Big Media is in a tizzy today about the possibility that an inhuman killer might have coughed once or twice as he faced justice for his callous crime. Articles about the execution of Ronald Bert Smith, Jr. in Alabama for the murder of convenience store clerk Casey Wilson tend to focus on whether Smith, the murderer, suffered during his execution. Here is a typical headline: Alabama Death Row inmate Ronald Bert Smith heaved, coughed for 13 minutes during execution.
At an execution, the focus should not be on the murderer. Instead, media should remind the public what the killer did to the victim, and the impact on the victim’s life and family. I wrote about this extensively in a post in 2004. So today, as so many articles prattle on about the killer’s possible minor suffering at his execution, I’d like to talk about the victim, and what he suffered at the hands of this monster.
[Casey] Wilson, 26, was the lone clerk during a robbery at the Circle C Store at Memorial Parkway and Byrd Spring Road when he was shot to death on Nov. 8, 1994.
A native of Muleshoe, Texas, Wilson was an honors graduate from the University of Eastern New Mexico. Wilson, his wife, Sharon, and their then-5-week-old son, Jackie, were preparing to leave Huntsville for good on Dec. 15, 1994 because he hadn’t been able to find a job in his field, according to a story in The Huntsville Times.
Wilson’s degree was in computer information systems, but he worked at the a convenience store because he could not find a job in his field in Huntsville, Wilson’s wife told The Times.
Wilson’s wife, who holds a master’s degree in computer science from Eastern New Mexico University, said she and Wilson came to Huntsville in December 1993 so she could work on an internship at Redstone Arsenal.
The internship was almost finished and they were preparing to move, she told The Times.
And then Casey Wilson encountered Ronald Bert Smith, Jr.
Many of the following events were caught on videotape by cameras in the store and that videotape was recovered and used as an exhibit at trial. Once inside, Smith pulled a gun on Casey Wilson, the lone clerk, and asked Wilson to open the register. When the register would not open, Smith forced Wilson into the restroom, pistol-whipped him, and shot him in the left arm. Leaving Wilson in the restroom, Smith then returned to the cash register where he tried to gain access. Unsuccessful, he then looked under the counter where the safe was located and appeared to manipulate the safe’s combination lock. Smith then returned to the restroom where Wilson was located and apparently fired the killing shot into Wilson’s head.
The thug, who used to work in the store and knew where the videocassette recorder was kept, took the videotape with him afterwards. It was recovered and played as evidence at the trial. The judge who issued the death sentence made the following findings:
This was an execution-style slaying. Casey Wilson was pistol-whipped and beaten into helpless submission, but Smith nevertheless killed him to avoid later identification.
. . . .
Casey Wilson, on his knees, bruised, bleeding from the beating Smith inflicted, begged for his life, for his newborn son. “Ron hit the clerk and knocked him to his knees. And then he said the guy was holding up his hand telling him to ‘stop, I got a baby. Stop, I got a baby, six-month-old baby.’”
. . . .
The evidence also establishes that Smith inflicted death “with utter indifference to, or even enjoyment of, the suffering of” Casey Wilson. Johnson v. State, 399 So. 2d 859, 869 (Ala. Crim. App.) (cite omitted); aff’d in part, rev’d in part, 399 So. 2d 873 (Ala.1981). Chad Roundtree testified that when the three returned to his apartment following the incident, Smith bragged that “you should hear the sound a body makes when the last breath goes out of it.” Smith, smiling, asked Roundtree if he wanted to watch the tape of the killing. (Roundtree ordered Smith to “get the hell out of my apartment!” and then vomited.)
Smith did not destroy the tape. In contrast, he threw the surveillance recorder into a trash dumpster and switched barrels in his gun to thwart ballistic identification. Thus, there is merit to the State’s assertion he kept it as a “trophy.”
Nick Mullins, who altered the pistol, confirmed Smith bragged about the slaying: he “smiled, and kind of laughed” when describing how Wilson had “pleaded for his life” before he killed him.
You’ll read little to none of this in any of the stories about how Smith coughed a little during his execution.
But you should. It would help put in perspective for the public why this execution was carried out, and why it was just.
And that’s why Big Media won’t tell you about it.
[Cross-posted at RedState.]