We are embroiled in a capital trial here in Tallahassee. The accused is a man named Hilton who allegedly killed and decapitated a nurse from Crawfordville named Cheryl Dunlap around Christmas three years ago. Hilton has already been found guilty in Georgia for the decapitation murder of a young lady hiker and sentenced to life in prison there. He was extradited here to stand trial for Dunlap's murder to apply the rule of law, provide closure for the victim's family and, in that Florida still has the death penalty, pay for his crime with his own life.
So the debate continues on concerning should government via it's judiciary be in the business of applying the Mosaic law of " an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" ?
As an aside, I wonder just how far the Mosaic law is from Shiria law in that realm. Under Shiria law, it is my understanding that a woman may be stoned to death for committing adultery. That is a big time " Whatttttttttt?" on my radar screen. They ain't enough rocks in America to keep up with that death sentence as adultery is as common as drinking water.
However, back to the capital punishment debate. In my past I have held the personal belief that capital punishment should be a part of our system. It is an effective deterrent in my mind. If for no other reason it deters mass murderers from recommiting the same crime. What about the rights of the deceased to have justice applied? Where there is overwhelming evidence that the accused perpetrated the dastardly deed does not the punishment match the criminal act?
I then read a book by John Grisham, called The Chamber , and another entitled The Innocent Man. They both had at their core the capital punishment debate. One was a saga of a grandson of a member of the KKK on death row for a bombing of a southern church where little girls were killed. The other was a man who served 20 years in prison lots, of it on death row, until proven innocent. They softened me up a little on capital punishment. However, I, who has extreme claustophobia and panic disorder, would prefer to be gone than to have to spend the rest of my life in a cage.
I just read an op ed by Sandy D'Alemberte whose name I never could spell correctly. He used to be the president of FSU and is a very bright and wise JD. It was just published this past Sunday in our local muckraker newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat. He calls into question the wisdom in retrying Hilton for a crime for which he has been sentenced to life in prison up in Georgia. In these hard economic times why should Florida citizens have to bear that expense? Another juris doctorate answered his query in this morning's edition of the fish gut wrapper, Democrat. He basically said that a criminal should not be allowed to manipulate the system to his benefit. To wit, Hilton confessed to the crime in Georgia so as to avoid prosecution in Florida and risk having his own head sawed off with a serrated hunting knife by a state paid assassin. Of course his victims did not have a choice in that regard in that he acted as judge, jury and executioner in each heinous act of lunacy.
I cannot help but reflect back over the years. I remember picking up the newspaper in my front yard back in January of 1978 and reading the blood chilling account of the Chi Omega murders. We were all touched by this maniac over the years in just staring at him as you would a two headed mountain goat at the county fair. You were disgusted at his depravity but we were drawn to the account of this looney tune as it played out in the written and electronic media. They even made a movie about Ted Bundy and someone wrote a book. Heck, some freako even married him and had a child by him through the benefit of conjugal visits while he was in prison.
I used to be in the pharmaceuticals business. For a period of time I called on Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee. I used to go back into the forensic unit and speak with the psychiatrists back there in that hell hole. That is where they keep the people who killed their grandmother for turning off the TV in the middle of a Tom and Jerry cartoon and then grinding her into sausage. They were adjudged to be too crazy to stand trial and placed in the forensic unit at Florida State Hospital (FSH). I would walk by the doors where they kept the Freddie Kreugers of our world and the screams and epithets you heard would make your hair stand on end. If there is a such a place on earth where demonic spirits rule, I would nominate that place as spook central.
Anyway on one particular day I was in to visit my friend and client Dr. Carmencita Mola, psychiatrist. There was quite a buzz ensuing amongst the staff. I asked her what was up and she told me that Ted Bundy was coming to their facility for a few days. I asked for what purpose. The answer is almost laughable. You see, he was sitting on death row after having been sentenced to death in Lake City for the rape and murder of Kimberly Diane Leach. All the pleas had played out and it was pretty certain that Teddy was going to fry. Now ( you are not ready for this ) the state of Florida was postured to kill him in a few short months. He was in FSH to receieve counseling to help him deal with the fact that the people who were paying for this counseling were going to kill him. I wonder how much "counseling" he gave the 36 to 136 people whom he killed prior to bludgeoning them?
Incidentally, I had a close friend, Alex, who was an assistant state attorney in Lake City. I would see him pretty frequently and we would go to lunch. It was his task to bring evidence to the table to help prosecute Bundy. He interviewed him face to face. He told me two things that remain with me to this day. One was that being in the presence of Bundy was like looking into the eyes of Satan. Secondly, Alex had a little 12 year old daughter. He told me that reviewing the evidence of the murder kept him awake at night. He was a pretty tough old state attorney and the evidence was so horrible it kept him awake.
I knew two people who were in law school with Bundy at University of Utah. My son dated a girl in college whose father had been the policeman who had arrested him in west Florida. All said what a sociopathic human being he seemed to be.
To end my recollections about Bundy who assumed room temperature 22 years ago I have to put you on an airplane heading to Tampa. Halfway there the captain came on the PA and announced that Ted Bundy had just been executed. There was spontaneous applause that occurred throughout the cabin. I am not going to tell you whether or not I joined in. I do remember staring out at the ground below reflecting long and hard for the rest of the trip on the role of the death penalty in our judicial system.
I think if I were a relative or friend of Cheryl Dunlap I might want to reserve a front row center seat to witness Mr. Hilton take his last breath somewhere down the road. If it had been my wife or daughter he had taken and killed I would pray for 2-3minutes alone with him in a room. I suppose that capital punishment must have a stronghold in our primieval identity.