November 2, 2007
This past Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court delayed a lethal injection execution scheduled to take place in Mississippi.
p. No, there was no new evidence that surfaced. No, the criminal was not found innocent in his supposed final hours of life. The story is not that dramatic; it is simply a case of pulling out all the stops in an attempt to avoid the inevitable.
p. As some may be aware, the Supreme Court decided to challenge Kentucky’s use of lethal injection last month in the case Baze v. Rees. This has set off a chain of events giving death row inmates in other states an excuse for another appeal.
p. Earl Wesley Berry, the convicted murderer who was spared Tuesday, requested a delay in his execution on the grounds that the mixture of fatal chemicals Mississippi uses in its injection would cause him unnecessary torture. This would constitute cruel and unusual punishment and stand in violation of the Eighth Amendment. His delay will last until a decision is reached in the Kentucky case or, in layman’s terms, indefinitely.
p. Aside from the absurdity of the extreme convenience of this appeal, there are other facts about Berry’s case that, to be frank, blow my mind. In 1987, he was convicted of kidnapping and beating a woman to death and then dumping her body in nearby woods. He has been on death row for 19 years, which means that he has been living on the state’s dollar for just under 20 years. Taxpayers have paid to keep him off the street and keep themselves safe.
p. But, at the same time, they have provided for his food, his plumbing, his heat and whatever other amenities are provided to inmates on death row. If Berry was being kept in a Virginia prison, my parents would have been paying to support his life for a longer period of time than they have been supporting me. What lengthens the period of time spent on death row is the appeals cooked up by convicted felons and their lawyers.
p. The main problem with this situation is that frivolous appeals exacerbate so many issues. They not only waste taxpayer money, but they also tie up the courts. These incessant appeals are an insult to the victims’ families who want the sentences of inmates carried out. They are looking to gain justice and closure for their loved ones.
p. Many appeals that get submitted are attempts to bring out random issues with the hope that they will stick and foolishly be accepted by some court. Some lawyers and inmates try anything and everything to prolong their time. Meanwhile, victims’ families seek justice. They live with the aftermath of the murderer’s actions every moment of every day. The fact that so many of these appeals are without merit raises the question why they are tolerated in the first place.
p. For the time being, taxpayers in Mississippi will continue to provide Berry with three meals a day, heat, plumbing and electricity as the courts have to deal with another round of his appeals. The loved ones of the woman he brutally murdered will endure more time waiting for him to be punished for his crime. Where is the justice in that?
p. __Jessica Gallinaro is a freshman at the College.__