Thursday, June 27, 2013

"'In Texas, we value all life,' Gov. Perry TX. Said on the eve of the state's 500th execution." Cody Beckner, Twitter

Yesterday was a big day for a lot of people.  It was the day the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) died, opening the door wider to gay marriage.  It was the day after Senator Wendy Davis's legendary filibuster attempt, which would have blocked a vote on changing abortion laws in Texas.  Governor Rick Perry has subsequently demanded a special session so that the measure can be properly voted on.  July 1, the Legislature will reconvene because, as Perry put it, "In Texas, we value all life."

Interestingly enough, yesterday was also the very last day of convicted murderer Kimberly McCarthy's life.  On November 1, 2002, McCarthy was sentenced to death after having been twice convicted of brutally murdering her neighbor, 71 year old Dorothy Booth, a retired college professor of psychology.  McCarthy beat and stabbed her neighbor to death in July of 1997.  In addition, Booth was found with a severed finger.  McCarthy cut off the finger, then stole and pawned the wedding ring that had been on it.  She also stole the psychology professor's car, using it to drive to a crack house so she could buy drugs with the $200 she got from pawning her victim's ring.  When McCarthy was later arrested, she was found with Booth's credit cards and a large knife that had Booth's blood on it.

Make no mistake about it.  What Kimberly McCarthy did is absolutely horrible.  While I am not a fan of the death penalty and generally oppose it in most cases, I can see how jurors decided to sentence her to death.  The crime was extremely gruesome and McCarthy proved that she was a danger to others.  McCarthy spent years on death row and finally got the ultimate punishment yesterday.

As Wendy Davis sacrificed her personal comfort to fight for women's access to abortions in Texas, Governor Rick Perry uttered those six ironic words... "In Texas, we value all life."

As Kimberly McCarthy was strapped to a gurney at 6:30pm central time and given poison designed to kill her at the state's behest, I have to say... No, Texans...  you don't value all life.  If you did, Kimberly McCarthy would not have been executed.

As she was about to die on the gurney, Kimberly McCarthy said "Thank you everybody.  This is not a loss, this is a win.  I am going home to be with Jesus.  Keep the faith.  I love y'all."  Those last words were printed on CNN.com.

Kimberly McCarthy, convicted murderer who had brutally stabbed, beaten, and stolen from her neighbor, a presumably respected and honorable member of society, was now getting her fifteen minutes of fame.  Her last words are now being read by the world.  This person who callously and violently snuffed out another person's life has been celebrated on CNN for being the 500th person in Texas and one of the rare females to be executed since the death penalty was reinstated in the state.  How's that for going out with a bang?

There are many reasons why I am both pro choice and, generally speaking, anti death penalty.  Most of my reasons for being against the death penalty have to do with my positive regard for fellow human beings.  It bothers me that innocent people have been jailed and even executed for crimes they didn't actually commit.  But another reason I don't like the death penalty is that it gives monsters like Kimberly McCarthy a platform.

I don't know how Kimberly McCarthy spent the last fifteen years...  I have no idea if she tried to redeem herself while she was behind bars.  I don't know what her upbringing or home life was like or what caused her to so savagely attack her neighbor.  I do know that she got to live for fifteen years after she cut short her neighbor's life.  And her death was certainly less painful and more humane than her victim's was.

I think the death penalty is appropriate in cases where a person is extremely dangerous to society.  If a person has murdered many people, will definitely kill again, and there is absolutely no doubt about his or her guilt, I think the death penalty is rightfully applied in the interest of protecting innocent people.   For instance, I think it was right that Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed.  Having killed 168 people by bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Building, he was definitely a menace to society and it would not have been safe for him to be on the streets.

Likewise, I think it's right that John Allen Muhammed, the Beltway Sniper, was executed.  He was killing for sport and enlisted a young person to help him in his murderous spree.  I also happened to be living in the DC area when this was going on and remember how scary it was.  He and Lee Boyd Malvo were not killing for any purpose other than to terrorize people.              

In cases like McVeigh's and Muhammed's, I favor a speedy execution, preferably done without any fanfare, and very minimal news coverage.  No one should become famous-- or infamous-- for killing people and ending up on death row.

By the same token, I am pro choice.  I don't see the death penalty and abortion as comparable issues.  No one I know remembers what it was like to be in the womb.  Indeed, no one I know can even remember what it was like to be a baby.  While I understand that babies and fetuses can feel pain and abortion is a gruesome process, particularly when it's done late in a pregnancy, I don't see it as cruel as killing someone who has already been born and knows what's coming.  A developing fetus has no concept of what it means to be alive.  A person on death row presumably does have a concept of what life is and can think about what's coming.

That being said... most people would be fortunate to die as peacefully as someone on death row does.  Kimberly McCarthy never had to worry about growing old and infirm, unable to tend to her basic needs.  She never had to fear dementia and the tremendous loss of dignity that usually comes to a person who grows old, physically frail and sick, and starts to lose their mind.  She never had to worry about being homeless or placed in a nursing home where she might have been kept drugged and restrained while others waited for her to die naturally.  Kimberly McCarthy died with her faculties intact and presumably didn't have to wear diapers during the last years of her life because she had become incontinent.

I do think it's barbaric to be strapped down to a gurney and injected with lethal drugs while people stand around and watch.  But is it as barbaric as the process of growing old and sick often is?  I don't know.

In any case, I do think it's very ironic that Rick Perry thinks Texans value all life.  Clearly, after what happened last night in Huntsville, not all life in Texas is respected or valued.  It's the very definition of irony that a state in which an attempted marathon filibuster intended to prevent a vote on sweeping new abortion restrictions fails... as that same state's 500th inmate is purposely killed by the government.  Just sayin'.  

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