Capital punishment is a subject for which both proponents and opponents argue mostly with their stomachs rather than with their heads. On the pro side there is the eye for an eye, life for a life brigade, while on the other side there are those who argue it is inhumane, the state has no right to commit murder (except abortion), and what if we execute the wrong person? There are though cases in which an accused is convicted of truly abominable crimes on absolutely overwhelming evidence for which execution is surely warranted.
Not every state in the US has a capital punishment option, and of those which do, only Texas uses it with any enthusiasm, hence the expression “texecute” and declensions thereof. Last year there was a grand total of 22 judicial executions in the entire country: 9 of them in Texas; 3 each in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.
One of the most high profile murder trials last year was that of Timothy Jones Junior of South Carolina. Jones was a father of five: the eldest of his three daughters was eight, the youngest was one year old. His eldest son was six. In August 2014, he murdered all of them in what was effectively one transaction. Why? He blamed the slaughter on drugs and schizophrenia, as if that somehow mitigated this terrible crime.
Jones is the man in the above photograph without a jacket sitting with two members of his legal team. He had apparently put on a lot of weight awaiting trial for years sitting in a cell. There was never any doubt about who committed all five murders, the only issue was mens rea, which the jury didn’t buy, nor did they buy the pleas for mercy from his family, including Amber Kyzer, the woman who gave birth to all five young victims. Jones was convicted in May and sentenced to death the following month.
The last judicial execution carried out in South Carolina was that of Jeffrey Motts, on May 6, 2011. Motts was the only person it executed that year. He was serving a life sentence for murdering two elderly people including his great aunt when ten years later, in December 2005, he murdered his cellmate. It will probably take a decade or more for Jones to be executed, a sorry state of affairs, but all US death penalty convictions are subject to an automatic appeal, and there are some people who have been on death row for more than three decades, which kind of gives the lie to the name.
If Jones is a monster, so is Anthony Pardon for entirely different reasons. Pardon is a sexual predator of the worst sort who has spent most of his life in prison. His conviction was discussed here last week. In January 2018, Pardon murdered Rachael Anderson in Columbus, Ohio on her twenty-fourth birthday after she was hogtied and raped. Although he pleaded not guilty, the evidence against him was every bit as overwhelming as that against Jones. His attorney elected not to call a single witness, and Pardon was convicted on all counts.
Then we heard the pathetic mitigation, principally from Bob Stinson, a so-called forensic psychiatrist who treated the jury and the live Internet audience to a sob story about Pardon’s childhood and his progression through the criminal justice system. The prosecution was able to show that Stinson had been taken in by Pardon’s lies, and Pardon himself took the stand, something he clearly could not do during the first phase of the trial. He may well have had a very bad childhood and lack of support on release, but although such factors can be mitigation for theft or robbery, what mitigation can there ever be for an unambiguous violent rape followed by the murder of the victim?
In spite of all this, the jurors were deadlocked on the death penalty, which resulted in Pardon being sentenced to life without parole. The talking heads were of the opinion that this was due to the ideological opposition of probably one juror to the death penalty. We can only hope that Pardon does not emulate Jeffrey Motts and murder his cellmate, or even worse a prison staff member.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.