Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Death by lethal injection

Not your typical breakfast variety subject, I know. But the last few days, I’ve covered three hearings that concern the death penalty.

When I covered Tyler Edmonds’ bond hearing, the issue of his sister, Kristi Fulgham, came up. She was sentenced to death by lethal injection early this year. Tyler will face a murder trial sometime later. He served four years for capital murder on a sentence of life in prison before the state Supreme Court reversed the conviction and sentence and ordered a new trial.
At one point, I talked to Joey Fulgham’s sister-in-law, whose husband found the body in the bed in Joey’s house with a fatal bullet wound to the head. She pointed out that in writing about Tyler, reporters alway write about a 13-year-old whose life was taken from him. “There are two other children who have had their lives taken from them, and nobody writes about them,” she reminded me.

Then, I’ve been sitting through the sentencing hearing for William Wilson. He admitted last week in open court, indeed, he pleaded guilty to beating a 2-year-old about the head until she died. Dr. Stephen Hayne, the state pathologist, said Mallory Conerly died because her brain shook around in her skull as it spun from the blows. Blood vessels popped and she bled in her brain, which also swelled up. Oh, Wilson also pleaded guilty to felony child abuse. He put Mallory in water so hot that it burned the tops and the sides of her feet. The water didn’t burn her soles because the tub kept the hot water off. He faces the death penalty. The child’s birth father watched from the front row of the courtroom. Judge Thomas Gardner III will have to make the call.

And, finally, Eddie Loden several years ago made what is, in effect, a “snuff film.” He videotaped himself sexually molesting and torturing a teenager. He even turns and looks at the camera as he does it. He pleaded guilty to capital murder. Now that he was handed the death penalty, Loden has told the state Supreme Court he pleaded because he thought he could get an appeal and possibly a new trial with a high court paradigm for the lower court to follow.

These are all sad, sad situations. Children without fathers. Parents without children. Someone’s life cut short by a violent act.

Here’s what I wonder: Why is the death penalty effective, if it is? What do we as a society gain from putting someone to death for killing someone else? What do we as individuals gain from wanting to put someone to death for killing someone else?

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