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Is Justice Just?

Updated on July 16, 2017

Ohio resumed executions after none since 1963, with the killing of Wilford Berry, 36, in 1999. Since then Ohio has executed 50 more, placing 2nd in the nation, just behind Texas.

One small step for Ohio...

One giant step for mankind --- backward. Wilford Berry is dead.

I have spent the last five years studying the Ohio prison systems --- from the inside. From the pens, and the hearts, of the men residing there. Three of them are the subjects of a novel I am writing. One has been paroled, one has maxed out and one just took a ten year flop. None, of course, are death row inmates.

However, my research, plus having been raised in a state without the death penalty (Minnesota), brought a natural gravitation to the question of capital punishment. For two years I was a Volunteer Visitor on Death Row, where I was living then, Nashville, TN.

The Death Penalty is the curse of Poverty


Let me emphasize one fact before I continue. I deliberately distanced myself from the O.J. Simpson trial. I rarely watch TV, rather immerse myself in County Radio, because country music is my first love. My Country Radio station in Nashville gives 95 seconds of news on the hour, between 6 AM and 6 PM. This was all the news got during O.J.'s trial, and it's about the same on the Ohio station I listen to now. So I did get bits and pieces, but the only time I turned the TV on was for the verdict, when it finally came.

I'm sure am the only person in the U.S. who did not follow the 'Trial of the Century'.
I am aware this was a black man accused of killing a white woman and
her friend, and the trial consumed nearly a year. He was a rich man.
The man I was appointed to visit on death row was a black man who was found guilty
of killing a white woman. His trial lasted 2 1/2 days. He was a poor man.

I hardly need to point out, O.J. was found not guilty.

O.J. Simpson

Trial of the Century

My research on another project has carried me back to the turn of the century, where I found O.J. Simpson's trial was NOT the 'Trial of the Century', but that of millionaire, Harry Thaw, 'Mad Harry', who killed the famous architect, Stanford White, in 1906.

There was never a question as to Thaw's guilt, because he shot Stanford White point blank in a theater atop Madison Square Garden (which was designed by White), in front of scores of witnesses. However, a plea of temporary insanity was entered. The trial ended in a deadlock after 11 weeks. In a second trial, the plea was changed to insanity. In this trial he was found not guilty by reason of insanity, but was committed to the State Asylum for the Criminally Insane at Mattewan, NY (two years after the actual killing, 1908).

'Mad Harry'

In 1913 Thaw escaped, was free nearly a year, later went to prison for his escape
and was released in July of 1915, after a sanity hearing. Had he miraculously
become sane? I rather doubt it, because in 1917, 'Mad Harry' was arrested and
tried for having kidnapped and whipped a boy. At this time, he was committed to
a Piladelphia asylum until 1924. He lived the rest of his life as a free man and
died in 1947.

Stanford White was still dead. The fact he was killed by a
madman, albeit a rich madman, where was his justice? And why should his killer
have lived 23 years in freedom when the Wilford Berry's must die? The
discrepancy lies in wealth! In the words of Matthew Poncelet, to Sister Helen
Prejean, "Ain't nobody with money on death row.' (DEAD MAN WALKING.)

In the course of the last five years, while I chose not to follow O.J.'s trial,
I have devoured every book and movie I could find on prison, prisoners and the
death penalty, adding however many I could afford to my personal library. From
Dead Man Walking, to Shawshank Redemption. From Death At Midnight, Confessions of an Executioner, to The Execution Protocol. From Shot In the Heart (The GaryGilmore story), to Just Revenge, Cost and Consequenses of the Death Penalty, and everything in between.

In addition, I have corresponded with over 250 prisoners across the nation. Some deserve to be imprisoned the rest of their lives, some don't. None deserve to be put to death, surely not by us. U.S. We ARE U.S. I don't want their blood on my hands.

If you believe we (us --- U.S.) is justified in using the death penalty, there is ONE book you (U.S.) should read: Just Revenge, Cost and Consequenses of the Death Penalty, by Mark Costanzo, Ph. D. I challenge you to read this book, then tell me, we (us --- U.S.) IS justified in using the death penalty.

Tiana Dreymor

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Copyright • Vista 15 • February 20, 1999

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Afterward

In the ensuing years since Berry's execution, Ohio has executed another 50, pacing just behind Texas as the Number 1 state to use the Death Penalty.

The man I visited in Nashville has had his sentence commuted to life in prison, having been declared possibly innocent by Amnesty International. His accomplice was released in 8 years, although it is believed he was the actual killer in the case. However, another man was never arrested, and is possibly the accomplice and the man in prison was never involved...sad. He was also coerced to admit to murder by the threat of having his girlfriend's 2 children taken away from her. They weren't even his kids.

Billy Slagle, committed suicide just days before his scheduled execution, on August 4, 2013, thwarting the state/Ohio's aim to kill him.

We really need to think hard on this...


Update: 2017

Ohio has now executed 53 since Barry. I haven't followed much since, but there was a ban on executions due to the chemicals used... I don't know.

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    • Vista15 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tiana Dreymor 

      3 years ago from Columbus, OH

      This is about capital punishment, not who has rights. I believe WE do not have the right to kill anybody. That makes us just as bad as the killer.

      As a whole, though we are losing more and more rights all the time... not just in the justice system. Which would probably include victim's rights.

    • gregas profile image

      Greg Schweizer 

      3 years ago from Corona, California.

      They do get ridiculous when they try to say the criminal has rights even when they are proven guilty. What about the rights of the victims? It does seem that the victims are losing more and more of their rights to the so called justice system. Just an opinion. Greg.

    • Vista15 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tiana Dreymor 

      3 years ago from Columbus, OH

      I totally agree with you! Thanks.

    • Chuck Fasst profile image

      Chuck Fasst 

      3 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      The United States Justice System has become so corrupt, it is hard to stand with them on anything!

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