Wednesday, April 1, 2009

This is not a pretty post

"Oh hey, did you hear they sentenced Melanie Goodwin's murderer?" Rich casually said in passing on Monday.

I casually replied, "Really? What'd he get?"

"Life in prison, seeing as Mexico won't extradite criminals unless they take the death penalty off the table. Otherwise I think they would've gone with that."

"Hm," I said and then continued making our dinner salad.

The weight of that conversation didn't hit me until the next morning when I started sobbing on my way to work. For those of you who are new to my blog, I guess I should say that Melanie and her brother were students at my school when I taught junior high. They weren't in my class, but they were on my creative problem solving team. I even gave them rides home from school if practice ran late. Her brother's team went to state and won second place that year. That meant the Goodwins, along with the other team families, traveled out of town with us. They stayed in the same hotel and ate and the same places. I spent a lot of time with the Goodwin kids, and when they went to high school and I changed jobs, I would see the Goodwin kids, especially Melanie, around at various school competitions and whatnot.

"Hey, Mrs. Haag! Remember me, Melanie!?" she would ask with a bounce in her voice. It was almost a joke the way she said it, but she also didn't want me to feel uncomfortable, as sometimes is the exchange between a student who has "grown-up and changed" and a teacher who has feverishly learned and stored thousands of names and faces from year to year. If you've ever been a teacher, you understand the anxiety associated with seeing kids out of context (or worse, seeing the parents you met a only a few times) and trying to age them in your mind and then attach a name. It's nearly impossible unless the kid was especially memorable.

"Of course I do," I would say. And I did because Melanie had such a contagious enthusiasm. I adored her and her brother. They were very memorable.

Melanie was murdered in September of 2007. She was 19. Her parents now believe that she was forced into his car against her will. He raped her. He murdered her. He dumped her body behind a building and set it on fire. He ran to Mexico where he was apprehended and then extradited here to be tried and now convicted. There is a video of him at the place where she was abducted. There is a video of him dumping her body and setting it on fire. He's guilty. He's guilty. He's guilty.

On and off throughout my life I have wrestled with the legality of the death penalty, especially since I live a mere four hours away from Huntsville, the execution capitol of the western world (statistically this is true). I understand that my state (pompously) executes too many innocent victims; the statistics are horrifying. I think about human rights issues, the families of the criminals, the costs (execution costs more than keeping the criminal in prison for life because of appeal costs), the methods. I find it's easy to take a stance or to simply debate and qualify one's position on an issue when it's from a distance. It's far too easy to feel self-righteous about those conclusions, justified through whatever lens one assigns them - religion, politics, capital.. This is not one of those times for me.

I watched a video clip of the moms - Melanie's and the murderer's - hugging after the trial concluded, sobbing in each other's arms. The news reporter stated that both were mothers who had lost their children. The report then cut to Melanie's dad in an interview after the trial. He said that it's all really unfair, that "had the death penalty been able to play, they would've gone for that."

"Oh my God, yes," was my reaction. That asshole - the one who is obviously guilty as seen on numerous security cameras - the one who took pictures of himself with her camera the night he murdered her - the one I'll be feeding and clothing through my tax dollars.. Him. That asshole deserves to be taken against his will. He deserves to be afraid for his life beyond any rational comprehension. He deserves to NEVER get to speak to his family again. He deserves to be raped and tortured and mocked. He deserves to be strangled, his lifeless body dumped, drowned in gasoline and lit on fire - desecrated. He deserves to die.

Fuck human rights today.

And forgiveness.

7 comments:

Amy said...

That is such a sad story. I am so sorry to hear about it. I think the rules are pretty crappy at times. Thanks for sharing this story. I bet it was hard to see what the turn out was. My heart goes out to her family.

Hope you have a great day.

Susie Q said...

I'm so sorry...your heart must hurt so much. But I'm a big fan of the death penalty. It is one scumbag that won't kill anyone else. The death penalty is only a deterrent if it is actually used. Everyone seems to be so very worried about the 'human rights' of the killer. Um, as far as I am concerned, they lost their human rights when they killed someone else. End of the story. Get rid of them, don't use my tax money to feed, clothe, house them and pay for their appeals. I used to have a political cartoon..it showed a group of activists protesting the execution of a killer...and the grave of the victim was in the foreground...covered in cobwebs. That simple cartoon spoke volumes to me.

And in spite of all the 'what if the wrong person is executed, etc. There is a law school somewhere (Chicago?) that has gone back over death penalty cases for about 50 years or so and in spite of their best efforts, they have not found any case where the innocent person was executed. I figure if a group of do-gooders bent on finding mistakes couldn't find a wrongful execution, then we're doing it right. Not a perfect system, but the best one in the world. And why is Mexico so concerned about us executing an illegal? Humph, fine, let him go back to life in a Mexican prison. Won't be nearly as cushy as prison here. Okay, I'll shut up now ;D

Ginger said...

Thanks to both of you. Your words of encouragement are lovely. (And thanks to Rainbow, too, for the phone messages).

I'm feeling better today. Really I was feeling better after I purged my spirit in that post. After I wrote it, I was timid about publishing because I thought that it was too ugly - too hateful. But I'm glad I did. It turns out the world isn't always OK. And even though I think that the worl is mostly good, sometimes we actually need the bad to remind us.

As an intro to Candide, my students and I talked about whether or not a God who allows bad things to happen can be benevolent. They had a really hard time believing that it was even a possiblity. I think that God is God. And it isn't our place really to ask that question. It sure does come up when incidents like these happen.

I hadn't heard about the school that did research on the executed convicts. I do know that one in seven convicts who are actually on death row have been exhonorated because they were flasely accused. I hope we catch all of the mistakes before we send them to be executed.

Ruch (husband) actually said last night that the reason he is against the death penalty isn't because he hopes murderers will go free, but because executing (killing) another human is scarring to the one having to do it. Instead of being for connvict rights, he's for executioner ones.
I found that interesting.

Anyway, I'm far too long winded today. Thank you, again, for being supportive.

rich said...

Melanie’s killer deserves to die – slowly. But if he is to be tortured to death some one will have to be the torturer. And Melanie will still be gone.
I double checked the numbers and since the 1970’s for every 3 or 4 people executed one has been exonerated from death row. They were tried, convicted, sentenced to death, and they later the conviction was overturned. That is not opinion, it is a matter of court record. Thank God for the appeal process. How many innocents are we willing to sacrifice to get the guilty? What if the wrongly accused is your family member, or your friend?

A quick Google search brough up this list of executed, but possibly innocent. (After execution defense attorneys must shift their focus to cases where they can still save an life.)
Carlos DeLuna Texas Conviction: 1983, Executed: 1989
Ruben Cantu Texas Convicted: 1985, Executed: 1993
Larry Griffin Missouri Conviction: 1981, Executed: 1995
Joseph O'Dell Virginia Conviction: 1986, Executed: 1997
David Spence Texas Conviction: 1984, Executed: 1997
Leo Jones Florida Convicted: 1981, Executed: 1998
Gary Graham Texas Convicted: 1981, Executed: 2000
Cameron Willingham Texas Convicted: 1992, Executed: 2004

I also find it concerning and a bit telling that Susie Q assumes Melanie’s killer was a illegal – He was not. He was here legally, and then committed unspeakable acts. Not because he's Mexican, but because he's a beast.

rich said...

I was misreading the chart earlier. So one exoneration for every 9 executions not 3. So, hurrah.

Kathy B! said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. So hard to deal with. When it's cut and dried and no room for doubt I am a big advocate of the death penalty.

And Ginger, ugly, hateful attacks call for ugly hateful words. Don't feel badly for feeling strongly and expressing yourself. Nothing wrong there.

Nemo said...

That's a confusing issue. Let me just say, though, that there's no such thing as "cushy" prison. Just because our prisons make an effort to find the guilty and punish accordingly doesn't mean that it's magically a nicer place to be. It's a building where we put all the animals according to an imaginary danger level. Even if this guy's at a medium level place, he's still gonna be pissing off guys as bad as he is (and it's prison; he's gonna piss someone off). Every day of his life, if he's unlucky enough to see old age.

And don't expect that the jackals running the place are any better.

Sometimes life is the worse punishment. And it sounds like he deserves it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

This is not a pretty post

"Oh hey, did you hear they sentenced Melanie Goodwin's murderer?" Rich casually said in passing on Monday.

I casually replied, "Really? What'd he get?"

"Life in prison, seeing as Mexico won't extradite criminals unless they take the death penalty off the table. Otherwise I think they would've gone with that."

"Hm," I said and then continued making our dinner salad.

The weight of that conversation didn't hit me until the next morning when I started sobbing on my way to work. For those of you who are new to my blog, I guess I should say that Melanie and her brother were students at my school when I taught junior high. They weren't in my class, but they were on my creative problem solving team. I even gave them rides home from school if practice ran late. Her brother's team went to state and won second place that year. That meant the Goodwins, along with the other team families, traveled out of town with us. They stayed in the same hotel and ate and the same places. I spent a lot of time with the Goodwin kids, and when they went to high school and I changed jobs, I would see the Goodwin kids, especially Melanie, around at various school competitions and whatnot.

"Hey, Mrs. Haag! Remember me, Melanie!?" she would ask with a bounce in her voice. It was almost a joke the way she said it, but she also didn't want me to feel uncomfortable, as sometimes is the exchange between a student who has "grown-up and changed" and a teacher who has feverishly learned and stored thousands of names and faces from year to year. If you've ever been a teacher, you understand the anxiety associated with seeing kids out of context (or worse, seeing the parents you met a only a few times) and trying to age them in your mind and then attach a name. It's nearly impossible unless the kid was especially memorable.

"Of course I do," I would say. And I did because Melanie had such a contagious enthusiasm. I adored her and her brother. They were very memorable.

Melanie was murdered in September of 2007. She was 19. Her parents now believe that she was forced into his car against her will. He raped her. He murdered her. He dumped her body behind a building and set it on fire. He ran to Mexico where he was apprehended and then extradited here to be tried and now convicted. There is a video of him at the place where she was abducted. There is a video of him dumping her body and setting it on fire. He's guilty. He's guilty. He's guilty.

On and off throughout my life I have wrestled with the legality of the death penalty, especially since I live a mere four hours away from Huntsville, the execution capitol of the western world (statistically this is true). I understand that my state (pompously) executes too many innocent victims; the statistics are horrifying. I think about human rights issues, the families of the criminals, the costs (execution costs more than keeping the criminal in prison for life because of appeal costs), the methods. I find it's easy to take a stance or to simply debate and qualify one's position on an issue when it's from a distance. It's far too easy to feel self-righteous about those conclusions, justified through whatever lens one assigns them - religion, politics, capital.. This is not one of those times for me.

I watched a video clip of the moms - Melanie's and the murderer's - hugging after the trial concluded, sobbing in each other's arms. The news reporter stated that both were mothers who had lost their children. The report then cut to Melanie's dad in an interview after the trial. He said that it's all really unfair, that "had the death penalty been able to play, they would've gone for that."

"Oh my God, yes," was my reaction. That asshole - the one who is obviously guilty as seen on numerous security cameras - the one who took pictures of himself with her camera the night he murdered her - the one I'll be feeding and clothing through my tax dollars.. Him. That asshole deserves to be taken against his will. He deserves to be afraid for his life beyond any rational comprehension. He deserves to NEVER get to speak to his family again. He deserves to be raped and tortured and mocked. He deserves to be strangled, his lifeless body dumped, drowned in gasoline and lit on fire - desecrated. He deserves to die.

Fuck human rights today.

And forgiveness.

7 comments:

Amy said...

That is such a sad story. I am so sorry to hear about it. I think the rules are pretty crappy at times. Thanks for sharing this story. I bet it was hard to see what the turn out was. My heart goes out to her family.

Hope you have a great day.

Susie Q said...

I'm so sorry...your heart must hurt so much. But I'm a big fan of the death penalty. It is one scumbag that won't kill anyone else. The death penalty is only a deterrent if it is actually used. Everyone seems to be so very worried about the 'human rights' of the killer. Um, as far as I am concerned, they lost their human rights when they killed someone else. End of the story. Get rid of them, don't use my tax money to feed, clothe, house them and pay for their appeals. I used to have a political cartoon..it showed a group of activists protesting the execution of a killer...and the grave of the victim was in the foreground...covered in cobwebs. That simple cartoon spoke volumes to me.

And in spite of all the 'what if the wrong person is executed, etc. There is a law school somewhere (Chicago?) that has gone back over death penalty cases for about 50 years or so and in spite of their best efforts, they have not found any case where the innocent person was executed. I figure if a group of do-gooders bent on finding mistakes couldn't find a wrongful execution, then we're doing it right. Not a perfect system, but the best one in the world. And why is Mexico so concerned about us executing an illegal? Humph, fine, let him go back to life in a Mexican prison. Won't be nearly as cushy as prison here. Okay, I'll shut up now ;D

Ginger said...

Thanks to both of you. Your words of encouragement are lovely. (And thanks to Rainbow, too, for the phone messages).

I'm feeling better today. Really I was feeling better after I purged my spirit in that post. After I wrote it, I was timid about publishing because I thought that it was too ugly - too hateful. But I'm glad I did. It turns out the world isn't always OK. And even though I think that the worl is mostly good, sometimes we actually need the bad to remind us.

As an intro to Candide, my students and I talked about whether or not a God who allows bad things to happen can be benevolent. They had a really hard time believing that it was even a possiblity. I think that God is God. And it isn't our place really to ask that question. It sure does come up when incidents like these happen.

I hadn't heard about the school that did research on the executed convicts. I do know that one in seven convicts who are actually on death row have been exhonorated because they were flasely accused. I hope we catch all of the mistakes before we send them to be executed.

Ruch (husband) actually said last night that the reason he is against the death penalty isn't because he hopes murderers will go free, but because executing (killing) another human is scarring to the one having to do it. Instead of being for connvict rights, he's for executioner ones.
I found that interesting.

Anyway, I'm far too long winded today. Thank you, again, for being supportive.

rich said...

Melanie’s killer deserves to die – slowly. But if he is to be tortured to death some one will have to be the torturer. And Melanie will still be gone.
I double checked the numbers and since the 1970’s for every 3 or 4 people executed one has been exonerated from death row. They were tried, convicted, sentenced to death, and they later the conviction was overturned. That is not opinion, it is a matter of court record. Thank God for the appeal process. How many innocents are we willing to sacrifice to get the guilty? What if the wrongly accused is your family member, or your friend?

A quick Google search brough up this list of executed, but possibly innocent. (After execution defense attorneys must shift their focus to cases where they can still save an life.)
Carlos DeLuna Texas Conviction: 1983, Executed: 1989
Ruben Cantu Texas Convicted: 1985, Executed: 1993
Larry Griffin Missouri Conviction: 1981, Executed: 1995
Joseph O'Dell Virginia Conviction: 1986, Executed: 1997
David Spence Texas Conviction: 1984, Executed: 1997
Leo Jones Florida Convicted: 1981, Executed: 1998
Gary Graham Texas Convicted: 1981, Executed: 2000
Cameron Willingham Texas Convicted: 1992, Executed: 2004

I also find it concerning and a bit telling that Susie Q assumes Melanie’s killer was a illegal – He was not. He was here legally, and then committed unspeakable acts. Not because he's Mexican, but because he's a beast.

rich said...

I was misreading the chart earlier. So one exoneration for every 9 executions not 3. So, hurrah.

Kathy B! said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. So hard to deal with. When it's cut and dried and no room for doubt I am a big advocate of the death penalty.

And Ginger, ugly, hateful attacks call for ugly hateful words. Don't feel badly for feeling strongly and expressing yourself. Nothing wrong there.

Nemo said...

That's a confusing issue. Let me just say, though, that there's no such thing as "cushy" prison. Just because our prisons make an effort to find the guilty and punish accordingly doesn't mean that it's magically a nicer place to be. It's a building where we put all the animals according to an imaginary danger level. Even if this guy's at a medium level place, he's still gonna be pissing off guys as bad as he is (and it's prison; he's gonna piss someone off). Every day of his life, if he's unlucky enough to see old age.

And don't expect that the jackals running the place are any better.

Sometimes life is the worse punishment. And it sounds like he deserves it.