Mar 27, 2012

The truth about the death penalty repeal bill in Connecticut

This article on the CT Death Penalty Repeal Bill published  by The Foothills Media Group is an excellent piece focusing on the unvarnished facts concerning this bill that has sparked so much debate here in Connecticut.

It was written by a Connecticut legislator named Bill Simanski, a Republican from Granby, whose main motivation was to insure that every Connecticut citizen be availed of all the facts involved with this proposed  Repeal Bill , as it is once again, about to be voted upon by the Connecticut legislature.

Very few people actually understand the serious ramifications that this bill will have if made into law. It would adversely affect our criminal judicial system insofar as increasing our violent crime rate due to lack of deterrence, the state will absorb  huge monetary expenses resultant from the deluge of new trials that will surely happen as public defenders in capital murder cases refuse any plea offers, knowing that by taking their case to trail they've got a chance of receiving a life sentence with the possibility of parole" (an obscene misnomer if there ever was one!)  and thus any lawyer will refuse a plea as they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by now going to trial and immediately pleading not guilty no matter how much evidence the state has against their client.

Just one of these trials typically cost millions upon millions of dollars in state money - both for the prosecutors and the public defenders who are on our States payroll and more often than not statistically wind up representing defendants in capital murder cases.

 Now typically very few legislators or anti-death penalty advocates talk about any of these issues; usually we hear a great deal about emotionally charged issues on the periphery of the whole death penalty issue.

This issue has always been and continues to have at its core a heated and emotional debate; Mr Simanski proposes to remove some of the emotion and lay out the facts -facts which are in and of themselves extremely disturbing.

This is the singular most important issue this state will ever face. As such it is up to the residents to understand what it means and accordingly put pressure on our Connecticut Senators, for they alone now hold the key as to whether this bill will pass muster and become law in the State of Connecticut.

The Bill just squeaked through The Connecticut Judiciary committee, it's origination point, and is poised to proceed to the Senate ,where if it passes by a certain margin - it will be made into law.

 As responsible citizens of this State, we simply cannot allow this to happen. And despite the overt media bias favoring the Repeal, it is far from the" inevitable outcome" being portrayed in so many Connecticut based papers such as the Hartford Courant among others.

This type of "journalism" is designed to discourage the people of the State from attempting to fight this bill, indirectly implicating that such efforts are hopeless at this point - whereas the opposite is in fact true.  This is a very close close divisive split within the Senate and even the Judiciary vote was closer than was "expected".

Efforts by Connecticut voters to be heard along with commitments to vote against any legislators that have voted for this repeal, starting with the members of the judiciary committee, each of whom are legislators themselves assembly persons or State Senators that cover a certain district in this state and as such are voted into these positions by the public. 

The constituents within those districts need to make it very clear that no matter who is running against them in the next election, political party be damned - anyone voting for this repeal is clearly soft on crime and will be voted out. Let your local legislators know that as a voting resident you will have a long memory, and that their vote on this repeal may easily become the deciding factor in whether they have a future in politics.

 It would seem that the owners editors and writers of our States largest newspapers are in the pocket of the democratic majority who sit on our general assembly, as well as our new Governor whose existence basically reignited the Democratic legislator's determination to get the Death Penalty repealed once and for all.  A similar bill to abolish the DP was written up and voted in to law in 2009, infuriating the people of this State, who were still reeling from the trauma of three sets of vicious capital murders all of which had yet to be adjudicated in fact jury selection had yet to start on any of them!

Governor Rell a Republican, used what was for her a rare veto upon the last Death Penalty abolition bill, citing that in poll after poll it is clear what her constituents want and that is the death penalty must remain as an option for Connecticut prosecutors for the very worst Capital murders, where already a plethora of aggravating factors are required of any crimes where this sentence is even pursued by the state.

There was also a common agreement among the public, Republican and even some Democratic  legislators that the current appeals process needs to be completely revamped and made usable, as the states death penalty  has become crippled by a limitless appeals process, which every public defender takes full advantage of throwing everything but the kitchen sink at every case no matter the brutality involved or their clients actual guilt;  Guilt and accountability has become a non issue to Connecticut lawyers, and this is where the current slippery slope that we find ourselves in, began. Justice is dead. Accountability an archaic notion in the world of Connecticut's courts.

Please get involved  with this critical issues and call the three Connecticut Senators listed below immediately. Deluge their voice mails with the strength of your opinion on this extremely important issue - Poll after Poll has proven that on average 68 percent of all Connecticut residents want the Death penalty to remain an option for our States prosecutors in our worst capital crimes.

Senator Prague (860)240-0543. Senator Maynard (860)240-0584. Senator Crisco (860)240-0189.

There is also a misleading and purposefully disingenuous claim that the repeal bill is "prospective",  meaning that it will supposedly not apply retroactively to all of the men currently on death row.

This as Rep Simanski explains, is an absolute falsehood, which was only designed to placate the public, as the legislators who wrote the bill anticipated the anger and uproar that a "non-prospective" repeal would cause in light of all of the recent protracted and traumatic death penalty murder cases which the people of the state are still reeling from.

What this means is that every man on death row - including the B.J Clarke and Karen Clarke murderers,  the Petit family rapists/murderers and a gaggle of other extremely dangerous convicted murderers and rapists each given death sentences by a jury of their peers, will never actually receive the Death penalty, and worse, they will all wind up in general population in prison with the same privileges that those men enjoy! Lead State Public defender Susan Storey, has already announced her intention to fight on these men's behalf and has cited that prospective repeals have not worked for others states, and indeed the prospective portions of these bills have been later scrapped by some.
And the line just keeps getting drawn further and further away. The courts are owned by defense attorneys whose very nature is to push the envelope no matter the cost to the public in lives pain brutality fear and life long trauma. These lawyers happen to comprise a good portion of our State's judiciary committee and our legislature.

Stop the Connecticut Death Penalty Repeal Bill Now.

Please petition our SENATORS, Make those calls and let your voice and your opinion be heard. Send emails and letters to every single Connecticut Senator, regardless of their political affiliation. Ask your Friends and acquaintances to do the same and remember although the three Senators listed are reportedly on the fence, every republican Senator needs to be reminded as do independent thinking democrats that do not necessarily follow the herd. There are a handful in the Connecticut Senate that actually think for themselves.
Foothills Media Group - Death Penalty Repeal Bill The real facts

Mar 23, 2012

Conn. committee passes death penalty repeal bill despite recent poll findings on issue


For all Connecticut citizens against the Death Penalty Repeal Bill,  please get on the phone to the following Senators and express your adamant wish that they vote against this Repeal .

Senator Prague  860 240 0543   Senator Maynard 860 240 0584  Senator Crisco 860 240 0189

There are voice mails at each number and as such you will be asked to give your name and phone number probably to assure that you are a Connecticut resident. No one will actually call you back, but you are given ample time to leave a message that should begin with the basics, in case the Senator's aides do not listen to a lengthy message and delete any messages that are beyond a minute or two.

State that you are adamantly opposed to the Death Penalty Repeal Bill that recently passed the Judiciary committee and will be heading to the Senate shortly. Beseech these lawmakers to do the right thing and vote against the Repeal!  A repeal will lead to further violence in our State. It is the beginning of the end, literally handing over our courts to murderers rapists and their often state finance public defenders or special public defenders who like Jeremiah Donovan, Joshua Komisarjevsky's lawyer, are paid a higher wage than "regular public defenders and are allowed many more billable hours and money and resources in defending capital murder crimes.

Senator Prague (860)240-0543. Senator Maynard (860)240-0584. Senator Crisco (860)240-0189. It is on to the Senate next and these are 3 critical votes. Leave a message on the voice mail's for these Senators, as well as any other Senators that are in your district, that are on the fence or that you feel might be influenced by the strength of your opinion. Victims and survivors of violent crime, family members and loved ones of victims obviously will have powerful voices, but everyone in this state will become a potential victim of this bill - so please make those calls!

The Senate is the only hope left for defeating the repeal of the death penalty in Connecticut. It must pass by a certain margin to get to the Governors desk.  There is considerable dissent regarding this bill among even our lawmakers; Had two Republican Judiciary Committee members voted against the repeal following their party's official position, the vote would have been 22-21 in the Judiciary, rather than 24-19.

I am dismayed and extremely angry at our own Trumbull Rep who voted for this repeal and then blathered on about abortions when he had the floor!  Abortion was not the issue on the agenda Sir.

I predict that this man will be voted out of his seat come next election when his constituents are heavily reminded of how this Republican lawmaker put all of our lives in peril with his vote to repeal the death penalty in it's originating  committee.

The Death Penalty is of course a deterrent, as one Senator in the Judiciary Committee said, if it deters one person from murdering, it has done it's job.

Life in Prison will become the new" cruel and unusual punishment" and the public defenders and other lawyers will all proceed to trial for every capital murder as a matter of course, in hopes of receiving life with the chance of parole for their murderers and rapists who prey upon the vulnerable. Our Connecticut prosecutors are not adept at trying these cases for they rarely rarely go to trial in this state. 96 -97 percent of all violent crime cases are adjudicated via plea deals, such as Leslie Williams whose lawyer quickly offered to plead guilty to capital murder and other charges in exchange for life in prison, because the death penalty exists.

Williams is the man who in 2008 burst into a Connecticut home where two women had sat down to after church coffee to chat. He shot one sixty seven year old woman in the head leaving her for dead. He then Kidnapped the other woman who was being treated for cancer, He stole her car and raped her, then shot her in the head as well, and throwing her body in some brush.

 This crime occurred just after Williams had been released from prison for raping a five year old girl, at the end of a seven year sentence which was arrived at by a plea deal rather than a trial (note; a seven year sentence for this crime is by Connecticut standards, a severe sentence) William stole a car right off the bat after getting out of prison and the car happened to run out of gas in front of the victims house.
He watched as the women entered the home as they returned from church waiting a few minutes,  he followed them in and began his murderous mayhem.

This horrible set of crimes occurred within 6 months of the Petit murders and happened in a quiet middle class suburb where people often make life long sacrifices in order to live in what they believe is a safe neighborhood.

The bottom line is that without a Death Penalty Leslie Williams lawyer would NEVER EVER have plead guilty to life without the chance of PAROLE.  The case would have gone to trial, as there would be nothing for murderers to lose" by going to trial for capital murder, and the groundswell of trials will cost the state millions and eventually billions of dollars. This eradicates the entire  argument by mostly democratic legislators that getting rid of the Death Penalty will save this State money due to the expensive built in appeals process. A process that in Connecticut is the biggest part of the problem rendering our Death penalty  impossible to actually implement.

The mostly democratic legislators begginning within the Judicary Comittee and the House, are responsible for purposeful crippling of Connecticut's current death penalty, leaving it in its current impotent state. Then they have the audacity and hypocrisy to use the very fact that the appeals process has crippled it as a reason to scrap it because its become too expensive as a result of the literally endless appeals that inmates and their attorneys file ad infinitum.

The Death Penalty clearly needs to be re-written and the appeals limited to a valid quantify per convicted person and appeals must require actual grounds, rather than simply being an automatic part of this sentence in Connecticut.

Other states such as Virginia and Texas have managed to create a death penalty that is not in name only, this they have done because as intelligent lawmakers they recognize that the DP is of course a deterrent as common sense dictates. And one innocent victim's life saved as a result of the existence of a working death penalty, is worth IT.

Mar 16, 2012

Henry Lee Award Dinner Honors Petit Family Foundation in Monroe Friday March 16th

The Henry Lee Award is quite an honor, and as such it is thus only fitting that The Petit Family Foundation who have contributed so much towards assisting victims of violence and domestic abuse, should be thus honored.

Congratulations as well to the co-recipient of this year's award, The Sikorsky Finance Women's Forum, an organization who have contributed heavily to Connecticut based  Jane Doe No More , a  sexual assault awareness/ advocacy group that sponsors the Henry Lee Award.

The event is being held Friday March 16th at The WATERVIEW in Monroe. It begins at 5:30 pm with a cocktail reception and silent auction; dinner follows at 7, with awards set for 8:30 p.m.

WFSB Eyewitness News Anchor Denise D'Ascenzo is this year’s emcee. Donna Palomba, the founder of Jane Doe no More, will present a scholarship to a college student who is working to improve the lives of victims of sexual assault.

Tickets are $125, and include dinner and open bar. Call 203-729-0245 or email  for an invitation or for information about reserved tables and event sponsorship.

For more about the event and past recipients, read this article in The Naugatuck Patch
Henry Lee Award Dinner Honors Petit Family Foundation in Monroe

West Hartford resident to lead Crime Victim's Service Agency CT-ALIVE

CT-ALIVE is an incredible Crime victim's services agency, and apparently they have a new president Katie Marinan of West Hartford.

This organizations work goes past the basic issues such as emergency housing/food/ shelter/  that victims of violent crime, partner/domestic violence clearly need.

For example a current project of CT-ALIVE  "Never going back to Abuse" is based upon Susan Somilian's well known motivational workshops. Founder of "The Avenging Angels" Susan formed the workshops in memory of her 19 year old niece Maggie, who was murdered in 1999.

This project which is being funded by The Petit Family Foundation focuses on stabilizing women's lives after the imminent threat of violence is over. Empowering women who are trying to make the tough transition from victim to survivor through education, re-socialization, technical training, and other practical assistance.

Struggling with these realities within the framework of leaving an abusive relationship, are key if we, as a community really hope to break the cycle that abused women find themselves in. Unfortunately, it is exactly within these parameters that state and federal funding for victims has traditionally always fallen short. We spare no expense on terrorism, yet this is terrorism, simply of the domestic variety.
Slowly we are seeing more private organizations and non-profits like CT-ALIVE., Jane Doe No More, and The Petit Family Foundation among others, helping to fill in some of these desperately needed voids.

Ct-Alive mission seems to be on just such " picking up the pieces" issues and rebuilding for victims of violence and abuse: Finding solutions for all of the very real  longer term issues such as transportation and long term housing needs, ,quality medical care, including  psychological/psychiatric assistance, and finally providing or finding available financial aid for adult education and/or technical/ certification programs so that victims have a viable way to start new healthier lives.

This kind of multi-faceted approach towards helping victims of violence, is heal and begin new abuse - free lives, truly breaks cycles of abuse forever.

Autonomy requires helping victims find funding for education and skill training as well as psychological intervention that goes beyond the most rudimentary counseling that is the usual fare in most states. There is a serious Post Traumatic Stress syndrome PTSD that often hampers victims of  violence in moving forward.
If this is not dealt with and treated, few women can successfully embark on a new life  Many times survivors are not even aware that they have PTSD, or how it might be negatively affecting them and/ or their children who have lived in household's where violence took place.

Financial independence is a necessity for women in formerly abusive relationships  and more often than not they require help in obtaining the training or education to pursue a viable career or job. The ability to support themselves and hopefully to do so within a career that they enjoy, lends a tremendous sense of self worth, as well as the security of knowing they can take care of themselves and in some cases, their children.

Kudos to CT-ALIVE and congratulations to their new president, Katie Marinan I'm certain she will serve them well, 

Read more about it here: New president appointed to lead CT-ALIVE

Mar 15, 2012

Tomorrow (Friday, 3/16 at NOON EST)-- White House Conference Call: Update on Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act

For all of you who would like to get more involved in helping to fight violence against women, the Violence against Women act - VAWA - is a veritable staple in this country, and now it is broadening its protective reach towards women from other country's who are caught in abusive relationships here on our soil.

No women should ever have to live in fear or pain from an abusive partner or ex-partner.

White House Conference Call: Update on Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act

Mar 14, 2012

Public Hearing: Should Connecticut’s Death Penalty Be Eliminated?

Click on link below for details regarding Wednesday's public hearing re The Death Penalty Repeal Bill in Hartford.  I also highly reccomend reading Don Pesci's shoebox full of talkibng points regarding the abolition of the Death Penalty -  all of the posts are excellent.

Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes from a Blue State: Should Connecticut’s Death Penalty Be Eliminated?

Mar 13, 2012

Roraback Renews Push for Repeal of Early Release Policy

As much as I obviously disagree with Senator Roraback's stance re the Death Penalty, I truly respect his unwavering commitment and tenacity in refusing to vote for a repeal of the DP, unless a separate bill that gives violent felons early release is withdrawn.  I admire Mr. Roraback for stating the truth about the realities of this early release program and boldly stating that he will not vote for a bill that is in effect telling victims of violent crime and their families, the judicial system lied to you when they gave the person who victimized you their sentence.

Whether that sentence was arrived at via a plea bargain or a jury trial (the latter is much rarer in this state unless it is murder)  the adjudication of any violent crime in Connecticut is extremely time consuming and emotionally draining for victims and/or their families.

Attending on average a years worth of hearings and continuances - this in  cases that are plea bargained, a victim and or their family members must see the person that committed often brutal crimes against them or their loved ones at monthly court appearances  Sticking with the process, cooperating with the prosecutors, despite the  traumatization, the fear and any physical seleleque of the crimes themselves, all takes a great deal of courage:  As such, when a victim of violent crime actually goes through all of this, many times the motive being to spare others from becoming future victims of the defendant, the least the state of Connecticut can do is actually ensure that the convicted offender actually serves whatever sentence he or she receives from the court.  As it is 97 percent of these cases are plea dealed which means that the sentences are lower than they should be to begin with, as plea deals involve lowering certain charges and dismissing/dropping others entirely. This is not done because of any lack of proof or weakness of a case, it is simply done out of course, a quick administrative type of approach to "justice" where compromise is key.

Well that "compromise" compromises the victim of these crimes, as well as future victims by leaving these violent offenders with criminal record's that do not reflect the severity of the crimes that they actually committed. As well the accompanying sentence for a violent crime charge is considerably less for say a class a misdemeanor than it would be for a class d felony, and a drop like this is commonplace in plea deals made by prosecutors every day across this state, worse in courts that reside in city's with high crime.ratios.

Now our Governor wants to make what are already watered down and arduously garnered sentences even lighter. No doubt, like the death penalty repeal, saving money is once again the motivation for this felon - friendly program. While putting price tags on our citizens lives is morally repugnant in and of itself, the fact is that repealing the death penalty and allowing violent offenders out of prison early will not save the state money in the long run. But this is another Post for another day.
Suffice to say that as a survivor of violent crime, I am disgusted by our Governor and his yes-men, both in and out side of the legislature, for trying to slide this dangerous policy past the people of Connecticut.

I am also surprised and disappointed that Senator Roraback would seem to be the only legislator this appalled and this vocal regarding the early release program, especially when considering that a very similar early release parole program contributed to a series of  horrible murders in 2007, each crime committed by questionably paroled repeat offenders. .

I do agree wholeheartedly with Roraback's assertion that  the two bills are inexorably linked and therefore his refusal to vote for a repeal of the death penalty if the early release program is approved -is very sound.  He states rather aptly that he  cannot put his name to repealing the death penalty even though in theory he's opposed to the DP,  when AT THE VERY SAME TIME a separate policy on the table would put our States citizens in clear danger from  this same group of violent felons and would be murderers, as well as betraying the victims of violent crimes and their family's, by cutting down sentences that have already been handed down by Connecticut courts.
Roraback Renews Push for Repeal of Early Release Policy | Capitol Watch

Mar 5, 2012

Great Death Penalty article by Lester Jackson

This article was originally posted in the Moral Liberal and has found its way to various other blogs and online publications. It is one of the best I have ever read about the Death Penalty and I've read  more than a few

Considering everything going on right now in our State, I thought that pulling this article from my own blog's archives was most approprate; We find ourselves again embroiled in yet another attempt by our legislators to repeal our State's Death Penalty, despite the fact that poll after poll proves that 70 percent plus want the death penalty to remain a prosecutorial option for the most brutal hienous crime that fit the already long list of aggravating factor" criteria.

The Connecticut legislature decided that the timing was just right for another shot at repealing the DP after a ridiculously protracted and arduous battle to obtain Justice for the Petit family victims and thier loved ones. The Petit victims were violently murdered and some tortured and sexually assaulted by two recently  paroled criminals, one of whom was given less than half of  the prison sentence that thier Judge specifically ordered for him (j. Komisarjevsky- the ringleader) after komisarjevsky was in court for  a string of felonious breaking and entering that landed them in our correctional facilities

How Quickly we forget... which is why time is always, always a friend of the accused. This is an issue that Mr Jackson brings up several times within his essay and one that as victims survivors and family members of victims we know better than anyone how no time boundaries between when a crime is committed and must be adjudicated by, has been deserving victims of violent rime for many years now. We need a handul of legislators who will committ to these isues as well as outside agencies to ensure that our courts parole boards criminal records divisons , probation, et al are in fact smotthly exchanging infomration easily within easy to use databases.

And of course the entire mindset must change.

In the meantime Thank you
Lester Jackson, for being such a devotedadvocate of revamping  our Death Penalty process and well as our entire justice system.

Keep up the good fight..


Days apart in early February, two Connecticut events dramatically highlighted how power-abusing elitists have sabotaged the death penalty. First, in the second protracted Petit robbery-rape-arson-murder case, defense attorneys fired a fusillade of motions to spare the life of a client they proclaimed so dangerous that the “public interest” required him to “never again spend a day in free society (4).” Second, a group of murder victim family members called for death penalty abolition, complaining it inflicted greater suffering on them than murderers. Dr. Gail Canzano asserted: “The death penalty ensnares people in the criminal justice system… result[ing] in … years of suffering … for the families left behind. … [E]very single court appearance re-traumatizes the family….”

This was further vindication of the ruthless strategy of so-called death penalty opponents: protecting barbaric murderers by abusing the legal system to drag out, for decades, cases in which there is no doubt about guilt, torturing victims in the process.

That it was not always this way shows that it does not have to be this way now.


President William McKinley died on Sept. 14, 1901, eight days after being shot by Leon Czolgosz, who was caught in the act and confessed. On Sept. 23, Czolgosz went on trial and was sentenced to death three days later. He was executed on Oct. 29, 53 days after the crime and 47 after the president’s death.

Unable to get near his first choice (75), President Herbert Hoover, Giuseppe Zangara settled on President-elect Franklin Roosevelt. On Feb. 15, 1933, Zangara’s errant shot hit Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, who died on March 6. Caught in the act and having confessed, Zangara was executed on March 20, 1933 after 10 days on death row and 14 days after his victim died.

On July 2, 1881, Charles Guiteau shot President James Garfield, who died on Sept. 19. Immediately caught, Guiteau boasted of his deed. He was placed on trial for murder on Nov. 14 and found guilty on Jan. 25, 1882. After an appeal rejected May 22 and a denied request for an orchestra to play at his hanging, Guiteau was executed on June 30, 1882, nine months after his victim died.

William Kemmler murdered his wife on March 29, 1889 and was sentenced to death 45 days later, May 13. He appealed the new execution method, electrocution, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court May 23, 1890. Even with the aid of high-priced lawyers hired by George Westinghouse, his execution occurred August 6, 1890, 15 months after the murder.

On March 20, 1927, Ruth Snyder, aided by paramour Henry Gray, strangled and bludgeoned her husband to death to collect insurance. In fewer than 10 months, January 12, 1928, they were both executed.

There was never any doubt whatsoever about the guilt in these cases. Justice was done – swiftly. This is now inconceivable, both in unpublicized and high-profile cases. In today’s murderer-friendly, victim-hostile judicial and legislative environment, incontrovertibly and boastfully guilty assassins and other murderers spend years, even decades, on death row – if sentenced to death at all. Consider the following few of limitless examples.


On Nov. 5, 2009, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan shot 45 mostly military people, killing 13 and wounding 32. After 17 months, it remained uncertain whether Hasan would face capital charges or even be court-martialed. Although apprehended in the act of murdering, he is, in today’s argot, still merely an “accused” murderer.

On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City, murdering 168 innocent people. He boasted of his guilt. Nevertheless, he was not executed until June 2001. Had he not dropped his appeals, there is no telling how many more years would have elapsed; indeed, he might still be alive after 16 years, which is routine nowadays.

On parole from a sentence for beating a neighbor to death, Robert Alton Harris kidnapped and murdered two boys, one “crouching and screaming,” and “giggled …, saying he had blown … Baker’s arm off. [He] amused himself by imagining be[ing] a police officer … report[ing] the boys’ deaths to their families. … [He] laughed, commented he had really blown the boy’s brains out, and then flicked the bits of flesh into the street.” Executed after “only” 14 years, the New York Times bitterly attacked the Supreme Court’s “Rush to Kill.”

John Jacob Dougan made several tape recordings bragging about the 1974 murder of an 18-year-old boy, which were mailed to the victim’s mother as well as to the media: “He was stabbed in the back, in the chest and the stomach, ah, it was beautiful. You should have seen it. Ah, I enjoyed every minute of it. I loved watching the blood gush from his eyes.” 37 years later, Dougan remains on death row.

Spared a death sentence for murder, this mercy enabled Clarence Ray Allen to communicate with and order associates outside prison to murder witnesses against him. It took another 26 years to execute him.

No ground for delay is too preposterous in today’s courts. So shameless are death penalty opponents that, after being kept alive to have a second bite at the murder apple that cost three more innocent lives, Allen’s lawyers actually argued (n362) he should not be executed because just thinking about the prospect might cause him to have a heart attack. In this vein, two justices have taken seriously the abolitionist demand that any murderer who succeeds in gaming the system for decades should be rewarded for the delay he himself has caused – by voiding his death sentence because execution would be cruel and unusual punishment after so long. In other words, grant mercy to the parent killer on the ground that he is an orphan.

In 1882, Guiteau got nowhere with his demand for an orchestra to accompany his permitted pre-hanging reading of his poetry, which he insisted would be “very effective” with music. Today, when judges take seriously the claim that a brutal murderer should be spared execution because he won a dance contest or would not be a threat in prison because he “only preyed on elderly women,” Guiteau’s demand, alone, would likely be good for a delay of a year or two.

Equally absurd but far more serious is the routine argument that a murderer never intended that anyone be murdered, even when he showed up with a loaded gun and a lethal knife, planned an armed robbery, stabbed his rape victim 53 times (93-4) or smuggled a chest filled with guns into a prison to help two convicted murderers escape. In the Petit case, lawyers argue Joshua Komisarjevsky never intended (3) for anyone to be murdered, but they fail to explain why, if this is so, he deserves an actual life sentence in “the public interest.” (There is evidence, from his own cell phone, that he was an active, willing participant. His partner probably could not have committed the crimes alone, nor even tried.)

Such absurdities help explain why the point has been reached where Virginia is held up as a veritable death penalty paradise (8) by some capital punishment supporters because it can execute the clearly guilty in an average of “only” seven years; and why former Kentucky Chief Justice Lambert conceded that it is “difficult if not impossible” to defend multi-decade cases. But given judicial obtuseness regarding victims, it is, first, vital to stress that these cases further victimize the law-abiding in the name of purported “due process” for the most brutal lawless.


Murder victimizes survivors in two ways: (1) the loss and pain of family members and others who care about the homicide victim; and (2) the agony inflicted by the modern travesty of justice system.

To lay persons, this may seem too obvious to mention. But not to many judges. The idea that, on behalf of convicted murderers, the courts cruelly punish murder victim families flies in the face of the denial they are victims at all. In a virtually unreported but highly revealing statement, Justice Stevens calls it a “misnomer” to label as “victims” the family members and others who love and care about murder victims because they are merely “third parties.” Really?! Consider these few examples:

David Brewer raped, strangled and stabbed Sherry Byrne 15 times; he slit her throat. This “ruined the lives of everyone close to her.” Her mother was hospitalized and divorced; her husband, who “wanted to die,” was twice hospitalized for psychiatric care.

One mother stated: “When Shannon died, we died.”

Dr. William Petit considered suicide because he lost: “a wife and two wonderful daughters, where you’re defined by your family. … children are the jewels … all your hopes for the future are in your children… Your wife is your partner, your team-mate … you lose it all.’

It is unlikely that Stevens will descend from his ivory tower to face Diana Harrington, who flatly declared (368-75) herself “a victim” of the brutal murders of her sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew.

Also, Stevens finds it “troubling” (7) to “rouse jurors’ sympathy for the victims and increase jurors’ antipathy for the capital defendants.” Indeed, if some justices (once a majority) had their way, victims’ families would have the courthouse doors slammed in their faces.

Solicitude for murderers and callous unconcern for victims go a long way toward explaining why judges have no qualms inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on the latter.

Justice Ginsburg suffers stress and cries; and Justice Blackmun found executing barbaric criminals “particularly excruciating” (153). Yet one can search in vain for similar expressions by them about victims. Hence, on behalf of those whose guilt is uncontested, these justices often have compounded geometrically the anguish of losing loved ones. That is why family members have said it is they who endure cruel and unusual punishment.

Justice Stevens worried that it might take 11 minutes rather than 7 for a condemned killer to die. But he voted to stay the execution of Earl Wesley Berry to decide only if lethal injection, previously advocated by Stevens as a lethal gas substitute, was inhumane. The justices voting for this stay said nothing about further victimizing the family of Berry’s brutally murdered victim. A local paper called it cruel not to execute Berry: “ironic that a man who beat and stomped to death a woman now hopes the justice system will save him from a death he believes is ‘cruel and inhumane.’” The daughter referred (n319) to suffering caused by “hav[ing] to deal with court proceedings and appeals processes” for two decades.

Although executing the most barbaric murderers causes stress, tears and excruciation for the likes of Ginsburg and Blackmun, they are heedless of the torment expressed by a son 30 years after his father was murdered: “It never ends for families … It’s just not right that it goes on and on.” Having waited 25 years for execution of her family’s murderer, Harrington (367) said the “loss of loved ones is enough agony that one should bear, much less the constant reminders of the criminal’s appeals, protests and constant complaints ….”

Doubly victimized – and Stevens denies they are victims at all!!

Now, judicially, legislatively or both, the Petit survivors are likely to suffer elite contempt for victims.


This case has been reported widely, in detail. Briefly, in July 2007, Komisarjevsky and Stephen Hayes broke into the home of Dr. William A. Petit. They forced his wife to withdraw money from a bank, brought her back, tied up, sexually attacked, doused with gasoline and burned alive her and her 11 and 17-year-old daughters. They also attacked Dr. Petit, who survived.

Two points are especially significant.

First, because there is no doubt whatsoever as to guilt of either perpetrator, this case shows clearly how the legal system has been debased into a weapon to torture already victimized loved ones of victims of the clearly guilty. Although Komisarjevsky’s lawyers conceded (4) he is so dangerous that permanent incarceration is required, they sought four months for jury selection alone, followed by two more months before his trial finally begins, while accusing (3) the trial judge of “cringing accommodation to …. speed demanded by the victim….” For his part, the judge pointed out (6): “By the time the jury in this [second] case is impaneled, over four years will have elapsed since the crime.”

Second, most murder victim families and trials receive very little attention; here there has been enormous coverage. However, while the coverage has been unique, the suffering inflicted by the dysfunctional nature of the American “justice” system is not unique at all. Elites – not only judges but elected legislators – have callous contempt for victims, be they publicized or unknown. Prior to signing the highly unpopular Illinois death penalty repeal, Gov. Quinn refused even to meet with the mother of a viciously raped, tortured and murdered girl. Connecticut’s elected governor and legislators strove mightily to show their scorn for democracy generally and Dr. Petit particularly by trying to repeal capital punishment even before Komisarjevsky could be tried. That appears to have been temporarily averted. But those who side with murderers are relentless and promise to come back after the trial, so that the public and Dr. Petit will sooner or later receive their contempt. Repeal is “inevitable,” they promise.

Much delay results from duplicitous abolitionist legislators who seek to deceive the public by voting for popular death penalty legislation only after they insert poison pill provisions to render it ineffective. Such politicians will not fix the system (8) to enable enforcement when their true goal is to make this impossible.

If prominent victims can be tortured, what chance is there for those who suffer unnoticed?

Dr. Petit, his family and friends already have endured not only agony from the barbaric crime, but also from the system. Tragically, this seems likely to continue.


For years, death penalty abolitionists have tried to convince the public that there have been rampant executions of the innocent – even in recent years, with multiple layers of appeals and procedural restrictions. This repeatedly (7-19) has been refuted. In reality, nearly all death penalty litigation lasting decades (374) involves the sentence, not guilt. Even justices who have done the most to undermine capital punishment concede: “a substantial claim of actual innocence [is] extremely rare. … [C]hallenges to … death [sentences] are routinely asserted … [But] …claims of actual innocence are rarely successful.”

Alleged innocence is just a convenient propaganda tool irrelevant to the true objective. Abolitionists do not oppose the death penalty for fear of executing the innocent. They oppose executing the guilty, period. Hence, they fear seeking the truth, lest it limit endless duplicative litigation to drag out any case – regardless of savagery and number of murders committed, recidivism, and overwhelming weight of evidence.

Leading opponent Bryan Stevenson called it “misguided” (25) to focus on the “wrongly convicted.” Carol and Jordan Steiker warned against “too much enthusiasm” for innocence. They cautioned that DNA tests used to attack the death penalty, by claiming “exonerations,” ultimately would provide additional support for and “salvage capital punishment” by establishing guilt conclusively.

So the main weapon is not to claim innocence but to incessantly manipulate the legal system, tying it in knots. Justice Scalia observed (12, 17): “It is just a game, after all.” The name of the game is: delay, delay, delay. When sentence challenges fail, much more delay is caused by litigating execution methods (16-20) for murderers who have inflicted maximum drawn out torture on their victims. As noted, any absurd argument will do.

Endless delays not only cause huge expenditures (not necessarily more than life imprisonment) and strain judicial resources; far worse, as documented above, they further torture already victimized survivors. Opponents thereby seek to compel death penalty supporters to surrender to total abolition. Having grossly abused the system, abolitionists use that very abuse (6) as an argument to end the abuse by ending capital punishment. On March 25, PBS premiered a “documentary,” No Tomorrow, again arguing the death penalty is too costly – based on the case of a brutal triple killer “neither sympathetic nor plausibly innocent”!

Abolitionists will never admit to having anything but compassion for victims, even purporting to act for their benefit. For example, Komisarjevky’s lawyers feigned concern for the Petit family in the very flood of motions attacking that family (e.g. (6), as the “Petit posse”) – contending (3) that not granting a motion would “do a disservice to… the surviving victim and the victims’ loved ones and supporters.” In declaring a 300-pound man’s rape of an 8-year-old girl, requiring painful surgery, insufficiently depraved to warrant the death penalty, a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court claimed (32) to lessen the victim’s ordeal of aiding prosecution – as though she would not have to testify in a non-capital trial!

Gov. Corzine (NJ) said he signed a death penalty repeal to spare loved ones from being “more deeply hurt by long delays and endless appeals….”

Despite this faux concern for victims, those who most stridently oppose the death penalty as cruel and unusual punishment for the guilty have absolutely no compunction about perverting the law to impose such punishment upon the innocent. And so much the better if a public relations coup can be extracted from even a few tortured victims seemingly experiencing Stockholm Syndrome – so that, rather than protesting the abuse inflicted upon them, they submissively join their tormenters to seek abolition of the death penalty on the precise ground that it is cruel and unusual punishment for them instead of convicted murderers.


“The demands of justice have been satisfied,” began the long July 1, 1882 front-page New York Times report on the Guiteau execution. Today, the same paper deems it injustice to execute even a presidential assassin proud of his deed. Nevertheless, countless polls show the 1882 Times closer to 2011 public values.

Other than abolitionists, few would deny that justice requires not only prevention of convicting the innocent but also protecting the law-abiding and expeditiously meting out punishment deemed just by society (not judges or elite newspapers). Yet, those who now dominate the legal system have no use for an ancient maxim: “justice delayed is justice denied.” For them, justice delayed is justice. However, Chief Justice Burger worried that delay would “drain even a just judgment of its value,” thereby undermining essential public confidence in the courts.

The Sixth Amendment provides: “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.” Decades ago, the Supreme Court held that the right to a public trial is not confined to the accused because the public has a right to be informed. By the same token, if the securing public safety is the first duty of government, justice demands a right to a speedy trial for the public as well as the accused. On its face, it is grievously unjust when, as in the Petit case, it takes more than four years to bring to trial a defendant whose lawyers seek life imprisonment in the “public interest” while complaining about too much speed. Is that what the Constitution’s Framers had in mind? Did their concept of justice intend defendants to have two rights, both to speed and endless delaying tactics subjecting victimized survivors to endless ordeals? Was such cruel punishment of victims “usual” when the Constitution was adopted?

Ironically, it is the innocent who benefit from speed, while interminable delay is the ally of the guilty at the expense of justice for their victims. The examples provided here, both old and new, involve the indisputably guilty. Whatever the claimed defects of the old justice system, today’s safeguards (9-12) make wrongful conviction in capital cases rare at worst, leaving abolitionists in a desperate futile search for an actual execution of an innocent person. By tragic contrast, murders are far from rare: 738,000 homicides in 38 years!

Also far from rare is decades-long litigation aimed, as noted, at saving the guilty, not avoiding conviction of the innocent. The whole purpose of abolitionist tactics is to prevent all executions, using every ludicrous pretext either to void death sentences or keep murderers alive until natural death.

Is it justice when fresh victims are murdered by previously convicted recidivists, causing yet more suffering (3, 10) for loved ones? (The Petit savagery was committed by paroled recidivists.) Is it justice to inflict cruel and unusual punishment on victims in order to enable the barbaric guilty to avoid just punishment?

Surely, there is much to be said for the old legal system. Moreover, by maintaining modern protections for the innocent and abolishing judicial and legislative subterfuges to avoid justly punishing the guilty, a combination of the best of the old and the new can be created.

CONCLUSION: Surrender or Fight?

What can be done about a travesty of justice system declared “impossible to defend” by a state chief justice?

Gail Canzano and Marilyn Flax, quoted at the outset, make clear the choice: Repeal the law or enforce the law. Indefensibly surrender to the indefensible or fight to make the system defensible.

Surrender is especially unjustified because, with great consistency for a very long time, capital punishment has had overwhelming public support, notwithstanding that very many have bought the repeatedly refuted claim that innocents are executed. The only choice is to fight – to fight those fanatically devoted to brutal murderers and unconcerned about victims.

The first step in that fight is to inform the public of the intolerable abuses shown here. The media have egregiously failed. Rectifying that failure is the purpose of this article.


Lester Jackson has written articles showing how the media has enabled the Supreme Court to undermine the death penalty. He views mainstream media misrepresentation and suppression of the truth as essential to harmful judicial activism. A former college teacher, he has a Ph.D. in Political Science.


Copyright ©: 2011 Lester Jackson, Ph.D.