By Marc Klaas
The defense bases their opening remarks for the penalty phase on the abuse and neglect of sensitive, quiet, shy little Ricky, and the alcoholism and drug abuse of the adult Richard Allen Davis. Attorney Lorena Chandler reminds the jury that they must choose between the two most severe punishments possible: Life without the possibility of parole; or the death penalty. "He is a damaged human being and we offer no excuses for his crime against Polly Klaas. But..."
"You must consider the mitigating circumstances. Those things in the background that led to the crime." Ms. Chandler instructs the jury to consider the factors that impacted his formative years, and caused his family to fall apart. Ms. Chandler said that his alcoholism and drug abuse began when he was sixteen. "Make room and hear about the pain and anguish in his life."
The five Davis children grew up in a dysfunctional environment. Drunk, abusive parents failed to properly supervise the children. After years of screaming and fighting, Mrs. Davis abandoned the family when the killer was nine years old and never contacted them again. Little sister Patty fell down a flight of stairs and died at age five. The forging of a ten dollar money order at twelve resulted in his first arrest. He stopped attending school in the ninth grade. A teen aged acquaintance inexplicably committed suicide at her farewell party on the eve of her admission into Naval Officerís Training School and guess who discovered the body? Little Ricky. "Mitigating factors tell you who he is and what to consider upon reaching your verdict. Something as big and horrible as happened here came from something."
It came from hell, and the sooner it returns to hell the better off we will all be. The defense conveniently omitted several important points. The killerís brothers grew up in the same environment yet they live within the law. His younger brother is an Indian tribal judge in Nevada and his older brother holds a high security position at a Silicon Valley defense plant. Even sister Darlene, with all her faults, abides by the law. They used free will to make the correct choices, just as the killer used free will to follow the path of evil. In civilized society we accept responsibility for our actions. We make mistakes, admit them, and hopefully attempt to rectify our blunders. But, not Davis: His past dictates his behavior. He is the real victim, not Polly Klaas.
Many people abuse drugs and alcohol, especially in their youth. They are invulnerable, and life is an endless party. However, at some point most realize the error of their ways and quit or temper their substance intake. This long term alcoholic and drug abuser never entered a drug rehabilitation program. As far as anybody knows he never even attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. A litany of victims have testified over the past two days that Davis always seemed sober during the commission of crime. Yet he excused his crimes against Polly by building a defense based on alcohol and drug induced behavior.
Victims of abuse, neglect and abduction approach me on a daily basis. People who led horrific lives and are ashamed of their past. Damaged souls victimized and controlled by forces more powerful than they. Not every victim of abuse or neglect becomes an abuser. The victims I know rise above their circumstances, escape the cycles of violence and are stronger and more formidable for the experience. They nurture, love and protect their children, comforted by the knowledge that they have been in the dark room and found a way out.
The American criminal justice and judicial systems are far too lenient toward those who point to the past as an excuse for the transgressions and crimes of the present. We are all influenced by the past, but I am sick and tired of listening to monsters justify their miserable existence as excuses for heinous crimes against humanity.
KlaasKids Foundation P.O. Box 925, Sausalito, CA 94966
Copyright © 2002 KlaasKids Foundation For Children. All rights reserved.