Thursday, August 20, 2009

For Shame, Charlie!

Someone needs to tell Governor Charlie Crist an important message: When an inmate is about to be put to death, it ain't about you!
Governor Crist "invited" the Florida Associated Press to send a reporter to be with him as he hung out on the phone to Florida State Prison during last night's execution of inmate John Richard Marek. Marek was put to death by lethal injection for the 1983 rape and murder of Adela Marie Simmons. Marek's accomplice in the crime, Raymond Wigley, was sentenced to life in prison. As it turns out, Wigley was killed while behind bars. And, as is the case in most of these crimes where there is more than one possible suspect, one of them turns state's witness against the other... and the rest is history.
Crist's role in this "justice play" is a duty to sign the death warrants and then be on hand in case there is a court that grants a stay of execution. The Governor is the one who ultimately tells the prison warden to proceed, and then waits to hear that the sentence has been carried out and the prisoner is dead.
But Crist, who is seeking higher office and has always enjoyed being 'Chain gang Charlie', turned this occasion into a campaign event. AP reported how he clutched pictures of the victim, remaining quiet, until he remarked about what a "beautiful lady" she was. He did the "I'm so solemn" political move of standing before a window and staring out... and the reporter took note of this and made sure it was in the story. And finally, once the deed had been done, and Crist hung up the phone, he commented on how hard this had been.
"This a difficult thing to do. It's a very solemn, serious act," Crist said in a soft voice when he finally rose from his chair. "Somebody was just put to death, but what goes through my mind is what the victim had to go through, and this is a horrific, heinous crime and justice must be done. And now it has been."
On this point, I would strongly disagree with the Governor. Ms. Simmons, a mother of two, is still dead. Her children are still motherless. Her family is still without her physical presence, and that balance has been disturbed. Killing John Marek hasn't changed that. And even if it feels good to some to see a probable rapist and murderer put to death for the crime, the end effect is we just have another dead body, another family who has lost a loved one to a ritualistic death, and more trauma.
But what I find most disturbing is the thought that the Governor would take this "solemn, serious" event and try to cynically use it to gain political points with the pro-death penalty crowd. And that the Associated Press would pander to this is yet another glaring example of journalism-gone-wrong. AP reporter Ron Word routinely covers the executions at Florida State Prison. And since the act of execution is a state act carried out in the name of the people of Florida on an inmate housed at Florida State Prison... the only thing that is of importance is what is happening inside the sterile-white-walled room at a prison in Raiford, FL, not whether the Governor is pensively looking out a window, or clutching photographs of a woman he never knew.
Witnesses at the scene of the execution couldn't hear what Marek's final words were. But according to the Associated Press, he had told the prison warden he was planning to say, "Jesus remember us."


Sheila said...

Wow! Very powerful words. Thank you for such a thoughtful writing.

Anonymous said...

Good writing as always, Sue. And I know that you know something about all this as you have been witness to other executions while studying Journalism at Missouri. I agree, the Governor was just using this incident for his own political gain and he should be ashamed of himself. Good work.


Phoebe said...

And we need to say..."Jesus forgive us". Phoebe

SCG said...

For they know not what they do!