Pro-Life: December 2004 Archives

Holy Innocents, pray for us

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Good news for the Defense of Life:

3 abortuaries close in Massachusetts: $150,000 in reported Federal and Commonwealth tax liens might have something to do with it.

Pro-life laws making a difference in Mississippi: Informed consent laws and other provisions have helped half the abortion rate in this pro-life state.

(Via OR: Boston.)

Hentoff and the death penalty


Personally, I am fairly ambivalent about the death penalty. It would not bother me terribly if the death penalty were suspended in all the states, but I would not consider it a civilizational advance, nor do I think the culture-of-death-loving European governments are morally superior for having abolished it. On balance, I do believe it is a deterrent for dedicated criminals, as most criminals calibrate their actions based on very rational risk/reward criteria.

Nat Hentoff is a man of the Left for whom I have the utmost respect. An atheist, he is nonetheless pro-life, and outspokenly so. Being a civil-liberties fetishist, he is wrong about many things, yet his manner is never anything other than courtly and reasoned. When he speaks on an issue, I pay much greater attention to him than nasty-tongued liberals such as Michael Kinsley or Maureen Dowd.

Hentoff's article on Alberto Gonzalez, the incoming attorney general, made me stop and think about how the death penalty is applied. Gonzalez, as the legal counsel to President Bush when he was governor of Texas, wrote 57 briefings about death-row inmates facing the imposition of their sentences. Hentoff relies on an Atlantic Monthly article about Gonzalez, which criticizes him for relying on the Texas appeals courts' decisions:

As I and other journalists reported during Bush's governorship, the Texas appeals courts notoriously championed, as they still do, the death penalty....Gonzales, by his mechanical reliance on lethal decisions by those courts, ignored, as [Atlantic writer] Alan Berlow notes, "one of the most basic reasons for clemency: the fact that the justice system makes mistakes."
No anti-death-penalty article is complete without The Questionable Execution Story, and here is Hentoff's:
One of the cases in the article was that of "Terry Washington, a mentally retarded thirty-three-year-old man with the communication skills of a seven-year-old." In his three-page report on Terry Washington, Gonzales never mentioned that Washington, as a child, along with his 10 siblings, was "regularly beaten with whips, water hoses, extension cords, wire hangers, and fan belts." And this was "never made known to the jury, although both the district attorney and Washington's trial lawyer knew of this potentially mitigating evidence." Just hours after Gonzales's brief report to Bush, Washington was executed.
From Berlow saying "the justice system makes mistakes," to the facts about Terry Washington's upbringing, you might conclude that Washington was unjustly executed.

You might conclude that — if you believe that all executions are wrong. That would be defensible, because then we're getting down to the real issue, which has nothing to do with whether Terry Washington was innocent or not.

This being the age of the Internet, I wondered if I could find more facts about this case. Google, when I searched for "Terry Washington" murder execution, returned results for articles that sounded very much like Hentoff's, with the implicit message that Washington was not responsible for his crimes because he was retarded. Then I found the actual ruling of the circuit court that denied his appeal, and you can read for yourself to see if he's guilty:

Beatrice Huling and Terry Washington worked at Julie's Place, a restaurant in College Station, Texas. Huling was the restaurant's night manager, and Washington worked as a dishwasher. As part of her duties, Huling would count the night's receipts at the close of business, place cash in the register for the next day, deposit the surplus cash in the office safe, wait for the dishwasher to finish cleaning, set the security alarm, and lock the restaurant....

At 2:30 a.m. that same morning, Michael Jennings was in the parking lot next to Julie's Place. He heard an object hit the ground and went to investigate. Jennings found a purse and immediately called the police. The police arrived shortly thereafter and found Beatrice Huling's name and address in the purse and her car in the parking lot. The restaurant was closed and locked. The police ultimately entered the restaurant and discovered Huling's dead body ten to fifteen feet from the back door, lying in a pool of blood, with her head next to the base of the office safe. She had multiple stab wounds.

The investigation of the crime scene and the autopsy showed that Huling's hands had been tied with apron strings and that she had suffered eighty-five stab wounds, seven of which were fatal. The medical examiner testified at trial that the murder weapon had a five-and-a-half inch blade and that he believed it took Huling ten to fifteen minutes to die. The investigation further found no signs of forced entry into the restaurant, and that $628.00 had been stolen.

The evidence at trial overwhelmingly implicated Washington as the murderer. The State produced evidence linking Washington's boots to an impression made in a pool of Huling's blood. Willie Hemphill, Washington's neighbor, testified that on January 15 he went with Washington to buy some beer and noticed Washington had a lot of money. Additionally, Hemphill saw Washington with a hunting knife which had a blade consistent with the type of wounds inflicted upon Huling. Maud Swanson also saw Washington on January 15 and testified that he had a lot of money in his billfold when he took it out, and that when she asked him about the murder at the restaurant, Washington said "to hell with Bea, or something like that." Scott Milton, the manager of the restaurant, testified that when Washington picked up his paycheck on the day of the murder he told Milton, "The police are hassling me about this, but I'm too smart for them." Billy and Mary Sandles testified that they heard Washington say, "I killed the b---." A teller at a local bank testified that sometime within a week of the murder, Washington changed $450.00 of small bills and coins for larger bills. An employee of J&J Bail Bond testified that shortly after the murder, Washington paid $468.00 in cash for a bond relating to traffic citations, paying with three hundred dollar bills and the rest in twenties and change.

If first-degree murderers deserve death, then Terry Washington deserved death, because there is little question that he plotted the intentional killing of his co-worker. Look, if you oppose the death penalty, just oppose it. Don't get into this stuff about bad defense lawyers and hard childhoods, etc. — that's an argument for reforming the death-penalty process, not abolishing it. I might be convinced, and so might other people. But you're not going to do it by insinuating that vile murderers aren't really vile murderers because their trials weren't absolutely perfect.

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz

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unless you state otherwise.


About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Pro-Life category from December 2004.

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