Who Deserved To Die This Week?

witness viewing room death penalty

Execution viewing room for witnesses © Scott Langley

On Tuesday, Jared Loughner, who murdered 6 people and wounded a Member of Congress and a dozen others in an Arizona shooting spree, accepted a plea bargain that will result in multiple sentences of life without parole.

That same evening, Texas put to death Marvin Wilson, a man with a 61 IQ and the mind of a 7 year old.

On Wednesday, Arizona executed Daniel Cook, a man who endured horrific physical and sexual childhood abuse practically from the day he was born. The man who prosecuted Cook argued for clemency, but no one listened.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun observed, back in 1994, in a dissent that marked the end of his support for the death penalty:

The basic question–does the system accurately and consistently determine which defendants “deserve” to die?–cannot be answered in the affirmative.”

When the U.S. Supreme Court (including Blackmun) approved our “modern” death penalty in 1976 it was with the provision that capital punishment would be limited to the most culpable offenders who committed the worst crimes. Only those who truly “deserved” it would get death.

But it’s still a crap-shoot, a lottery.  As the two executions this week have reiterated, prisoners with mental disabilities or histories of childhood abuse (supposedly mitigating factors) routinely get sent to the death chamber.

But then sometimes they don’t.

Efforts by the Supreme Court to protect the less culpable by outright banning executions of the “insane”, the “mentally retarded” and child offenders have had little effect, as states have found ways to keep on killing prisoners, at least in the first two categories.

The moral argument used in support of capital punishment has always been that the offenders “deserve” to die for what they have done. Given the abject failure of our system to determine who “deserves” death, isn’t it immoral to continue using it to kill?

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9 thoughts on “Who Deserved To Die This Week?

  1. Marvin Wilson may have had a IQ of 61, but he knew the difference between right and wrong. I am so tired of people trying to make excusses for people that do something wrong. If the human race would accept what they do wrong and except the punishment for their wrong doings, then life might be a lot better. I have no problem with pulling the trigger on someone that tries to do harm to me or my family. I have no problem pulling the trigger on someone that comes into a public place trying to kill everyone in the area. Quit making excusses for these morons and let them receive what is coming to them. Their peers seem to think they deserve the death sentence.

  2. mcqueens2002, why do you insult Amnesty International USA by claiming that Marvin Wilson "was not mentally retarded and, like all other murderous, monsterous death row inmates, deserved to be executed and to fry in hell so that justice would be served for the victim's family who would finally get closure in the death of the lying, heartless monster"?! It's your mob mentality and your hypocrisy that urged Texas and all other states to kill Marvin Wilson and all other death row inmates, regardless of mental retardation, innocence, child abuse, etc.! You always insult death row inmates and their families while caring for only the victims' families who support the death penalty, and you never care about human rights AT ALL! May God forgive you for your cruel atrocity!

    • To be truly informed, Ms. KEarns, means to analyze each case on its merits. When I read that Brian Evans, the author of this post, claims Marvin Wilson had the mind of a 7 year-old, I re-read the condemned man's final statement and encourage you to read it as well.. Argument over mental retardation claim aside, many things can be inferred from final statements. If you know anything about 7-year olds, after reading Wilson's final statment, you will not be able with any credibility, to argue on this platform that he was mentally retarded and had the mind of a 7-year old. If you do, this would only reflect AI philosophy of misinforming the public.

      I do not think, with all do respect, that anyone is attempting to insult AmnestyUSA. It is just that AI's claim of Wilson's mental retardation cannot withstand any objective analysis of the standards as put forth by AIDD.

  3. I would like to make a suggestion and you may take it or leave it Mr. Evans: obvioulsy mitigating
    circumstaces mean nothing to prosecutorial calculus. I have read about the disparity in sentencing in this case; Cook's accomplice was offered a wacky plea deal, testifiied against Cook, and walked out of prison after 20 years. What is that tell you about this nonsensical latitude of plea deals in death penalty cases? Both of these men were equally culpable in the murder. And thus I have to argue that IF one
    got the death penalty so should have the other, otherwise the system allows for prosecutorial abuse of fairness and justice.

    The question then of which accomplice deserves to die (in the context of inequality in sentencing between acomplices as guided by the wacky plea deal system), would have more power when presented to legislators.

    I think that in this particular case framing the argument as I suggested would have produced a more
    favorable result when brought to the Arizona Legislature….

  4. As mcqueens 2002 rightly said even though Marvin Wilson had an IQ of only 61 he still knew what he was doing in my opinion, so in other words he deserved to die. Iam a strong believer in the death penalty so if you take a life the your life should be taken too.

    • Why are you even posting on the abolitionist AI USA 's blog if you're categorically for the death penalty?! ….Your comment IMHO contributes nothing and leads me to believe you didn't come to this site to learn more or critically engage. Sorry; though your post meets the moderation policy/terms of use of this site, I just don't understand the logic.

      (In translation, to be particularly caustic: We don't care.)

      • I am not sure if NOT caring about your opponent's comments is wise Ms. Rose. Consider that the anti-death penalty movement is making an uphill climb as it is. Getting more people over to your side would make more sense than responding angrily to 'Hot Lips.' To be caustic myself: your response did not add anything to the discourse either. LOL…