Patterico's Pontifications


The Silliest Anti-Death Penalty Argument

Filed under: Crime,General — Patterico @ 1:20 pm

Death penalty opponents’ silliest argument may be that it is “cruel and unusual punishment” to incarcerate a convicted murderer on Death Row for a long period of time, while he pursues his appeals. Any time a death penalty opponent raises this argument, you can safely write them off as a gasbag.

The latest murderer to raise this argument is Ronald Chambers of Texas. There is no doubt about his guilt, which he acknowledges. According to this Fort Worth Star-Telegram article, Chambers and a confederate attacked two Texas Tech students in Dallas, Mike McMahan and Deia Sutton, who “were shot from behind as they walked hand in hand down an embankment.” Chambers bludgeoned McMahan to death with the butt of a shotgun, hitting him 10 to 20 times, while his confederate tried to strangle Sutton and drown her in the Trinity River.

Despite his acknowledged guilt, Chambers has managed to spend 31 years on Texas’s Death Row, as a result of numerous appeals he has filed over the years. Having managed to stretch it out this long, he now has the chutzpah to argue that it’s been too long:

Attorney Wes Volberding of Tyler recently filed an appeal on Chambers’ behalf with the U.S. Supreme Court. The appeal . . . argues [among other things] that executing the prisoner after he has spent so long on Death Row — the result of litigation errors at his trials — constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment,” which is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.

This is a patently ludicrous argument — one which Judge Michael Luttig once described as a “mockery of our system of justice, and an affront to lawabiding citizens.” Similarly, Justice Clarence Thomas has written:

It is incongruous to arm capital defendants with an arsenal of “constitutional” claims with which they may delay their executions, and simultaneously to complain when executions are inevitably delayed.

And our own Ninth Circuit has rejected such a claim with this language:

A defendant must not be penalized for pursuing his constitutional rights, but he also should not be able to benefit from the ultimately unsuccessful pursuit of those rights. It would indeed be a mockery of justice if the delay incurred during the prosecution of claims that fail on the merits could itself accrue into a substantive claim to the very relief that had been sought and properly denied in the first place. If that were the law, death-row inmates would be able to avoid their sentences simply by delaying proceedings beyond some threshold amount of time, while other death-row inmates — less successful in their attempts to delay — would be forced to face their sentences. Such differential treatment would be far more “arbitrary and unfair” and “cruel and unusual” than the current system of fulfilling sentences when the last in the line of appeals fails on the merits. We thus decline to recognize Richmond’s lengthy incarceration on death row during the pendency of his appeals as substantively and independently violative of the Constitution.

Yes, only a fool could see this as a valid argument. But if you agree with that, then it turns out that we have two fools on the Supreme Court.

Indeed, Justices Breyer and Stevens have been pushing the Supreme Court to hear this ridiculous claim for years now. Both have repeatedly issued dissents from denials of certiorari on this issue. Since there is no solid basis in American jurisprudence to support such a ridiculous claim, they look to — where else? — foreign law. They combine this with hand-wringing statements about how awful it is to await your execution on Death Row. Typical of their logic is this statement from Justice Breyer: “It is difficult to deny the suffering inherent in a prolonged wait for execution — a matter which courts and individual judges have long recognized.”

What does convicted murderer Chambers say to that?

Chambers, unlike others, doesn’t view his execution as a form of freedom from incarceration. “Every day is a blessing,” he said.

That’s a tad off-message, Mr. Chambers! The gravamen of your claim is that every day spent on Death Row is a curse!

But let’s assume that Mr. Chambers simply misspoke, and said “blessing” when he meant “curse.” Let’s assume that every day he spends awaiting execution is agonizing and gut-wrenching. There is an easy solution to that problem: a speedy execution.

Only the innocent, and those who were illegally sentenced to death, can validly complain of the length of their incarceration on Death Row. As to everyone else, the horrors of a long stay on Death Row are easily remedied by executing them without further delay.

Of course, that’s not what they want — which is why they stretch out their ultimately unsuccessful appeals for decades.

It’s bad enough that we allow them to do that. But it’s outrageous that their lawyers would blame the government for it.

Even This Guy Is Now Against the War??

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General,War — Patterico @ 8:56 am

The L.A. Times has an article today about Democrat threats to cut off funding for additional military operations in Iraq. The article says that, by the time of Bush’s speech Wednesday night, “congressional Democrats across the ideological spectrum were rallying to oppose the president.” Check out the description of one of those Democrats:

Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), a decorated Vietnam veteran and longtime military supporter, said Friday that he would use his position as chairman of the House appropriations panel’s defense subcommittee to try to block funding for any troop increase in Iraq.

Murtha said he also wanted to force the closure of the controversial military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and put limits on how long military service members could be deployed.

Friends, if even decorated Vietnam veteran and longtime military supporter John Murtha has now turned against this war, all is lost.

Teflon Don Muses on Iraq’s History

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:11 am

Teflon Don:

Here I stand, in modern-day Iraq. I have come further to fight here than any soldier of any nation before me, and I fight with weapons and equipment that lay pale the panoply of earlier armies. I represent the pinnacle of force projection and decisive battle, and yet I fight here, where unnumbered young warriors have fought and died through time stretching out of memory. It was on this land that the Babylonian empire first arose out of those first Sumerian agrarians, only to be conquered by the Assyrians, and still later throw off the foreign chains. It was here that Alexander’s phalanxes swept by, trailing Hellenism in their wake. Rome, and later the Byzantines, drew their border with Persia at the Euphrates River. At that river was where the Sassanids made their stand against the spread of Arabian Islam. The Khans of the Mongols laid this land waste, sometimes killing only to build their towers of bones higher.

This region is steeped in history. We walk on it; we breath[e] it in. Eons of history surround us, infiltrate us, and turn to dust beneath our feet. The ashes of countless cultures, civilizations, and rulers dreams lie under the earth. With each breath, I inhale a few molecules of the dying gasp of Cyrus II, the Persian “Constantine of the East”. In the howling wind I can almost hear the cries of a countless multitude dying on killing grounds that bridge across the ages. The same wind carries the red dust that might yet hold a few drops of blood from the battle at Carrhae- the first, crushing defeat for Rome’s red blooded legions. Under my heel, a speck grinds into dust: the last grain of sand that remains of the Hanging Gardens at Babylon that are now known only in legend. Some of the world’s oldest religions tell us that somewhere in this ancient Cradle of life, God himself breathed on this dust, and it became man, the father of us all. Whatever path we take here, we walk on history.

I walk softly, for I tread on the ghosts of years.

This guy could have a decent career as a writer.

Oh wait — I forgot the wisdom of Charlie Rangel:

If a young fella has an option of having a decent career or joining the army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq.

I stand corrected.

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