Thought of the Moment
An article recently appeared in my local newspaper reporting the death of Richard Ramirez, once known as the "Night Stalker." For those of you with no recollection, he was convicted of 13 murders during a 1984-1985 rampage ranging from San Francisco to Orange County, California. Ramirez, who had been confined to death row at San Quentin State Prison since his conviction in 1989, is the 59th death-row inmate to die of natural causes since California reinstated capital punishment in 1978, with 735 other offenders still awaiting execution. Details of Ramirez' confinement these past many years reveal that he regularly received visits in his cell from various female admirers, one of whom he married in 1993, and that he reveled in the photo of a dead nude woman he hung on his cell wall.
While browsing the article, my wife remarked: "Why would they permit an insane butcher like Ramirez to live year after year, enjoying all sorts of privileges, after committing such crimes?"
Initially I had no rational response, but I now believe I've come up with a plausible irrational response. It is, simply: There is no identifiable "they." There are those persons who oppose capital punishment on principal, just as there are others who support the concept. They will bicker forever. There are influential members of the bar association who derive a living from sustaining death row inmates in perpetuity. In addition, there is a powerful prison employees' union which uses its political clout to keep the prisons as full of warm bodies as possible. And all the while, our elected leaders accept campaign contributions from all these organizations and individuals for the express purpose of enacting laws to maintain these lucrative programs. What benefits, then, would have accrued to the members of any of these groups had Richard Ramirez been executed in 1990? And more to the point, who is the "they" that might have arranged for Ramirez' execution, as justifiable as it would have been?
A final word: If anyone has a better though on this subject, I'd certainly appreciate receiving it.