Death Penalty Abolitionist Mike Farrell Endorses Torture

graphicfarrellLast night, Tuesday, November 1, 2016, I engaged a death penalty debate on KGO 810 AM radio with famed death penalty abolitionist Mike Farrell. Mr. Farrell is the author of California’s Proposition 62, which would retroactively replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. It was a heated discussion that took a remarkable turn near the end.
 
I had made the point that the last person executed in California, Clarence Ray Allen, was serving Mr. Farrell’s preferred sentence of life without parole when he organized the revenge killing of three people he felt had betrayed him and landed him in prison. In 2006, Allen was executed for those murders and, as I pointed out, he is no longer a threat to society.
 
Mr. Farrell’s response? “There are degrees of incarceration and if somebody is deemed, or demonstrated, or thought to be a danger to the rest of the people, that person can be put in solitary confinement, that person can be confined in a way that he or she has no human contact. We have the capacity to simply maroon human beings.
 
According to multiple sources, “Solitary confinement is considered to be a form of psychological torture with measurable long-term physiological effects when the period of confinement is longer than a few weeks or is continued indefinitely.”
 
I believe that all death row inmates meet Mr. Farrell’s standard of “somebody (who) is deemed, or demonstrated, or thought to be a danger to the rest of the people.” After all, isn’t that why they are on death row in the first place?
 
Going into the debate I knew that Mr. Farrell would wrap himself in a cloak of moral superiority for working so diligently to save the lives of human beings. However, I never, in my wildest imagination, thought that cloak would slip to such a degree that he would reveal an affinity for torture. I may be an unflinching supporter of the death penalty, and I know that in the eyes of many I am considered unfeeling, without moral compass, or worse. Be that as it may, at least I haven’t revealed myself, as I believe Mr. Farrell has, to be a sadist.
 

Death Penalty Abolitionists Alternate Universe

graphicMy reasons for supporting the death penalty are visceral. I have actively promoted this issue, which stirs my passions as it spikes my emotions, for more than 20-years now. Whatever the outcome of the two death penalty propositions on California’s Election Day ballot (62 will abolish the death penalty in favor of life without parole while 66 will mend, not end the death penalty), I will continue to believe in the moral, spiritual, financial, and public safety benefits of this most extreme form of punishment.

little-boy-mourningDuring the 65-days between October 1 and December 4, 1993, I received a crash course in the nature of good and evil. That thousands of strangers would rally around a kidnapped child that most had never met was as pure an act of benevolence as I have ever witnessed. That a knife wielding sexually sadistic psychopath would steal my daughter from a slumber party, then rape and murder her so that he could avoid A.I.D.S. was a deed so dastardly, so evil, that it changed my life forever.

aaaSo, I was not surprised to learn at trial, that Polly’s killer once told Psychiatrist Llewelen Jones that he, “Masturbates twice daily and thinks of female victims of his past crimes.” That there are people who advocate for his life as he continues to violate my child twice daily in his death row cell is vile and repugnant. Her memory and soul deserve the peace that she will only receive after her killer has drawn his last breath of air.

aaaaDeath penalty abolitionists will tell you that we need to look at the big picture, the totality of the issue, not anecdotes or stories taken out of context. However, Polly’s killer is simply a variation on a theme, as is my daughter’s story. All of California’s death row inmates have either murdered children (229), sexually assaulted and tortured their victims prior to murdering them (294), killed peace officers (43), or committed multiple murders. They are unrepentant killing machines: people like Ramon Salcido who slit the throats as he murdered his own children; Scott Peterson who killed his wife Lacy and the full term baby that she was carrying; or Joseph Naso who killed at least six women as he travelled the country for more than two decades. They weren’t driven to commit these crimes by drugs or alcohol. No, they were driven by a bankrupt moral compass to commit crime with impunity without consideration for the consequences of their actions.

aaThe last inmate executed in California was a murder machine named Clarence Ray Allen. He was sentenced to life without parole for a murder he committed in 1974. As a means of getting even he orchestrated the assassination of 3-people he believed had ratted him out. In 2006, Allen was finally executed for those murders. He is no longer a threat to public safety.

aDeath penalty abolitionists advocate that the death penalty is indefensible, beneath the dignity of a civilized society and fails to serve as deterrence to murder and other violent crimes. They overlook the fact that young soldiers are regularly sent to war to kill or be killed, or that U.S. military drone strikes kill innocent people, or that we all applauded and stood a little taller when we learned about the death of Osama Bin Laden.

aI believe that embracing evil, defending the indefensible, and advocating on behalf of sadism and psychopathy are misplaced priorities at best, and in league with the devil at its worst. When I hear abolitionists say that death row inmates “Are us, they’re our children. We are a community,” or that they “Are capable of becoming productive citizens if given the chance,” I think that they must live in an alternate universe.

The Death Penalty & DNA Exonerations

graphicSince the days of Perry Mason, television has fed the public a constant diet of citizens accused and convicted of capital murders that they did not commit. Currently, the plethora of CSI series would have us believe that forensic evidence miraculously and regularly exonerates innocents as they rot in prison cells.
 

Cameron Todd Willingham

Cameron Todd Willingham

The wrongful accusation, conviction, imprisonment and execution of innocents was a staple of The Good Wife on CBS, which recently featured Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck and the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. The elegance of that particular case is that it is impossible to prove if Willingham truly was innocent as the Good Wife and Scheck claim, or was the remorseless arsonist who was executed in 2003 for torching his three young daughters in 1991. The point is that on these television programs forensics are always definitive, defense lawyers are never wrong, and innocent people are convicted, imprisoned and executed.
 
 
w-colemanOf course, print media is complicit as well. Convicted killer Roger Coleman made the cover of Time Magazine on May 18, 1992 with the caption “This Man Might Be Innocent: This Man Is Due To Die”. Fourteen years after being executed DNA evidence proved that Coleman was guilty of murdering his sister-in-law.
 
The June 12, 2000 cover of Newsweek Magazine featured death row inmate Ricky McGinn. Again, the suggestion was that an innocent man was about to be executed. McGinn stated that DNA testing would prove that he didn’t rape and murder his 12-year-old step-daughter. Under intense media pressure Texas Governor George Bush ordered a 30-day reprieve. When DNA testing proved that McGinn was guilty beyond any doubt he was finally executed.
 
Wouldn’t you be surprised to learn then, that at the end of 2013 there were 2,220,300 prisoners incarcerated under state and federal jurisdiction, yet the total number of DNA exonerations for any kind of felony is less than 350? To date, despite years of parading remorseless killers as innocent victims the abolitionists and other death row apologists cannot definitively demonstrate that an innocent man has been executed.
 
The ultimate irony is that death penalty abolitionists crave the execution of an innocent man so that their indignation can run amok, while those who favor the death penalty pray that an innocent is never executed so that the fragile system of ultimate justice can be preserved.
 

Dirty Rotton Liars and the Death Penalty

graphicThe other day I stepped into the lion’s den to debate the death penalty at UC Berkeley. My opponent was Aundre Herron, an appeals lawyer with Death Penalty Focus. Prior to the debate we had a fruitful discussion about the need for expanded prevention funding for at risk youth. She was a nice lady and I told her that she was making it difficult for me to debate with the passion that I like to bring to the subject. She agreed. We were both wrong.
 
Ms. Herron launched right into the same tired arguments that are being parroted by “abolitionists” who are supporting Proposition 62. If passed it will replace the death penalty with a sentence of “true life”. Abolitionists proudly point to a list of 156-innocent death row inmates have been exonerated since 1973. That is totally misleading! They bemoan the fact that numerous innocent people have been executed, when they haven’t. They say that states that do not have the death penalty have the lowest murder rates. Just don’t tell that to Chicago, Ill, Detroit, MI or Baltimore, MD: three of America’s murder capitals in states that don’t have the death penalty. They say that California has invested $5-billion in the execution of 13-men, which is simplistic and misleading. They do all of this wrapped in a cloak of moral superiority.
 
I was ready. I told the students that if they logged onto the KlaasKids Foundation website they would find 26-empirical studies that clearly demonstrate that when executions in the USA increase, murders decrease, and when executions decrease, murders increase. She countered that each was imperfect, because all of them were biased; therefore there was no evidence of deterrence. However, if lack of perfection is a synonym for flawed, all empirical research will always be flawed, because perfection can never be achieved and bias cannot be erased. One indisputable fact remains: there is a simple but dramatic relationship between the number of executions carried out and a corresponding reduction in the number of murders the following year.
 
There is no evidence that the state of California has ever executed an innocent person. Governor Jerry Brown, who served a term as California Attorney General and is personally opposed to the death penalty, has said: “I think people have gotten exquisite due process in the state of California. It goes on for 20 or 25 years and to think that they’ve missed anything like they have in some other states; I have not seen any evidence of it. None. I know people say, ‘Oh, there have been all these innocent people,’ Well, I have not seen one name on death row that’s been told to me.”
 
Ms. Herron said that California has spent $5-billion to execute 13-death row inmates. This is categorically untrue. You can learn the truth by reading Politifact’s analysis.
 
She said that sloppy police work, aggressive prosecution, and blood thirsty judges were responsible for wrongfully convicting California death row inmates. If she really thinks that vilifying the good guys somehow strengthens her argument, then I believe her confidence is misplaced.
 
Finally, she concluded by saying, “The death penalty is a failed public policy that masquerades as justice and instead commits more violence in response to violence. It is like trying to extinguish fire with more fire. Every time the state kills someone it diminishes us.”
 
That somebody with a minority opinion can be so certain of her moral superiority requires further examination. Abolitionists can look into the eyes of a death row inmate, hear his pitiful story, work tirelessly to set aside the execution and, with that goal accomplished, feel good about themselves for having ‘saved a life.’ After all, isn’t saving a life the moral high ground? However, if the death penalty were found to have a deterrent effect and each convicted criminal spared would cost 8-innocent lives, anyone who had been involved in the process of saving the life of a convicted murderer would therefore have been complicit in the mass murder of innocent victims. The thought of being an unwitting accomplice to mass murder is too horrific for a good person to contemplate, therefore, for the sake of a death penalty opponent’s own psychological well-being, the evidence must be denied.
 

No Justice for Polly

Polly Klaas

Polly Klaas

I feel like I have been betrayed by my beloved California, as have the other families of people killed by California’s death row killers, who are responsible for murdering more than 1,000 people, including 229 children and 43 police officers. By extension the victim families and friends of the nearly 1,400 lifers that Governor Brown has paroled since taking office in 2011 have also been betrayed, as have the victims of the 18,000 felons who were released from prison early as a result of Governor Brown’s prison realignment plan.

Killer RA Davis

Richard Davis killed Polly Klaas

As a crime victim whose 12-year-old daughter was killed by an unrepentant and violent psychopath, I fully expected that it would only be a matter of time before justice would be served after Judge William Hastings imposed the death sentence with this admonition, “Mr. Davis, this is always a traumatic and emotional decision for a judge. You made it very easy today by your conduct.”

Alex Hamilton killed Police officer Larry Alasater

Alex Hamilton killed Police officer Larry Alasater

Unfortunately, in California, courtroom sentences literally aren’t worth the paper that they are printed on. Just the other day United States District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney declared California’s death penalty unconstitutional because a sense of uncertainty and delay, “violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.”

Trailside Killer David Carpenter murdered raped & murdered at least five women

Trailside Killer David Carpenter raped & murdered at least five women

That Polly’s killer has been on death row for seventeen-years without being executed may be unusual, but it is certainly not cruel. It was cruel when he kidnapped, raped and strangled my Polly in order to, “avoid AIDS by getting a young one,” as was revealed at trial. It was cruel when the judge arbitrarily decided that neither he nor California’s other 747 death row killers will face the sentence imposed upon them by a jury of their peers. It is cruel when the will of the people and the law of the land are subverted by a powerful and unrepresentative minority.

Ramon-Salcido_mugshot.400x800

Ramon Salcido murdered seven relatives including his wife and two daughters

I will never understand how activist judges, the ACLU, the defense bar, and other prison rights apologists are willing to undermine the criminal justice system, betray victims and their families, and endanger innocent people for the approval of killers, rapists and thugs. That they seek the endorsement of society’s underbelly links them to depravity, amorality and future victimization, yet they will never be held accountable for their actions. Might these decisions and this trend represent the death of punishment in California?

California Death Penalty Found Unconstitutional: Cruel & Unusual?

By Mike Rushford*

Earnest Dewayne Jones

Earnest Dewayne Jones

Shortly after midnight on August 25, 1992, in Los Angeles, Chester Miller returned home from work and noticed the family station wagon was missing from the driveway. Mr. Miller went into his house and found his wife, Julia, lying dead at the foot of their bed. Mrs. Miller’s robe was open, her nightgown was bunched above her waist, and she was naked from the waist down. A telephone cord and a purse strap had been used to tie Mrs. Miller’s arms over her head, and a nightgown had been used to loosely tie her ankles together. Mrs. Miller had been gagged with two rags, one in her mouth and another around her face. Two kitchen knives were sticking out of her neck. Pieces of three other knives were found on or around her body.   Homicide investigators identified Earnest Dewayne Jones, who lived with Mrs. Miller’s daughter, as the murderer based upon significant evidence.

 

The deputy medical examiner with the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office who performed the autopsy on Mrs. Miller’s body concluded, on the basis of the following evidence, that she had been stabbed to death: Two knives were sticking out of Mrs. Miller’s neck. She also had 14 stab wounds in her abdomen and one in her vagina, but the fatal stab wound, which penetrated to the spine, was the one in the middle of her chest. Aside from the stab wound, there was no evidence of trauma to the vaginal region.

 

At the crime scene, a criminalist with the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office took swabs of Mrs. Miller’s vagina. Another criminalist found a great abundance of intact spermatozoa on the vaginal swab, leading him to conclude that ejaculation occurred no more than five to 10 hours before Mrs. Miller’s death.  A blood sample was taken from defendant. A molecular biologist for Cellmark Diagnostics performed deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing on the blood sample taken from defendant and on the vaginal swabs taken from Mrs. Miller. This testing yields banding patterns that are, with the exception of identical twins, unique to every individual. There is only one chance in 78 million that a random individual would have the same DNA banding pattern as defendant. The tests showed that the banding pattern in the DNA from defendant’s blood sample matched the banding pattern of the semen on the vaginal swab taken from Mrs. Miller.

Mike Rushford is the Executive Director of the Sacramento based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation

The Botched Execution of Clayton Lockett

Murder victim Stephanie Neiman

Murder victim Stephanie Neiman

People seem to have forgotten that after raping her friend, Clayton Lockett shot and then ordered his friends to bury his teenage victim alive. Stephanie Neiman’s parents, who have spent the past 15-years going through the motions of living, are constantly faced with terrifying images of her last moments. They eat, they sleep, and her father goes to work and comes home again. Stephanie’s mother says that, “We do what we have to do to make it through the day and we start all over again the next. We exist.”

 

All Stephanie Neiman’s family has ever wanted was for justice to be served. In this case that meant that Stephanie’s killer needed to be executed because that was the sentence imposed at trial. In a statement released to the press on the killer’s execution day they said in part, “God blessed us with our precious daughter, Stephanie for 19 years. Stephanie loved children. She was the joy of our life. We are thankful this day has finally arrived and justice will finally be served.”

Stephanie Neiman and Parents

Stephanie Neiman and Parents

Now, because of arguments being made by death penalty opponents Mr. and Mrs. Neiman are implicated in death by torture through association. Lockett was an unrepentant, sexually sadistic psychopath, and the case against him was solid, making it impossible for abolitionists to argue that an innocent man had been executed, or that his trial lawyer was incompetent. Instead their best case scenario was realized when his vein collapsed, because it provided them with an opportunity to pass moral judgment. They say that he was tortured to death, that the death penalty is inhumane, that it is beneath us as a civilization, and that it is immoral. The obvious implication is that if you favor the death penalty as a fair and just punishment then you favor torture, are unenlightened, and are morally bankrupt.

 

The ironies of the death penalty are not lost on me. Good people who lost loved ones to maniacal killers are portrayed as cold and vindictive, while killers being led to the death gurney are victims of a cruel society. Death penalty abolitionists want a factually innocent person executed so that they can gloat, while death penalty proponents fear that possibility.

 

It is also worth noting that the states that execute the worst of the worst are scrambling to purchase death penalty approved drugs. They now pursue a back alley and black market approach to securing the drugs used in the executioner’s cocktail because of the abolitionist’s success in convincing drug manufacturers to stop selling execution approved drugs.

Killer Clayton Lockett

Killer Clayton Lockett

Stephanie Neiman and Clayton Lockett are both dead. But, as was alluded to by Stephanie’s parents; her last moments were rushed, solitary, terrifying, and tortured. She was an innocent victim who was abused in the worst way possible and then buried alive. She did not have an opportunity to make amends with her God, say good bye to her family, or reconcile her brief life on earth. Lockett, on the other hand, benefited from a major public investment. After murdering Stephanie the state hired a lawyer, provided due process, held a trial, and subsequently housed, clothed and fed Lockett as the appeals process wound its way through the system. He had 15-years to contemplate his deed, make peace with his Lord, and put his affairs in order. An army of abolitionists fought for his life as surely as he isolated Stephanie prior to assassinating her. Lockett died with full knowledge that a jury carefully and deliberately weighed the evidence and found him worthy of execution. He never showed remorse, and he never apologized for killing a teen aged girl. The manner in which he died cannot be compared to the soulless evil he inflicted upon Stephanie Neiman.

 

Will the botched execution of Clayton Lockett represent a watershed moment in the United States ongoing death penalty debate? The abolitionists and other prison rights apologists certainly hope so and will play it for everything they can. However, I have faith that the American public will see through their disingenuous arguments and administrative bottlenecks and continue to support the death penalty as they have throughout our history.

California Death Penalty Reform Initiative Filed with Attorney General

A coalition of District Attorneys, law enforcement officials, and victims’ rights advocates are proposing a statewide ballot initiative to reform the death penalty in California.

 

“Last year Californians overwhelmingly reaffirmed their support for the death penalty. Unfortunately, it has become ineffective because of waste, delays, and inefficiencies.  Fixing it will save California taxpayers millions of dollars every year, assure due process protections for those sentenced to death  and promote justice for murder victims and their families,” said initiative proponent Kermit Alexander, whose mother, sister, and two nephews were murdered in 1984 by a gang member in Los Angeles. The killer has been on death row since 1986.

This initiative will ensure justice for both victims and defendants by:

Reforming the Appeals Process

  • Death penalty appeals will first be heard by the California Court of Appeals and then heard by the California Supreme Court if necessary.
  • A defendant’s claim of actual innocence should not be limited, but frivolous and unnecessary claims should be restricted.

Reforming Death Row Housing and Victim Restitution

  • According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, eliminating single cell housing of death row inmates will save tens of millions of dollars every year.
  • Death row inmates should be required to work in prison to pay restitution to their victims’ families consistent with the Victims’ Bill of Rights (Marsy’s law). Refusal to work and pay restitution should result in loss of special privileges.

Reforming the Appointment of Appellate Counsel and Agency Oversight 

  • Reforming the existing inefficient appeals process for death penalty cases will ensure fairness for both defendants and victims. Capital defendants wait 5 years or more for appointments of their appellate lawyer. By providing prompt appointment of attorneys, the defendant’s claims will be heard sooner.
  • The state agency that is supposed to expedite secondary review of death penalty cases is operating without any effective oversight, causing long delays and wasting taxpayer dollars. California Supreme Court oversight of this state agency will ensure accountability.

Overcoming Victimization Through Empowerment and Education

By Rebecca Petty

Andi

Andi Brewer

The abduction of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. In the event of a child abduction, that child can be taken away from their family at the rate of a mile per minute. Within an hour of an abduction, a child can be as far away as 60 miles, staggering if you think about it in those terms. In the event of a child abduction, swift action must be taken and law enforcement called immediately. Many people are still under the misconception that law enforcement cannot be called in until the 24 hour mark is reached, but this is simply not the case anymore. Sadly, we have all learned that time is of the essence in the case of a missing child. In 76 percent of child abduction murders, the victim was killed within 3 hours of the reported abduction, and in 89 percent of child abduction murders, the victim was killed within 24 hours.  (Gregoire, C., US Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention. 2006)

 

The importance of contacting law enforcement cannot be stressed enough. In the event of a true child abduction, a myriad of people will become involved in the search for the missing child including the community in which the child lives. The people in the community can help immensely in the return of a missing child by holding candlelight vigils to bring awareness to the missing child and by assisting in the search for the missing child. Community involvement is sometimes the key in the return of the child, whether alive or deceased.

 

May 15, 1999, 12-year-old Andria “Andi” Nichole Brewer was babysitting at her father’s rural Arkansas home when a knock came at the door. Her two younger stepsiblings said it was “Uncle Karl,” and that he said her grandparents were ill and she must immediately come with him. Brewer left under the assumption that she was going to her grandparent’s house. A three- day, state-wide search ensued, which included local and state police, the FBI, and hundreds of community volunteers who collectively scoured the rural area in the Ouachita Mountains. The frustrated Sheriff, Mike Oglesby, commented that Andi seemed to have disappeared off the planet.

 

The nightmare is not knowing what happened to your child and not knowing who did these terrible things to your child. (Walsh, 1997). “Uncle Karl,” an uncle by marriage, confessed to kidnapping Brewer and taking her ten miles away to Cove, Arkansas. He drove her down an old logging road west of town where he brutally raped and strangled her to death. He then covered her nude body with scrub brush and threw her clothes in Buffalo Creek. He then proceeded to his parent’s house where he shared a cup of coffee with his father and then, upon a frantic call from his wife, returned to help search for Brewer. He assisted in the search for her for three days and finally confessed to the state police and FBI upon the failing of a polygraph test, shortly thereafter, he led authorities to her body.

 

Andria “Andi” Nichole Brewer was my daughter. Her short life set my own life on a path of creating a legacy for my daughter and made me realize that the only way to overcome victimization was through empowerment and education. It became my passion to ensure that this sort of thing never happened to another child. However, first on the agenda was something that only stood in line behind burying her. That was to attend the capital murder trial for the man who murdered her.

 

Abduction and Capital Murder

On Tuesday, May 18th 1999, Karl Douglas Roberts was charged with the capital murder of 12-year-old, Andria Brewer. He pled not-guilty in front of a stunned Polk County Circuit Court in the small town of Mena, Arkansas. Prosecutor Tim Williamson was set with the task of not only dealing with Brewer’s family, but also with the task of controlling a community who wanted to hang Roberts on the front lawn of the courthouse. Death threats were coming in for Roberts and even his own family cowered in fear in their homes. Williamson did his job to the best of his ability considering he had only prosecuted one capital murder case and never a case involving a young child. This quickly became a learning event for everyone involved, the State of Arkansas, the community, law enforcement, and the victim’s family. Some of the larger issues were regarding the media, and Williamson handled them with grace. Additionally, to deal with the victim’s family, Williamson assigned Jo Mitchell, a victim advocate for the Prosecutors office. She helped answer tough questions and was there for the family when they needed emotional support. It was after strong support and encouragement from Jo Mitchell that I realized that, one day, I could help others and be there for the hurting families. I was treading on a path few had walked and had empathy for people I never felt before. It was then my stirrings for helping others were born.

 

Coping with Becoming a Crime Victim Overnight

Coping is one of the hardest things to learn after becoming a victim of violent crime. Trust is nonexistent, hope is out the window, and belief in God is questioned. There are many things to learn. One of the most astounding things I learned was how evil the world could be. Being raised in a middleclass family and not being associated with any type of crime, I was stunned to learn that the average victim of abduction and murder is an 11-year-old girl who is described as a low-risk, “normal” child from a middle-class neighborhood who has a stable family relationship and whose initial contact with an abductor occurs within a quarter of a mile of her home. (Gregoire, C., US Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention. 2006). My knees came out from underneath me as I learned that my young daughter had been brutally raped before being strangled. I will never forget the prosecutor telling this me this fact and his face becoming shadowed to my view as I began to pass out. This happened while picking out a casket, too. When the door opened to the room lined with about twenty caskets for me to choose from that shadowy darkness enveloped me once more and my knees again became weak.

 

A child’s funeral is awful. The way I remember it was that all of the faces seemed out of place. People that I knew from every aspect of my life had filled the room. My parents. My church friends from Oklahoma. There were people who lined the wall. I recall wailing. Someone said I wailed, but I do not remember this. All I remember is a casket. Pepto Bismol pink. And I remember Amazing Grace, and the drone of a sermon, and pink balloons, and watching that Pepto Bismol casket lowered into the ground.  But, I wanted only one thing. To be inside of it, holding her, caressing her, telling her I was sorry I hadn’t been there to stop this, and to tell her I loved her. This was truly the moment when I knew that no parent should ever have to bury a child. It was then I knew that I must be the one to advocate for victims of crime and children.

 

In the State of Arkansas, a person commits capital murder if they commit murder in the commission of another crime. (Arkansas General Assembly. 2013). In this case, Williamson decided to charge Roberts with the rape and murder. He left the abduction out of the charge in the rare event that something went awry at the trial and he needed to charge the abduction at a later time. In the fourteen years since this crime was committed, he has never had to charge for that felony kidnapping. Karl Douglas Roberts was charged with first degree capital murder and the only hope he had was to receive life without parole. This wasn’t likely in a rural Arkansas county where truly, as politically incorrect as it seems, even blacks were told not to be seen in town after dark. Seems there were two things not tolerated in Polk County, blacks and child killers, although I never could understand the racism issue and blamed it on the character of the Deep South. Wanting to kill a child murdered was another story.

 

Watching Roberts being led into that courtroom, I could only think of one thing. Andi was dead and cold and he was warm and alive and beginning the fight for his life. Hate had a new meaning, and it was standing in front of me. He was vile and disgusting and hate consumed my heart. I knew even then that this wasn’t right and I was in for the biggest challenge of my life, to live through a capital murder trial.

 

Facing a Capital Murder Trial

Prosecutor Williamson informed the Brewer family that it would be about a year for the trial to begin. And true to his words the trial began exactly one year to the day Andi was kidnapped, raped and strangled to death. Prior to the trial, I had to admit to myself that I knew absolutely nothing about the criminal justice system or how it worked. This was when my training and the journey of empowering myself began. The wealth of data on the information superhighway became my best friend and was where my true learning started. I became a self-taught lawyer, advocate, and law enforcement guru. Over the previous year, I had already become an advocate of sorts. People began to tell me things such as they had been raped as a child. Whenever another child went missing, the news media would reach out to me for comment as though I had all the answers. I found myself speaking in front of crowds of parents, law enforcement, and my community, and teaching them the dangers of predatory crime against children. I was invited to Washington D.C. to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to become a member of Team HOPE, a group who offers peer support for families with missing or sexually exploited children. And in this, I taught and memorized the language of the law, what law enforcement lingo meant, some of the Latin that was used in terms of the law, actus reus (guilty act), per curium (through the court), modus operandi, (manner of operation or M.O.), and habeas corpus, (to secure the person’s release unless lawful grounds are shown for their detention), the latter is a word that often haunts crime victims for many years in death penalty cases.

 

The process of grief is difficult. Asking, “why me,” or “why my child,” is a normal human reaction, but not a human reaction that is welcome. It is the wee hours of the morning that are the most difficult and suffering from post-traumatic stress leaves a person exhausted.

 

Something learned about “why,” was to question whether it was nature, was Roberts some freak of nature? Or was it nurture?

 

What always is a debate, is it a nature or nurture thing? I can say from the people who I have interviewed, on death row or in prisons around the country, most of them will have some type of violence, psychological, physical violence, sexual violence in the background. However, I’m kind of tough on this because I still don’t believe it should be a mitigating factor, they still have the ability to make choices and [use] free will and they’re making these choices and it’s the wrong choices. (Douglas, J., Olshaker, M. 1999)

 

To sit through a capital murder trial and realize what a predatory monster did to your child is heart rending. And when Karl Douglas Roberts was sentenced to death for murdering my 12-year-old daughter, I thought that justice had been served. I was wrong on so many levels. I have since learned this was only the beginning of many years of appeals and a lot of work for the State of Arkansas, ACLU, and many appellate judges. All in all, I have learned, a death penalty case, is a cash cow.

 

Becoming an Advocate for Children and Victims

Being taken seriously became a big area of concern for me. I began to speak out on many issues advocating for victims and children. I found myself in court with victim families, doing media interviews, along with photographing and fingerprinting children at safety fairs. My face and my child’s face became synonymous with keeping children safe. The only problem was that I always seemed to be the mother of that “poor little girl.” People sometimes were overcome with grief when they saw me and at other times I heard people talking bad about all the money I was making by promoting my dead child. It wasn’t true, I never made a dime, but I knew that I had to be taken more seriously. I realized that my lack of education made me seem weak. Even though I had been invited by the White House to discuss the issue of a National Amber Alert in a private roundtable discussion with President Bush who ultimately signed it into law, I still knew I had to do more. I needed a college education. I was scared to death when I enrolled in the Criminal Justice program at Tulsa Community College part-time. I began what has been a ten year trek of trying to raise a family, be an advocate, and a student. However, I always knew someday I would complete my degree. Being an advocate for victims and children has opened many doors for me. However, I will never shy away from saying that if I could have one more second with Andi, I would give it all up in a heartbeat. It has always been about creating a legacy for her, not me having a job. But, the more I talked about the case, the more people wanted to hear what I had to say. And they listened.

 

Still Learning the Ropes

Empowering myself through education has been the key in this tough field. It has been fourteen years since the death of my daughter and I am still fighting for her legacy. It is surreal to think that Andi would be nearly 27-years-old now. For fourteen years, I have fought for crime victims and children. I have met President Bush, shared Andi’s story with him. I have shared her story with Jamie Lee Curtis, Bryan Cranston, Patrick Dempsey, Morgan Freeman, and sat on Oprah’s couch and told her as well. I have become a consultant for the Department of Justice’s Office for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency as well as Fox Valley Technical College. I train law enforcement on the family perspective of child abduction, and I suppose that does make me the expert now. I have lobbied on Capitol Hill for the Adam Walsh Bill and become friends with other advocates, Colleen Nick, John Walsh, Marc Klaas, and Ed Smart, all victims who taught me through the school of hard knocks.

 

I am also glad to report that nightmares do not come as often as they used to. Fourteen years is a lot of time to heal. I have worked hard, and my skin had to become tough in the face of naysayers who have told me to “let the dead rest,” and that I should be fighting “against” the death penalty, to which I reply, “I was not a juror in this case.” I have faced many challenges and obstacles and in December, I will be proud to walk across the stage and finally, finally, finally receive my bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. However, I am not stopping there. I plan on advancing forward to graduate school. When that is over, politics seems a logical path for me. City council, state representative, senator, governor?

 

The event that led me to this career path, is not something I would wish on anyone, the price is too high and no one should have to lose a child. That being said, I won’t stop, a legacy is still in the making and it is for a 12-year-old girl everyone called Andi. A girl who had a mega-watt smile and an infectious giggle. She was taken from this planet far too young and will always remain in my mind as a gentle apparition, one forever trapped at the tender age of twelve. But she will have a legacy. I will see to it.

Death Penalty: Fix It, Don’t Nix It!

 

ScumThe events that transpired during the 1996 death penalty trial of my 12-year-old daughter Polly’s killer were extreme, even for a death penalty case, but the events that have transpired in the 17 years since simply defy belief. No one, not even the defense, argued that Richard Allen Davis wasn’t the person who snuck into Polly’s bedroom in the late evening of October 1, 1993, tied, bound and gagged her girlfriends and stole her into the night. All agreed that he strangled and discarded her remains on a trash pile adjacent to a freeway off ramp in Cloverdale, CA in the early hours of the next morning. The points of contention were whether or not he raped my child and whether he committed the heinous crime of his own free will or if the Devil made him do it.

 

More of his life has been spent behind bars than on the street. He had been previously diagnosed as a sexually sadistic psychopath, and his endless rap sheet was filled with violent encounters, attempted sexual assaults and kidnappings. People would avoid him on the street because of his public drinking, prison tattoo’s, surly manner, or gruff language. He had no friends because he couldn’t be trusted, so he depended upon his duplicitous family for support.

 

He was three months out of prison, rehabilitated, and working a job that paid more than twice the minimum wage when he decided to murder my child. Prior to being released from prison he told cell mates that he would avoid AIDS by, “Getting a young one.” Kidnapping, raping and murdering my little girl was Richard Allen Davis’ definition of safe sex.

richarddavis3Evil exists and he epitomizes evil. When he was found guilty of killing Polly he turned toward the jury and stuck both middle fingers in the air. As the sentence of death was about to be imposed, he told the judge that he didn’t rape the little girl because she told him, “Don’t do me like my dad.” Apparently, the depths of his depravity have no boundaries.

 

Many good men and women who helped to solve the case have quietly passed since he was sentenced to death row seventeen-years ago. Should the glacial appeals process for Polly’s killer be exhausted there is a small, but determined group of individuals who will continue to lobby on his behalf. They decry the death penalty. They say that it is inhumane, that it is beneath us as a civilization, that it is immoral and that it costs too much. They have successfully denied the law and subverted the will of the people of California for far too long.

 

We need to exert our will and demand that justice be served. It has become apparent that this will never be accomplished through the California state legislature. Join me in supporting the Death Penalty Reform & Savings Coalition.