Monday, February 7, 2011

POPE JP2 GOVERNS MISSOURI FOR A DAY

Darrell J. Mease was a prisoner on Missouri's death row.  He was sentenced to death after confessing and pleading guilty to three murders.  One of the victims was that of a paraplegic boy who had the misfortune of witnessing the other two killings.  Throughout the appeal process Mease did not show any signs of remorse.  The long trek through the appeal process had run out for him and he was finally scheduled to be executed on January 27, 1999 by lethal injection, the form of execution established in Missouri after the courts said that the gas chamber could be cruel and unusual punishment.

The citizens of Missouri voted in the death penalty.  It has been established that while there is plenty of opposition to the death penalty in Missouri, the majority of citizens still back the ultimate form of punishment.  The state allows for appeal after appeal to be made increasing the cost of each execution but it is this appeal process that gives a Missouri prisoner the best chance at not being executed if they are innocent.

In the case of Mease there was no doubt he was guilty.  Even after admitting his guilt he was allowed to carry his case through the long and arduous appeal process.  All of the appeals that were afforded Mease came back with the same message.  The message said "you are guilty of three murders.  The people of Missouri have determine that your punishment is to be death by lethal injection."  It is a straight and clearly stated outcome.  Mease was to die on that cold January night in central Missouri.

Mease had a guardian angel though that no one saw coming.  The people knew he was coming but never gave it a second thought as to what Mease's immediate future held.  Pope John Paul II came to the state of Missouri during his United States tour in 1999.  It just so happened by the strangest of coincidences that the Pope would arrive on the day the state had scheduled to execute Mease.

Governor Carnahan went to St Louis to meet the Pope and welcome him to the great state of Missouri.  During his audience with the Pope, the two men discussed many things.  Among the items on the agenda was the scheduled execution of Darrell Mease.  Apparently the Pope lectured the Baptist Governor on the evils of the death penalty and asked him to show mercy and to commute Mease's sentence from death to one of life in prison without parole.  The Governor reacted and took action that no American publicly elected official should take.  He acknowledged the Pope's plea and commuted Mease's sentence.

I don't think it matters what your particular stand is on the death penalty when it comes to this situation.  Whether you are for it or against it, no American should be proud that their leaders bow to the beliefs of a foreign dignitary or head of state, which the Pope is.  The United States recognizes the Vatican and has diplomatic relations with them.  We have an Ambassador to the Vatican.  This is akin to what we fought a war for in the late 1700's against Britain.  We are a nation of laws.  The people decide on the laws and it is ultimately up to the people to uphold the law.  Governor Carnahan folded under the request of a foreign head of State.

Mease now sits in a cell for the rest of his life being fed and housed by the people of the state of Missouri who thought he should be executed for three murders that he admitted doing.  The Governor essentially thumbed his nose at the people of Missouri and the Missouri Judicial system by commuting the sentence.  Other inmates sitting on death row were not so lucky as to have the Pope visit Missouri on their execution date and executions were carried out.  Does this sound like justice?  We tell an inmate that he is lucky, the Pope asked for you to be spared but another death row inmate being strapped onto the gurney six months hence gets his sentence carried simply because his execution wasn't set back on January 27.

To me this was an inhumane act on the Governor's part.  It was an abuse of power by letting a foreign head of state dictate Missouri law.  It was a giant slap in the face to all of the appeal proceedings that Mease had gone through, each one ending up with the same answer.  Mease broke the law in the most horrendous way.  Mease knew that the penalty in Missouri for such an action could be death.  Mease admitted to the crime and showed no remorse for it.  Mease now is content to sit out the remainder of his life in a cell on the backs of the Missouri People because the Pope asked the Governor to do so.

And now Martin Link is scheduled to die on Missouri's gurney Tuesday night-Wednesday morning for raping and murdering an eleven year old girl in 1991.  I wonder what Mease will be thinking as news comes out that Link has been executed.  I don't think he'll feel lucky or remorse or even sadness that another inmate has been executed in the state of Missouri while he continues to live.  I imagine he will simple laugh it off and think of Link as a poor sucker who had his timing all wrong.

In 1995, the State of Missouri executed Larry Griffin for murder.  The Director of the Department of Corrections for the State of Missouri read this statement from Governor Carnahan after the execution was carried out on June 21, 1995.

"Larry Griffin was charged and convicted of the murder of Quinton Moss.  I extend my sympathy to the family of Mr. Moss and to the family of Mr. Griffin.  Tonight the process of our judicial system has run it’s course.  The state, on behalf of it’s citizens, has the right to impose the death penalty for the crime of capital murder. Our courts in the department have met their responsibilities under the law.  I have examined the history of the judicial proceedings and the petition for clemency that has been placed before me.  I find nothing to justify setting aside the result of the verdict of the jury and the subsequent judicial proceedings.  I re-affirm my solemn oath to uphold the law.  It is the duty of my office to do so on behalf of the people of Missouri." 

Is it fair and equal justice for the Governor to carry out the duty of his office for Mr. Griffin and to ignore the duty of his office for Mr. Mease simply because the Pope was in the state when Mr. Mease was scheduled to be executed?

Whether you support the death penalty or not, one thing we all can agree on is that this is injustice at it's worse, one way or the other.  Governor Carnahan threw out the notion of equal justice for all in the State of Missouri and I for one feel I have been wronged as a citizen of Missouri even twelve years after the Pope ruled Missouri for a day.

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