Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Are death penalty opponents willing to sacrifice more innocent victims in order to protect killers?

Commentary (originally posted to PG-Politics on March 1, 2009):

Death penalty opponents often claim that the death penalty does not deter crime.  Let's look at the case of Benjamin Lester Perry.  If Mr. Perry had been executed for his first murder, DeWayne Dunmore, 37, would probably still be alive.

Benjamin Lester Perry shot and killed Darryl Martin Spencer on December 6, 1987, in the parking lot of the former International House of Pancakes on Branch Avenue in Hillcrest Heights, MD.  He was arrested on December 14, 1987 (Post, page D5, December 15, 1987).

Perry was convicted of murder on April 25, 1988 (Post, page D6, April 28, 1988).  The original conviction was overturned, Perry was tried again, and convicted again in 1990.  It appears that Judge Graydon McKee sentenced him to a total of 40 years in prison with 15 suspended, sentence to commence Mar 16, 1988 (MD CaseSearch, not reported in the local press).

If Perry had been executed for that murder, or if he had been required to serve the entire sentence, DeWayne Dunmore would probably still be alive.

On Jun 16, 2000, Judge McKee reconsidered and reduced Perry's sentence, making it run 20 years of March 16, 1988.  If he had served that reduced sentence, he would would have been in jail on January 25, 2008, instead of out on the street killing DeWayne Dunmore (MD CaseSearch, not reported in the local press).

Sometime before August 15, 2007, Perry was released from prison (he was ticketed for littering that date, MD CaseSearch).

DeWayne Dunmore was shot and killed in Forestville, MD, on January 25, 2008 (Police, 25 Jan 2008).  He identified Benjamin Perry as his killer (see trial report below).  Perry was arrested fleeing the scene (Police, 25 Jan 2008, Post, 26 Jan 2006).

Perry was convicted of the murder of Dumnore on September 5, 2008.  The Post reported on September 6, 2008:

On a bitterly cold night in January, DeWayne Dunmore lay facedown in the desolate parking lot of a Forestville office park, bleeding from four bullet wounds.

Dunmore, 37, called 911 on his cellphone. "I've been shot," he reports in the taped phone call. After he responds to a dispatcher's request for a street address, Dunmore says, "Yeah, I'm dying." His voice becomes weak. "I'm dying, I'm dying."

"Do you know who did it?" the dispatcher asked.

His voice clear, Dunmore responded, " Benjamin Perry ."
On  October 23, 2008, Circuit Judge Crystal D. Mittelstaedt sentenced Perry to 55 years in state prison, ordering that only 15 of those years be mandatory, meaning that Perry must serve at least that time before he would be eligible for a parole hearing (Post, page B2, October 23, 2008).  So, in theory, Benjamin Lester Perry can be out and able to kill again in just 15 years.

Most of the press coverage of the drive to repeal the death penalty addresses the killers.  Nobody covered anything beyond the bare facts surrounding Benjamin Perry's murder of DeWayne Dunmore.  The Post had the barest mention of Perry's previous murder conviction, but with no details.  Nobody reported on the reduction of his sentence.  Nobody reported that he was out loose before the end of his sentence.  Nobody warned the public that there was a killer on the loose.  There is no indication that any of our elected officials who oppose the death penalty were concerned that a was killer loose.

We know that most of our elected officials are on the side of the killers when it comes to the death penalty.  Who was on the side of DeWayne Dunmore?  Or the wife, three children, parents, brothers and sisters he left behind?  Apparently nobody, certainly not our elected officials, and not Judge McKee.

How many more DeWayne Dunmores will die in order to save killers?
DEWAYNE ROBERT DUNMORE, SR. Suddenly on Friday, January 25, 2008. The beloved husband of Germaine; Also survived by three sons, Dewayne Jr., Wayne and Shayne; parents Franklin and Della Dunmore; sister Casie; brothers Franklin Jr. and Raymond; a host of aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and friends. Visitation Friday, February 1, from 9 a.m. until hour of service 11 a.m. at A.P. Shaw United Methodist Church, 2525 12th Pl, S.E. Interment Harmony Memorial Cemetery. Arrangements by POPE FUNERAL HOMES.

Washington Post, The (DC)
Date: January 30, 2008
Note: Agree to terms at the Maryland Judiciary Case Search site before following the individual Casesearch links.


Richard said...

How many innocent people are on death row across the country?


streiff said...

non sequitur. How many guilty people are on death row?

Luke said...

Your entire post (or repost from 2009) is a red herring. You're attempting to distract the audience while you sneak the rabbit into your hat.

The ultimate infringement on an individual's freedom is death. That the state could sanction the death of an innocent person is the ultimate violation of our inalienable Right of life.

Saying that a murderer was released and then killed again is not an argument for the death penalty. It's an argument for appropriate sentencing.

The government already has too much control over our lives. Suggesting that it should have the opportunity to take an innocent man's life is just as bad as saying that it should have the right to take an innocent man's guns. Or, mandate bike helmets, as you pointed out earlier.

streiff said...

You are actually making the argument that there is no appropriate sentence for any crime unless there is zero chance of an innocent man being convicted.

Using your standard for the death penalty a long prison sentence is no less an infraction because it, too, deprives a citizen of a part of his life.

This is without even addressing the stunning silliness of asserting that a released killer killing again is not an argument for the death penalty but rather for appropriate sentencing. What could be a more appropriate sentence than death.

Luke said...

Streiff, respectfully, you're missing a few logical steps in your argument. And, you're adding your own words to my argument, which is just impolite.

We all have agreed to live in a society, which means that we have chosen to forfeit certain rights in exchange for the benefits that living in community provides. As a Republican, I prefer to maintain as many of my rights as possible.

In our society, we have agreed to surrender some rights in exchange for a justice system that allows appeals and rehearings of arguments. We are not savagely free, but we have the comfort of knowing that we can appeal an unjust verdict.

Only one element of the current legal system in Maryland denies the right to ongoing appeal: the death penalty. It is final and without recourse. When imposed on an innocent, there is no appropriate amount of restitution that can be paid.

All citizens of the Free State should abhor even the thought that the state could kill an innocent person, even with the best of intentions (your "What could be more appropriate than death." [SIC] argument).

Prison, or denying a person "a part of his life" as you said, is justified if that person committed a crime. If that person is innocent and has been convicted falsely, our system allows for ongoing appeals to allow the innocent person to prove his/her innocence.

Appropriate sentencing means locking bad people away for their bad deeds. You could make the argument that no convicted murders should ever be eligible for parole, or that all convicted murderers should receive life without the opportunity of parole. But there are perennial stories about justified murder, accidental homicide, negligent manslaughter, and other convicted citizens who probably deserve parole.

Your saying the equivalent of, "Kill 'em all!" is tantamount to saying that the state is more important than our individual freedoms. That sounds a lot like Hugo Chavez, Raul Castro, and Evo Morales.

streiff said...

To your points.

1. In the case of an unjust verdict you have many more chances of a rehearing and an outcome in your favor if you are sentenced to death rather than a very long prison sentence.

2. Contrary to your assertion, appeals to prison sentences end in the same way that death sentences do and unlike a death sentence if you pull down a 50 year term in Jessup there are virtually no pro bono lawyers out there who will take your case.

3. Nice non sequitur. All Marylanders should equally abhor the idea that a convicted murderer may be freed to kill again. And I don't abhor the idea of an innocent man being killed by the state one whit more than I do an innocent man doing 10 or 20 years.

4. You have fewer opportunities to appeal a non capital sentence than you do a capital one.

5. Life without parole is a stupid alternative. How do you deter someone with nothing to lose from killing other inmates or prison staff? Give them super duper double special life without parole? The Supermax system is under vigorous attack and will probably not last another decade so I don't see what your alternative is. Plus the courts and the legislature could do away with life without parole at any time they wish.

5. At no point do I say "kill them all" or even imply it. Don't do that again or you'll find yourself in the spam filter.