Thursday, December 26, 2013

Executions in 2013

The long, slow journey to American justice
by Robert A. Waters

In 2013, thirty-eight killers were executed for their crimes.  For those who oppose the death penalty, that was thirty-eight too many.  For most of the rest of us, it was justice finally served.  Listed below are a few of the worst killers.

Steven T. Smith beat, choked, raped, and sodomized his live-in girlfriend’s six-month-old daughter, Autumn Carter, before killing her.  After Smith died of lethal injection, his attorney, Joseph Wilhelm, told reporters that “Ohio is no safer having executed Steven Smith than had he lived the remainder of his natural life in prison.”  Autumn’s grandfather, Patrick Hicks, disagreed: “It's just unfortunate that this man [got] to die a peaceful death after the torture he put Autumn through.”

Carl H. Blue went to his former girlfriend’s apartment, rang the doorbell, and set her on fire when she opened the door.  (A roommate who went to her aid was also set ablaze, but survived.)   Blue’s victim, Carmen Richards-Sanders, suffered third degree burns on 40% of her body.  It took Richards-Sanders 19 agonizing days to succumb, but Blue quickly expired on a Texas gurney.

Stephen Ray Thacker murdered three people.  The following court transcript describes his crimes: “Thacker met 25 year old Laci Dawn Hill in her home on Dec. 23, 1999, answering an ad Hill placed to sell a pool table.  When his attempt to rob her failed, Thacker kidnapped her and took her to a rural cabin and raped her.  Thacker attempted to strangle Hill, but eventually stabbed her in the chest and neck.  Her lifeless body was left on the cabin floor, covered by box springs and several mattresses. Thacker fled to Missouri where he killed Forrest Reed Boyd and stole his car along with his credit cards.  Thacker drove to Tennessee where the car ultimately broke down, and he called a tow truck. Thacker murdered Ray Patterson, the tow truck driver, after being confronted for using a stolen credit card. Thacker was apprehended in Tennessee.”  A friend of Laci’s described Thacker’s execution: “So humane,” she said. “He just got to go to sleep…it’s nothing like what the victims endured.”

Seventy-three dollars.  That’s what James Lewis DeRosa and an accomplice got when they robbed and murdered Curtis and Gloria Plummer.  The elderly ranchers had once hired DeRosa to do odd jobs, so they let him in when he knocked on their door.  DeRosa and Eric Castleberry stabbed the couple numerous times, finally slitting their throats from ear to ear.  (Castleberry avoided the death penalty by testifying against DeRosa.)  After Oklahoma executed DeRosa, Janet Tolbert, daughter of the victims, said her parents suffered a “horrendous” end to their lives in contrast to DeRosa’s “light death.”

In a previous blog, I wrote about the only woman who was executed in 2013.  Kimberly McCarthy robbed and murdered her neighbor, seventy-one-year-old Dorothy Booth.  DNA evidence linked McCarthy to the slayings of two other elderly women, but she was never tried for those murders.

You can read my earlier blog about the seven executions that occurred in Florida.  Governor Rick Scott promised to thin out the “worst of the worst” from the state’s death row, and in 2013, he began making good on that promise.  Murderous pedophiles, serial killers, a mass murderer, and assassins were executed last year, making Florida a safer place.

What’s to come on the death penalty front in 2014?

Stay tuned.

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