Governor Jay Inslee of Washington announced that he’s suspending the use of the death penalty in Washington State. This decision was immediately pounced upon by some in the local media and turned into an opportunity to advocate for the victims.
While this decision might not change the fate of those on death row now, the death penalty won’t be used while Inslee is in office. However, KING 5’s article quotes King County Prosecutor Dan Satterburg, who said, “Inslee’s decision… is likely to cause more delay, expense and uncertainty.” That is an astute observation.
In the same article, a woman whose family was massacred in 2007, stated “I would like to ask him (Inslee) how he would feel if someone took his grandchildren and shot them in the head on Christmas Eve?” She’s right– where’s the empathy for the victims and survivors here? What message is this sending to murderers and rapists awaiting trial or who haven’t been caught yet?
KOMO did a very tactful thing and posted a “meet the men on death row in Washington” slide show. This helps remind us what these convicts did to be sentenced to life in prison. Remember that Washington tends to be a liberal state, so the fact that these guys were sentenced to death is a very strong statement.
Robert Yates is one of the nine. You’ve heard me talk about the man known as the Spokane Serial Killer before, Yates Petition Dismissed. He’s still actively trying to escape his fate for a career in murder that lasted decades and Inslee’s move might be generating sympathy for him.
Dayva Cross is another death row inmate. He butchered his teenage stepdaughters, Salome Holly and Amanda Baldwin, and his wife, Anouchka Baldwin, in 1999. He held another daughter at knife point for hours until she escaped. Just five months ago his death sentence was upheld by the state Supreme Court.
Byron Scherf is the psychopath who strangled female corrections officer Jayme Biendl with a microphone cord in the prison chapel. He has a history of violence against women– he’s a serial rapist– and is casually looking to connect with more women via the Write a Prisoner website. Note that he touts his faith as an asset. While God can certainly forgive a murderer– Jesus forgave one hanging on the cross next to him– this guy should never, ever, ever be allowed contact with women again. His alleged faith is likely a predatory smokescreen.
Conner Schierman? He’s the neighbor who mercilessly murdered Olga Milkin, her sons Justin and Andrew, and her sister Lyubov Botvina while Olga’s husband was stationed in Iraq. Schierman returned to set the house on fire after murdering them with a hunting knife and hatchet. The community helped rebuild Leonid Milkin’s house but his family is gone.
You’re getting the picture. These are the type of people who are sentenced to death and there will be more to come. These are cold, calculating rapists and killers who haven’t, at least in the cases I know about, shown any remorse. Killers like Yates seem to believe that they’ve been victimized by the system and don’t deserve what’s coming to them for the choices they consciously made. If they discuss God’s work in their lives it usually has everything to do what God is doing for them and nothing to do with how God is helping them accept responsibility or assist the survivors.
Governor Inslee, you have made a shameful call that wastes time and energy that could be otherwise spent helping victims and survivors. The greatest mercy that can be expressed in cases like these is not abolishing the death penalty, it is making sure these inmates never, ever, ever harass their victims or rape or kill anyone again. Many people are unaware of the nightmare that victims, survivors, and their families are put through by having to testify in trials and subsequent appeals. Some continue to be harassed and maligned by inmates. An arrest is not closure; it can be merely the beginning of these people’s trauma as they see these cases through to justice.
The death penalty is not cruel and unusual punishment, which is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. It is lightweight compared to what each of the nine inmates on Washington’s death row put their victims through. And those are only the victims we know about. Sometimes a crime is so vicious and so evil, and the person who committed the crime so dangerous, that the death penalty is the only way of ensuring that they can’t continue their course of action. When God said do not kill He meant do not murder, and I find it quite ironic that people who speak up against the death penalty are often in favor of disposing of helpless unwanted children.
Even as I write this, news about the Craigslist nanny— a man who advertised babysitting services online and then raped the children he was hired to protect– is popping up all over the web. Does he simply need treatment and understanding or does he need to be permanently prevented from ever sexually assaulting innocents again? It will be interesting to see how people react to this case in light of Inslee’s decision today. While those are not crimes he would be given the death penalty for, there are those who believe horrific sexual assaults, especially those on children, should be punishable by the death penalty.
Once again I am disgusted with how the public’s attention, influenced by their elected leaders, has turned to concern for the well-being of convicts like these while we gradually forget the names of their victims and what was done to them. Killing someone guarantees loads of media attention and activism on your behalf. You get pen pals and groupies and are known forevermore by your first, middle, and last names. In the shadows, long forgotten by some, sit the friends and family of the people they violated while the victims’ bodies lie cold and alone in underground vaults.
Yes, there is something very wrong with this picture. Regardless of your views on the death penalty, Governor Inslee’s decision just made achieving justice for the victims of these horrors more complicated.
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