Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Death Row Inmate Dies of Natural Causes

The Los Angeles Times published a story about the death row inmate who was able to avoid punishment long enough to die of old age.
The killer of a 12-year-old Orange County girl who has spent 22 years fighting execution has died on death row, escaping what the victim's father termed "the justice the world deserved."

Thomas Francis Edwards, 65, died of natural causes Saturday at San Quentin State Prison's medical facility, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported Monday.

Edwards was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1981 shooting of Vanessa Iberri in Cleveland National Forest, where the girl and a friend, Kelly Cartier, were on a camping trip with Iberri's mother. Cartier also was shot but survived.

It's not possible to read this story and not feel compassion for the father of the victim. I was struck once again by the way he seemed to become obsessed with the murderer, following the trials and appeals, waiting for "justice." I suppose that's a common way of dealing with the unimaginable grief that must be involved in something like this.

A fascinating aspect is the failure to find a motive. In the lengthier article that Carol J. Williams published last November, there are more details, including the fact that Edwards had "spent 14 years as an adolescent and young adult at a Maryland correctional facility for sociopaths."

The Times article describes the controversy surrounding California's Death Row at San Quentin. It is the largest in the country housing 677 inmates and is badly in need of an overhaul. All executions were halted because of a problem that isn't limited to them.
The state had called off the execution of San Quentin inmate Michael Morales 10 months earlier after questions were raised about whether some of those executed by the three-drug formula had been fully anesthetized by the first injection before receiving a paralyzing agent and finally a dose of potassium chloride that stops the heart.

What's your opinion? I know we discussed it before, but I still find it weird that they keep talking about these chemicals. Do these people not know what every junkie knows? If you shoot up a little too much heroin that is a little too pure, you die. What is the big deal with this three-chemical cocktail?

What's your opinion on the death penalty? In a case like this, a man who probably suffers from some form of mental illness, is execution our best option? What do you think?

What about the father of the victim? What do you think about his way of dealing with the grief? He was quoted as having mentioned "justice" several times. Did it sound like justice to you or more like vengeance? It said he "cheered that his only child's killer was now burning in hell with Satan." Is all of this consistent with the Christian philosophy? Where does forgiveness come into it? Isn't that the true message of the Bible?

Please feel free to leave a comment.


  1. When an execution is decades from the sentencing any benefits to capitol punishment vanish.

    As for the 3-drug cocktail, I fail to see why they bother with all the pomp and circumstance. Just one of those drugs is more than enough, and possibly the mode of death is likely quite pleasant.

  2. Mike,

    Forgiveness comes into the picture when the people who have been hurt give up their desire to hurt the other person in return.

    That does not mean the hurt is forgotten NOR that the consequences shouldn't be suffered.

    If you steal from me, I may forgive you and invite you into my house. If you steal from me again, should I continue to invite you into my house? No.

    In time, I hope the father comes to realize that he only hurts himself by cheering that way. It is fully understandable, but for some people I imagine it would be difficult to let go.

    The law states - perform this action and this will be the consequence. How is having to endure the consequences of the actions not consistent with the Bible?

    Jesus knew exactly what he was doing in preaching His message. He knew that He would have to answer to the authorities...and He did.

    So, I see nothing in the Bible that means that people shouldn't fully face the consequences of their actions.

  3. The fact that the murderer spent 22 years in prison surely was no picnic. Should we render a pound of flesh in addition?

  4. Mud,

    Nope, but the sentence should have been carried out in full long before this.

    What good is a death penalty if the person is never executed? Really doesn't give anyone else anything to fear does it?

    It's not taking a pound of flesh, it is simply seeing justice fully carried through.

    Wouldn't you want anyone who killed your family member to fulfill their entire sentence?

  5. Nice straw-man Muddy. neither Bob nor I see any need for revenge at all, but you feel the need to interject it (as does Mike on every post of this subject)

    What Bob and I are concerned with is due process of the law. If a man is sentenced to death by lethal injection, and dies of natural causes 22 years after that sentence, that is is miscarrage of justice.

    We can talk about repealing the law, and in that there is a weath of valid arguments that even I can't deny. Instead you choose a straw-man of revenge killing.


  6. Heh, Bob, great minds think alike, and trolls think hardly if ever!

  7. Agreed Weer'd, great way of expressing it

  8. Due process of the law, is that what you're concerned with, Weer'd? That must be the same as "justice." Right?

    To me, it often sounds like vengeance in disguise. Do you deny it? What are you saying, that the revenge motive is never operative?

  9. The law is written as such. You don't like the law, repeal it. But vengence doesn't factor into this case. The Perp did the crime, the judge did his job, the penal system failed to do their job.

    And the timeline for death sentences is so extended those who remember the crime have forgotten about the punishment.

    I think that's pointless, as I favor the death penalty not because of what it does to the convicted, but what it does to the future criminals of America.

    How the sentence is currently enacted what does it do? NOTHING

  10. Mike,

    Just because it is what you would do or you are reading into what we say doesn't make it the case.

    Who is getting revenge in this case? The father, who wasn't on the jury, who wasn't the prosecutor, who wasn't the judge? He is the victims is he taking vengeance?

    A professional law enforcement agency investigated the crime, are they taking vengeance?

    A grand jury, of his peers, decided there was enough evidence for a trial, are they taking vengeance?

    A prosecutor brought the charges and tried the case, is he taking vengeance?

    A judge heard the case, is he taking vengeance?

    A jury of 12 people heard the case, decided the facts of the case, decided the application of the law and convicted him, are they taking vengeance?

    Who in the process is taking vengeance?

    NO ONE.

  11. But Bob, A blood-thirsty system hungry for cold vengence is a much more convenient strawman than actually discussing the issues!

    (And what a discussion that could be. I'm pro-death-penalty, but unlike the gun issue, I have no idea if my side is the right one.)

  12. For all you "justice" guys, I give you the quote from the victim's father describing how he

    "cheered that his only child's killer was now burning in hell with Satan."

  13. So again Mike, because the father is happy with the system, because the father wanted vengeance...what does that have to do with the system?

    Are you accusing the jury of being vengeful?

    The prosecutor? The judge?

    Get real. IF someone murdered one of your children, would you be rooting for them to be found NOT GUILTY?

    The system is designed to take a step back from vengeance. If the father truly wanted vengeance, the murderer would be dead now....not going through the system.

  14. S T R A W M A N!!!!

    Dodge the issue, pick the lowest common denominator, and then superimpose it on us.

    Classy Mike. As I've said before, we could have a REAL debate on this issue, but instead you choose to hide behind behind fallacies.


  15. A better wikipedia article for you Mike

    Read it, understand it, and DON'T DO IT, otherwise you loose.

  16. Weer'd, I mentioned it on the other thread that I'd appreciate it if you could tone down that nasty attitude a bit. I understand that debating with me can be frustrating, but try to deal with it.

    The question of justice vs. vengeance is not a "strawman argument." I think you like that term too much. It's totally germane to the issue of Capital Punishment. Watch that video I posted today. Aundre Herron describes it perfectly.

  17. Mike,

    How about answering my questions, debating my points.

    Do you think the jury is taking revenge on this person?

    The entire legal system?

    Any evidence in the trial that shows that or is it just your opinion because you oppose the death penalty?

  18. Protest all you want, Mike. You're making false claims while ignoring Bob's train of questions that easily disprove what you're attempting to claim.

    The Father's desire for revenge is both one man's personal feelings (and a Man who has been through more hell than I ever hope to see) but also this man is EXCLUDED from the system for just the reasons that you protest.

    If the family of crime victims were allowed to judge a crime we would have no justice, just the same as if the family and friends of the defendant were allowed to call the shots.

    Bob points out that these people are intentionally excluded from our court systems for this reason.

    yet you ignore his points, and talk about the father's involvement. That is a DEFINATIVE straw-man.

    Sorry, you can avoid the truth all you want, I'll keep calling you on lies until you have me forcably removed...or start avoiding logical fallacies.

  19. I think the revenge factor runs through the whole system. Some few people may be so philosophically advanced that they can be truly interested in justice with no taint of vengeance, but I'd say they're rare.

    One illustration of this is when the lawyers interview prospective jurors. The defense team grills them for signs of this very characteristic. If they find it, they disallow that person. The other jurors may very well have this thinking but succeed in concealing it, in some cases even from themselves, and are admitted to participate in the trial.

    Another example is the proverbial "hang 'em" judge. That stereotype didn't come from nowhere. Those guys are out there and in most places they strive to conceal the fact.

    I would go further and say that the entire capital punishment system is so rife with this vengeance business that you're all tainted with it. It's similar to the way I feel about gun owners being responsible for the mess that America is in with gun violence. You're all tainted.

  20. I wonder how Mudrake would feel toward anyone who murdered his daughter. Would he forgive? He doesn't seem to be the forgiving sort --in my experience.

    I think forgiveness is the duty and province of real Christians --but I also think that nations have Biblical precedent for punitive justice in cases of heinous crimes --where perps are blatantly unrepentant and calloused sociopaths.

    Don't know about this guy's remorse or lack thereof. but being truly pitiable and remorseful would evoke more sympathy from me than a sociopath who wantonly abuses and kills others without a shred of remorse.

  21. Mike,

    Is it just America's justice system that is vengeful or is it every countries?

    If the system is vengeful, how can we truly have justice in any case, from parking tickets up to mass murderers?

    I strongly disagree with you on this issue. What I think is that you are missing the point about society's NEED, not want, to see that punishment is meted out to wrong doers. Without the consequences of misdeeds being recognized, society then encourages further lawlessness.

    Just because society has a duty to insure that crime is forcefully prosecuted, does not mean the people are seeking revenge. Just because people are passionate about their calling doesn't mean they aren't being dispassionate about proving the guilt.