Saturday, January 14, 2006

Good Riddance

Clarence Ray Allen, whom I assume is the world's oldest death-row inmate, is making a last-minute appeal to the Supreme Court to commute his sentence, since he is blind, invalid, and near death anyway. Not gonna happen.

Allen, who will turn 76 on the eve of his execution, has been on death row for more than 23 years. He uses a wheelchair and was resuscitated last year after a heart attack at San Quentin Prison.

"The spectacle of Mr. Allen being wheeled into the death chamber, unable to walk and unable to see those who have come to witness his execution, violates all standards of decency and would amount to nothing more than the purposeless and needless imposition of pain and suffering prohibited by the Eighth Amendment," said Annette Carnegie, one of Allen's attorneys.

Schwarzenegger said Allen's age and health do not matter, noting that he committed his crimes at the age of 50. "His conduct did not result from youth or inexperience, but instead resulted from the hardened and calculating decisions of a mature man," the governor said.

For once, I agree with the Goobernator. Allen is nothing more than a stone killer. Really, he's something of a poster boy for capital punishment. He was already serving a life sentence for one murder, when he commissioned a parolee to kill three witnesses (actually six, but the killer was caught after killing three and wounding one). Two of these victims (as well as Allen's original victim) were teenagers. Sort of puts the whole "they can't hurt us when they're locked safely away" trope in perspective.

Yes, it's unseemly that Allen is now old and feeble, but that's because he was able to work the system for so long. I remember Allen's trial pretty well, as it got change-of-venued up here to the rural county I live in. In the early '80s, that trial was huge around here. My mother was working in the Superior Court at that time, so she saw Allen be marched in and out of court many times, and the judge who presided over the case was an acquaintance. This judge, now retired, was no Roy Bean, but definitely not one to put up with any bullshit either. I know how much he agonized over the application of the death penalty, and I also know that this judge -- who had seen thousands of idiots and lowlifes pass through his courtroom in decades on the bench -- regarded Clarence Ray Allen as the single most evil, toxic bastard to set foot in there.

Three teenagers and a 27-year-old man, brutally shotgunned to death, over a bunch of supermarket burglaries. I take no Bush-mocks-Karla-Faye-Tucker delight in Allen's impending demise, but I sure as hell don't feel sorry for him.


Jones said...

One does not need to feel sorry for brutal killers to see the immorality, societal destructiveness and barbarity of sanctioned killing to punish unsanctioned killing.

Mitch said...

At some point (never), we're going to have to come to grips with the fact that interpretation of law is subjective. Maybe we should elect magistrates to decide death penalty cases on the basis of their whims.

Since you don't have an e-mail address listed, I wanted to ask you if you saw the Murtha/Moran town hall meeting. I did. It was embarrassing, and I felt bad for all the concerned citizens who asked questions. They were greeted with stupid, irrelevant responses from both Murtha and Moran. Pitiful. Reprehensible. Did you see it? If not, you can find it on this page. Your thoughts?

Heywood J. said...


True, but the stories on Allen have characterized him as some harmless little old man going to an unjust reward. He's not -- he's a vicious killer who, having already been sentenced to life, still found a way to kill more people (again, only half the people that he had contracted at that).

This is one of those issues on which you're never going to satisfy everyone. I submit that the argument of "brutality never justifies brutality" is not necessarily true. If you are in a street fight, and there's no cops around, and you can see that the other guy is literally crazy and wants to kill you, what are you supposed to do? Are you evil because you defended yourself with deadly force?

I'm not out to change your mind -- I have serious quibbles with the fallibility of the CP process -- but I would urge you to reconsider the automatic arguments many CP opponents proffer. Life w/out parole is not necessarily a failsafe either, as Clarence Allen can attest to. Prison gangs in particular are notorious for using others to get things done on the outside. It's not just a Law & Order potboiler, it happens, and the penal system is not set up to handle it very well.

Heywood J. said...


I'm bouncing between the last quarter of the Panthers-Bears playoff game, and the computer. I'll check out that link later, and share some thoughts. Thanks for the heads-up on that.

Jones said...

Hey j., I'm an old guy who has been opposed to "CP" for a long time, been through hundreds of hours of discussions with people of all persuasions and have a well-developed ethic and worldview, so your admonition to "reconsider the automatic arguments many CP opponents proffer" does not apply in this case. No offense taken at all, just advancing our discussion.

I don't think what one might ethically do, violence-wise, in a street fight bears much weight in comparison the premeditated and institutionalized killing of murderers via the death penalty. True self-defense in a moment of crisis is a whole 'nuther matter, of course.

I have full sympathy for people who have a differing view about this, especially any victimized person or family/friend of a victim. But that does not change my conviction about the wrong-headedness of the state killing to avenge killing. It's not a good model to be promulgating about how to deal with our enemies, for one thing.

Your point about life sentencing not being a failsafe is a good one. I would just say that no system is perfect, nothing is a failsafe. Who knows how many deaths have resulted from executions, too. We're choosing among unattractive alternatives to a nasty problem. Life is complex, but this particular issue of state-sanctioned killing is crystal-clear in my mind.

Thanks for your engagement.

Heywood J. said...


Yeah, I may have been unfairly presuming what you would rpemise your argument on, which I shouldn't have. Mea culpa. I actually welcome the disagreement on this subject; I would be as turned off as anyone if the comments section was just full of dittoheads proffering creative methods of prolonging Allen's suffering. That's the sort of cartoonish mentality that seems to infest righty blogs; I have no patience for it.

Allen's case is anomalous to a great extent, I grant you -- it's not as if every lifer is having people whacked on the outside. And he's obviously no threat to anyone anymore, and hasn't been for quite some time. It is one of those oddities that appears unfair on its face, but that the justice system is infamous for, from time to time.

Would I rend garments if Allen's sentence were commuted? No. But I just don't see the point of warehousing people like that indefinitely. Same with serial killers, child killers, and the like. Some people really are just rotten to the core, and I don't feel my humanity diminished by getting rid of people like John Wayne Gacy or William Bonin.

The state already exerts an inordinate level of power over the lives of people who have never and will never get so much as a traffic ticket. Maybe not the literal power of life and death, but certainly the power to affect one's financial life and quality of life, and the power to make war.

Like I said, though, I do respect the other point of view, as my wife is vehemently anti-CP. So we go through the debate every time. I get a little unnerved by the diehard CP advocates, who get all wound up at the midnight protests. I like the protesters. I think this is an issue that, regardless of where one stands on it, desperately needs both sides to be aired effectively.

Heywood J. said...


Checked out the link page, but the link itself would not work for me. I also tried to find a transcript (which would be preferable anyway, as I am lamentably on dial-up) but couldn't. I'll keep an eye open for this one, because I like both Murtha and Moran, and am interested in what was reprehensible about their performance.

I have a feeling that, at the end of the day, they're both company men, so are bound to disappoint all of us who want to hear strong, proactive strategy.

Jones said...

Thanks for the reasoned response, j. Just one response: How do we draw the line between those killers who 'deserve' execution and those who don't? And who draws it?

Oh, and I'm afraid the paragraph about people who'll never get a parking ticket went over my head; don't get the relevance.

Just started reading recently and I enjoy your blog, though I thought you and Jane Hamscher were the same person till you made it clear you wuz a man! Where'd I get that impression?

Anonymous said...

Tiket Pesawat Murah | Sari Jahe | Promo | Info Promo Diskon Hari Ini | Diskon | Promo Diskon | Harga Tiket Pesawat | Temulawak | Photo Prewedding | UPVC WINDOW | Kamera CCTV | Jual CCTV | Pasang CCTV | Minuman Suplemen | Tiket Pesawat Murah | Harga Tiket Pesawat | Tiket Pesawat Online

Ultrabook Notebook Tipis Harga Murah Terbaik | Harga Notebook | Ultrabook Notebook Tipis Harga Murah Terbaik | Harga Notebook | Kim Kardashian Bugil | wallpaper lucu | Ultrabook Notebook Tipis Harga Murah Terbaik | Info Terkini | Ultrabook Notebook Tipis Harga Murah Terbaik | Harga Notebook

Thank you for this blog. That's all I can say. You most definitely have made this blog into something thats eye opening and important. You clearly know so much about the subject, youve covered so many bases. Great stuff from this part of the internet. Again, thank you for this blog.