Friday, July 10, 2009

Murderer Who Responded To Successful Appeal By Bragging About His Crime Seeks To Stop His Execution

From the Stafford County Sun:

Lawyers for a Virginia inmate scheduled to die next week for killing a 16-year-old friend are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the execution. Lawyers for a Virginia inmate scheduled to die next week for killing a 16-year-old — then bragging about it to prosecutors when he thought he couldn’t face the death penalty — are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the execution.

Paul Warner Powell’s lawyers argue that he was unconstitutionally convicted twice for the 1999 murder and attempted rape of Yorkshire teen Stacie Reed.[...]

Thinking he could no longer face the death penalty, Powell wrote a profanity-laced, taunting letter to prosecutors offering graphic detail of how he tried to rape Reed before he stabbed her three times and stomped on her throat until she quit breathing. “Do you just hate yourself for being so stupid and for (messing) up and saving me?’’ he wrote to Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert in 2001.
Most of the time when I read about efforts to stop the death penalty from being carried out the lawyers and the defendant claim that the defendant is innocent and someone else committed the crime, but in this case the certainty of this man's guilt seems to be what should spare him from a sentence which matches the actual crime he committed.

This case contrasts in another way as well. In the other cases, procedure is treated as something which must always be less important than the truth. The rules are described as something which must always be put aside in favor of justice because the rules are there to uphold justice.

However, in this case the defense attorneys want the truth to be less important than procedure and they want justice to be put aside in favor of the rules as they are interpreting them. From the details of the gloating letter this man wrote he has absolutely no respect for other people's lives and that attitude could make him an active danger to other inmates and to prison personnel.

I am almost always against the death penalty since there is so much inequality in the way it gets used. For me the death penalty should only be used for public safety purposes. Some murderers simply have so little respect for the lives of others that imprisoning them only changes which lives are at highest risk.

The fault here seems to belong to Powell who viewed a successful appeal of his original sentence for murder as the end of the process and who then couldn't wait to gloat about the cruel details of the multiple crimes he committed against a teenage girl. He confessed not only to the murder of which he'd been convicted of committing, he confessed to the separate crime of attempted rape. This confession gave the prosecutors evidence of a crime which they didn't have when the original charges were filed.

If this appeal is successful it sets a dangerous precedent which puts public safety at risk and not just from this man. If someone who committed multiple crimes including murder against the same person or during the commission of a crime spree and is convicted of one or more of the lesser crimes such as check fraud then that person, under this interpretation of the constitution, should be immune from prosecution for murder if subsequent evidence implicates that person.

If while in jail a convicted check forger is recorded confessing to murdering someone whose checks were forged then that person should not be protected from prosecution for that murder under double jeopardy rules. And just as check forgery and murder are separate crimes so too are attempted rape and murder.

Arrogance which causes someone to feel superior to the law should not prevent justice. Powell's confession to that separate crime was not coerced and if he didn't want it used against him he should have conferred with his attorneys prior to sending it.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:53 AM   0 comments links to this post

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