In a few days Connecticut prison officials will take a prisoner out of his cell and inject poison into his veins. He’s been held harmless for 20 years in prisons, but now he’s going to be killed. It will be the first execution in New England in 45 years. One New England state hasn’t had an execution since the 1800’s.
Another Connecticut official will soon be going to a prison, but for a different purpose. Governor John Rowland plea bargained to multiple corruption charges and he’s expected to get at least a year in prison.
The current governor, Jodi Rell, was Rowland’s lieutenant governor. As accusations piled up about Rowland’s cronies and the governor himself Rell said not a word. Once he resigned she said she was shocked, shocked, shocked at his conduct and was determined to bring ethical standards back to government.
Her first ethical choice was to decide to let Michael Ross die. Our constitution doesn’t allow her to turn his death sentence into a life term, but she could delay the execution. She won’t. Furthermore, she announced that if the legislature voted to abolish the death penalty she would veto the bill.
Now Michael Ross is not a guy to get a lot of sympathy. He killed eight women and girls, raping most of them. He’s not poor or a minority. He’s not a drooling idiot. You can read some of his letters on line. There’s zero doubt of his innocence. He confessed to the killings. He says that he suffered from a mental condition of "sexual sadism" and that in recent years medicines have cured him. Maybe so, but it has occurred to people that a serial murderer might also be a liar.
Still, it’s a disgrace to open the gates to executions in the "enlightened" Northeast when life without release is right on the books as an alternative. We’ll be ushering in all the abuses that are occurring in other states: executing killers too poor to get a decent lawyer, or those slated for death by racial profiling, wretches enslaved by mental compulsions or those convicted on the testimony of a convict or accomplice bargaining for a lower sentence. Of course, some who get the death sentence will be completely innocent. Read ex-prosecutor and famous novelist Scott Turow’s brilliant non-fiction book, "Ultimate Punishment: a Lawyer’s Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty" about his first hand experience with prosecutors run amok.
Even if the death sentence was given out without bias and without error how do you justify holding down a shackled human being and ripping the life out of him?
Sister Helen Prejean, who wrote "Dead Man Walking" spoke in New Haven some ten years ago and she impressed me tremendously. She ministers to murderers on death row and to the families of their victims. She has witnessed executions herself and she’s talked with family members who’ve gladly observed the death of killers. Prejean has been in the trenches and she’s 100% against the death penalty.
Governor Rell is laying down the gauntlet in typical George Bush fashion, "You’ve got a problem, kill it." So what are the state Democrats doing. Absolutely nothing. If there’s an anti-death penalty bill in the hopper no one is trying to do anything to bring it to a vote this week. The Dems didn’t even make an issue of the governor’s threatened veto.
The next gubernatorial election is next year and the candidates are off and running. The front runner, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano has a website that makes no mention at all of the death penalty. The site’s lead article is about all the money his campaign has collected. In 2005 the Republicans should be reeling, but it’s the Democrats who are laying low.
Aside from anti-death penalty activists the only group working to stop the execution is the Catholic Church. They actually brought it up all over the state at last Sunday’s mass. Bully for them.
The conventional wisdom is that Ross is so despicable that any death penalty fight now will backfire and make it harder to win in the future. Listen, the ones who get the death penalty have all been convicted of multiple or gruesome murders. If we have to wait to fight on behalf of a blind, retarded, black librarian convicted on the testimony of a jailhouse snitch, we,re going to have to wait till Hell has an ice storm. Hiding our heads in the sand now will only give the entire field to the Bush’s and Rell’s of this world.
Now the death penalty is not my big political issue. My main political work is on Palestine, Israel, and Iraq, but I do think there is a connection. Our government is kill happy. Our savage foreign policy kills hundreds of thousands of innocents for "FREEDOM", "DEMOCRACY", "SECURITY", whatever. Of all governments, the US government has to get out of the killing business at every level.
This week on my TV program I interviewed Antoinette Bosco. Ten years ago her son and daughter in law were blown away in Montana by a teenager for no apparent reason. She and her family decided that they would oppose the death penalty. She’s adamant that the death sentence for her son’s killer could not bring her "closure". Nothing would ever heal the wound.
Bosco thought three things would help her, first insuring that the killer could never kill again, second making it much harder for kids to get guns and third the granting of mercy. She quotes Shakespeare, "The quality of mercy is not strained. It drops as the gentle rain from heaven". She wrote a book called, "Choosing Mercy". Bosco insists that it blesses the one who gives it as well as the one who receives. Revenge may be a natural desire when one is injured, but it’s a quick fix. In the long run she says it’s the granting of mercy that best soothes the pain.