justice in Louisiana, both because of the methods used to convict him and the fact that the system couldn't keep this cold blooded murderer locked up.

Wilbert Rideau is the reason that a life sentence will never provide closure for the victims, nor for society.


HollyB said...

Sounds like ol' Wilbert, who, after 44 years in jail, I'm assuming he WAS in jail during all these retrials, is OLD Wilbert, needs some Old Fashioned Justice.
Shame this didn't happen in TX. I'm not saying we're Better than the other States with the death penalty, just that our "Express Lane" approach is a step in the right direction.
Dang those courts anyway.
I know that they protect the rights of all of us, I really do. But obviously in this case, the pendulum swung waaaay to far in the perp's direction. My prayers will be for this woman's family.

Anonymous said...

Visit Wilbert Rideau's website and read his essays. They're all about poor, pitiful Wilbert. Not one word is in remorse for his victim.

Anonymous said...

The problem you end up with in the case of the death penalty, is what if they're not actually guilty. Is the death of an innocent human something you want on your concience? Will the victim or their family get closure with the death of an innocent?