Friday, July 01, 2011

Death is not an option

John Wayne Gacy, who was from Waterloo, IA by the way, was the 100th person to be put to death by the State of Illinois.

Between 1928 and 1962, Illinois electrocuted 98 people. Prior to 1928, the killing was done by the counties. Then, because of various Supreme Court cases like Robinson v California in 1962, and Furman v Georgia in 1972, Illinois temporarily stopped State Sponsored Ends of Lives. The Supremes got reversed in Gregg v Georgia 1976, and in 1977 Illinois was back in the business.

Between '28-'62 we used the aforementioned high voltage, high amps method. In 1977 we decided to use the far more humane lethal injection when killing our convicted murderers. I thought that was nice, and a long way from the 1878 Wilkerson v Utah ruling which stated (if memory serves) that Utah couldn't draw and quarter, publicly dissect, or burn convicts alive. Firing squad OK. 'Sup Utah! I think those were 8th and 14th Amendment rulings but don't try quoting me on that or I'll plead too-lazy-to-Google. (Maybe just 8th and the 14th stuff came later so let me just issue a peremptory blow me Fritz.)

Since Capital Punishment was reinstated, Illinois has put 12 men to death. No women.

Charles Walker

John Wayne Gacy

Hernando Williams

James P. Free, Jr

Girvies Davis

Charles Albanese

George Del Vecchio

Raymond Lee Stewart

Walter Stewart (no relation)

Durlyn Edmonds

 Lloyd Wayne Hampton

& Andrew Kokoraleis

Kokoraleis was the last one, in March 1999. A particularly vile piece of work, he and his buddies were known as The Chicago Rippers. A Satanic cult, they used to rape, torture, and then murder their victims, all women, the number of whom is suspected to be 18.

Noteworthy was their trademark of cutting off one breast from each of their victims, masturbating into the wound, and passing the severed breast around so each member could eat some of it. Their leader was a creature named Robin Gecht, who as it turns out used to do work for Pogo the Clown, AKA John Wayne Gacy.

The Ripper Crew, as they were also called, and Kokoraleis in particular were largely responsible for my strong advocacy of the death penalty but the real poster boy for me was Gacy.

When the wife was in law school, the debates were intense. I was often involved because unlike my wife, and most of the Northwestern Law students (and profs...yes I'm looking at you Larry Marshall, and you too David Protess) ...I wasn't appalled at the notion of executing the sickos.

They tried and tried to convince me that singling out the sickos as my examples was a weak form of debate, and yet when I'd ask "Does it bother you that we're going to put John Wayne Gacy to death?" they'd stop and think hard. I heard things like "I'll be glad when Gacy's dead, but I don't think the state should kill him. He should die in prison. He'll never kill another person, so why do you (me) want him dead so badly?"

And I'd say,...because of Timothy McCoy, John Butkovitch, Darrell Sampson, Randall Reffett, Sam Stapleton, Michael Bonnin, William Carroll, Rick Johnston, Kenneth Parker, Michael Marino, Gregory Godzik, John Szyc, Jon Prestidge, Matthew Bowman, Robert Gilroy, John Mowery, Russell Nelson, Robert Winch, Tommy Boling, David Talsma, William Kindred, Timothy O'Rourke, Frank Landingin, James Mazzara, Robert Piest, and 8 others who were unidentifiable. Some of whom were cut into chunks and buried in the walls of his fucking basement.

It's because of those dead guys, I'd say. Justice needs to be swift and severe. I don't want to share air with that fucking monster for another minute.

"Ah, so it's about you!" I'd hear, and they'd nod at each other solemnly, knowingly. Fuckin' law students.

For personal reasons, I followed closely the cases of Alejandro Hernandez, Rolando Cruz (both wrongfully convicted) and Brian Dugan, who was later convicted of the same crime of which Hernandez Cruz were originally charged.

And I followed the career path of David Protess, a Northwestern University journalism professor. Protess was largely responsible, along with a few other people I know, for the Medill Innocence Project. In tandem with the legal team from the Center for Wrongful Convictions, these folks came up with at least 15 different cases of men on death row who were, allegedly innocent.

For some time, I've had some suspicions about Protess, as well as the whole gang down at the Innocence Project. I won't go into details, but suffice to say I found questionable the lengths to which the group was willing to go. Northwestern found some inconsistencies between what Protess said they were doing, and what others were claiming, and so they launched an internal investigation. It was centered around an email that Potess has sent to defense counsel for a guy named Anthony McKinney. McKinney's been locked up for 31 years, and IP says they've got the wrong guy.

In detailing his communication with McKinney's lawyers, Protess said that he was playing it right down the middle, and was revealing any findings his team had uncovered to the prosecution as well.

Turns out that wasn't quite the truth, and when Medill Dean of Journalism John Levine compared the email copy Protess gave him it contained info that was not included in the email that he, Protess, had sent to the prosecution. He was immediately suspended, his popular class on wrongful conviction stuff was shitcanned, and he began holding meetings in secret locations with his students while he awaited the final ruling from NU. That ruling came a couple of months ago when David Protess was dismissed as a professor at Northwestern University.

Whether I cared for Protess or his tactics or not, there's something about that team of his, and their findings that started me on the road to reconsidering my position of capital punishment. 15 cases of men being wrongfully sentenced to death. (thank God we finally figured out how that deoxyribonucleic acid stuff really works.)

That's more than the number of men Illinois has executed since capital punishment was brought back in '77.

With a couple of hundred people being sent to Death Row in that time, we're talking damned near 10% and that's just the ones the Innocence Project could prove. And so, it turns out that the students at Northwestern Law were right back in 1987. It is about me, sort of, and by me I mean us. I could have lived the same life with John Wayne Gacy (Waterloo, IA) not being executed. Same with Ripper Guy. Their executions don't bother me as there was 0% doubt about their guilt but they aren't the only ones we've offed.

10 other guys have been injected lethally since '77, and who knows what their stories were?

It's just too much responsibility for our State to accept, and the system is so fucked up that the likelihood that one of them, or some of the others on Death Row, are there wrongfully was too high to proceed the way we were going. On March 9, when Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a permanent ban on executions in Illinois I was good with his decision. It's the right thing to do. Not that the idea of killing a John Wayne Gacy bugs my conscience now, because it doesn't.

The problem for me isn't one of conscience about executing murderers per se, it's the uncertainty.  If we can't be absolutely certain someone is guilty, and there is enormous evidence that we've fucked up on several occasions by sentencing the wrong people to death, then we don't belong in the killing business. Life without parole is punishment enough.

Well today, at 12:00AM July 1, 2011...the new law took effect.

Illinois will no longer execute people.