June 20, 1998

Column 18

There are a few things that I would like to talk about this time. A few recent events that have happened and I feel like talking about them for a bit. One is about the rash of school shooting and the violence that goes on in the schools in America. I also wanted to talk about a couple of executions that may, or may not take place.

You all know, over the past few years, there has been a lot of horrible shooting in public schools across the USA and it seems that these incidents are happening more and more frequently. The News media, not being one to pass up a chance to exploit anything that has shock value, have been giving these shootings a lot of coverage in the news and in the talk shows on TV. After each of these shootings at the various schools, I watched the reporters doing their reports from the location of each shooting. What struck me as interesting about their reports is not the phony empathy that reporters are so good at and it wasn't the footage of the poor people who were shocked by what happened in their communities. What stuck out in my mind was what the reporters said in almost every story they did. In the instance of the 11 year old and 13 year old (I think that is their ages), the reporter stated that these two children were not eligible for the Death Penalty. In the case of the kid in Oregon that shot all the students, l watched a story from a reporter "Live On the Scene" make a big point of stating that the child was not eligible for the Death Penalty. If my memory serves me correctly, the fact that the child was not eligible for the Death Penalty in the various other cases, was made as well.
Then there was further discussion about how the Politicians could change the laws to make these children eligible to get the Death Penalty. None of this is remarkable and is typical shallow reporting that we have come to expect from the news media.

After watching these reports, I started thinking about it a bit. Violence in our schools has been getting worse and worse over the past 20 years, or so. I don't have statistics to quote you, but my general impression is; violence in schools has progressively been getting more violent and more frequent. I would be curious to see if there are statistics that compare the rate of violence in the schools with the number of executions that the government has carried out in that same time frame. It seems to me; the violence has escalated in relation to the amount of executions in the USA, over that same time period. If anyone has facts and figures which show the dates and number of executions and figures that show the amount of violence in schools (in the USA over the past 20 years) l would be very grateful if you could mail them to me at the address I have listed on this site. There is a phrase that keeps popping up in my mind, whenever I think about these two topics. I don't know where this saying is from, but it goes something like this; "Do as I say, not as I do". We all know children learn by example and when they see on TV, all these "Real Video" shows where the police use violence to "resolve" problems, i.e.: the cops shooting suspects, or the police jumping on suspect to "subdue" them. Of course, the biggest behavioral example of all, our government using the killing of people (the Death Penalty) to resolve problems. So, if the police and our government can kill people to solve problems and killing is the solution to solve problems in our society, then why shouldn't children think it is an acceptable way for them to resolve their problems as well? After all, if killing is so wrong, then why do the police always seem to kill "suspects" and why is killing (the death penalty) the solution for our courts? Well, it is something to think about. I would be curious to see if there are statistics to show any relation between the two. So, if you have any information on this, one way or the other, please mail it to me at my address on this site.

I want to talk a bit about the possible execution of this man here at SQ. He was supposed to have been executed already, but they (the authorities) had a hearing to see if he was sane enough to kill. Basically, it was a trial to determine if he was sane enough to execute. The Jury said he was (what a surprise). The only problem is, the jury was comprised of mostly people who are very pro death penalty and felt that people who are sentence to death shouldn't have the right to appeal their conviction. So, of course, the jury said this guy is sane enough to be killed. This guy, (that they determined to be sane) is not sane at all. He is in a catatonic state (whatever that means, it is what the shrinks say) the guy spends all day in his cell rocking back and forth, and stares into space. He doesn't know where he's at or what is happening to him. He has feces (shit) smeared all over his walls, or had at times. I thought that it was strange how they (the prosecutors) say that this guy went insane sitting here waiting to be executed. I guess they can't very well admit the guy was insane long before he got here to death row. After all, if they did admit that sort of thing, then the logical question is; how can an insane person be convicted and sentenced to death in the first place? They want to stay away from that issue.

The last topic I would like to talk about is regarding a guy who is scheduled to be executed here very soon. Last year, the prison had been as close as a few hours away from executing Tom (his name is Tom Thompson). The guy had ordered his last meal, said good-bye to his family and was being brought to the holding cell they put you in before they kill you. At this point, the 9th Circuit (Regional Federal) Court granted a stay of execution. Since there is evidence that this guy could very well be innocent, they wanted to review his case again. The US Supreme Court has just rejected his appeal. They don't care that there is evidence to prove this guy could very well be innocent, all that is important to them, is the execution go forward, regardless of the evidence. I think a big part of it is a battle of egos. The US Supreme Court doesn't like the 9th Circuit Court (which is the court that hears the Californian appeals), so the US Supreme Court jumps at every opportunity to show the 9th Circuit Court who has the more power. It is a sad thing that justice comes down to a battle of egos and the facts don't seem to carry much weight in the process. So they will be executing an innocent man, for the only reason that judges want to show who has the more power. I guess that as long as they get to stroke their fragile egos, the fact that an innocent man could be killed doesn't matter. So, who is the murderer then?

You can help him by writing or faxing the Governor of California to ask for clemency for Tom. The Governor his address and fax number are:
    State Capitol
    1st Fl.
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    Fax: (916)445-4633
If you would like further information on Tom's case, you can check out this site (http://www.deathpenalty.org/).

Well, I think that is all that I have to say this time, but I hope to be back soon. I plan to talk some more about the legal system the next time, so until then take care.