Cruel And Unusual

Yesterday, the State of Arizona executed double-murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood. Using a new two-drug combination, State doctors sedated Wood at 1352 and then administered the death drug. The names of the two drugs have not been released. He was pronounced dead at 1549.

The fact that it took nearly two hours for Wood to die has sparked new debate on the death penalty and whether it is “cruel and unusual” punishment. I have to ask, though, how do we define cruel and unusual? Let’s start with the individual words. According to Merriam-Webster, the standard definition of cruel is, “disposed to inflict pain or suffering : devoid of humane feelings : causing or helping to cause suffering : terrible and unfair.” It also says, “used to describe people who hurt others and do not feel sorry about it.” The standard definition of unusual is, “not normal or usual : different or strange in a way that attracts attention.”

The argument could be made that an execution is exactly that – different or strange in a way that attracts attention. It doesn’t attract attention for the cruelty, though. Put those two words together and it paints a much more accurate picture.

The word “cruel” brings to mind a psychopath – a person who sees the suffering of others as entertaining. That is how I would describe Joseph Wood.

Joseph Wood and Debra Deitz shared an apartment in Tucson in 1989. He was unemployed while she worked at her father’s auto shop. Wood’s bouts of rage and abuse often attracted attention; Debra frequently wore sunglasses to hide blackened eyes. Her father, Eugene Deitz, had attempted to accept Wood into the family at first; when he realized what Wood was doing to his daughter, Eugene made clear he disliked Wood. Wood let it be known that he didn’t like Eugene, even telling other people that “get him back” and that Eugene would “be sorry.” On June 30, 1989, a neighbor called police to report a very loud and violent fight coming from Wood’s apartment. The responding officer reported seeing cuts and bruises all over Debra’s body. Less than a week later, after yet another violent fight, Debra ended the relationship, took what she could carry, and moved back in with her parents. She took out an order of protection against Wood. That didn’t stop him from making more than twenty attempts to contact her at either her parents’ house or her father’s shop. On August 4, 1989, he left multiple messages on Debra’s answering machine, including one that ominously said, “Debbie, I’m sorry I have to do this. I hope someday somebody will understand when we’re not around no more. I do love you, babe. I’m gonna take you with me.”

The morning of August 7, 1989, Eugene and Debra went to the shop early in the morning. Wood called three times, each time being hung up on by either Debra or Eugene. The two left the shop for supplies; Wood called a fourth time and was told they would return shortly. At approximately 0850, a Tucson police officer noticed Wood driving “suspiciously” near the shop. The officer, a female, followed Wood’s vehicle. Wood parked at the shop and entered. After walking in the door he pulled out a .38 revolver. Many of the other six employees yelled at Wood to put the gun away. Instead, he walked up to Eugene at the front desk, raised the gun, shot him in the chest…and then smiled. The officer outside heard the gunshot and called for backup. Wood walked outside, saw the officer, and went back inside, pointing the gun at Eugene again. Eugene’s 70-year-old brother Donald tried to wrestle the gun away, but Wood shot him as well. Wood then made his way back into the shop and found Debra. He grabbed her by the throat and pressed the gun to her chest; Debra screamed, “no, Joe, don’t!” Wood yelled, “i have to kill you,” called her a bitch, and shot her twice in the chest. Police arrived and ordered him to drop his weapon. He did, but then picked it up and pointed it at officers. Officers opened fire, striking him several times. After being transported to U of A medical center, Wood survived, later to be tried and sentenced to death.

There has been so much to-do about Wood’s “botched” execution that you almost can’t find anything online about what he did to his victims. It absolutely disgusts me that the press is making so much noise about Wood gasping for air for an hour and a half that everyone has forgotten why he was being put to death in the first place. During his final words, Wood had the nerve to call on his “Christian conversion” – he said that he’d prayed for peace for everyone watching, and that G-d would forgive everyone present.

Those are not the words of a penitent man. In fact, they strike me as the words of a man who is still enjoying the pain he inflicted on an entire family 25 years ago. There is no Judeo-Christian scripture in creation that absolves one of the worldly consequences of one’s actions. In fact, according to scripture, even if G-d forgives you, you’re still culpable for anything you may have done. I fail to see why anyone administering the execution would need G-d’s forgiveness.

Richard Brown, Debra’s brother-in-law, was in the shop the day of the shooting. He spoke after the execution, only after a parade of reporters talked about how “disturbing” the execution was. He put it most succinctly when he said, “this man conducted a horrifying murder, and you guys are going, ‘oh, let’s worry about the drug and he felt!’…These people that do this, that are on death row, they deserve to suffer a little bit. This guy’s been here for 25 years getting medication, eating, roof, bed, clothes, shoes – where are they [the victims] at? Oh, that’s right, they’re dead. They’ve been dead for 25 years…I saw the life go out of my sister-in-law’s eyes right in front of me as he shot her to death. I’m so sick and tired of you guys blowing this drug stuff out of proportion, ’cause to me, that’s BS…all the witnesses that were there, friends of mine, still, friends of the family, still – it’s not just about him! It’s about other people that suffered, that are still suffering!…it’s about the victims. It ain’t about the guy that went to sleep and never woke up.”

Wise words. I wish the weak-hearted among us would listen closely.

This Isn’t What You Think It Is

My home state, Texas, is currently considering a major abortion bill. It passed the State House overwhelmingly yesterday and is being voted on by the State Senate as I type. The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks – it would also require abortion clinics to be licensed surgical centers.

I don’t see a problem with this. 20 weeks is five months – a fetus born after only five months’ gestation would have a tough time surviving and need delicate care for a few weeks in a NICU, but it is still a viable fetus. It is still a life. I have a serious problem with the ease with which anyone can get an abortion – rather than using it as a last resort, it is used as birth control. That should never have been acceptable. Never mind adoption or the fact that most states allow you to give up a baby safely within a certain period of time after it is born without having to fear criminal reprisal.

As for the requirement that all abortion clinics obtain certification as surgical centers, I believe this is extremely important. Not having such a requirement leaves women vulnerable to unsanitary conditions and unsafe practices. One already has to be a licensed doctor to practice in an abortion clinic, but there are doctors like Kermit Gosnell lurking in every state – animals willing to hire untrained medical techs in lieu of nurses and won’t hire a cleaning staff, won’t use sterilized instruments, and engages in peddling narcotic analgesics (and allowing the staff to do so as well) to make a little extra money. Those types of people tend to prey on the poor and often operate in neighborhoods full of uneducated minorities who are desperate to avoid having a child.

Nearly half of all states have had to raid and close abortion clinics within their borders, but you don’t hear about them on the news. Why? Abortion-rights advocates don’t want the truth getting out. Before the Texas House debate on the current bill, Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) gave an impassioned speech against the bill, asking, “do you wanna return back to the coat hanger? Or do you wanna give them an option to be able to terminate their pregnancy because they have been raped?”

Mrs. Thompson completely skips over reality with her statement. She, like many liberals, uses hysteria and misinformation to drum up opposition for the bill. She also completely ignores the fact that using a coat hanger is actually probably safer than going to a clinic like the one run by Kermit Gosnell; a woman is far less likely to end up with MRSA that way.

The way nearly every major municipality in America works, when you are raped, the first thing you should do – whether or not you require immediate medical attention – is call 911. Don’t call your friends or your parents, you should call 911, tell the dispatcher where you are, tell them you’ve been raped and they will send police and paramedics. Don’t eat or drink anything, don’t shower, don’t brush your hair – if you must, wrap yourself in a blanket, but don’t discard your clothing. Don’t allow anyone to touch you. If you do require medical attention for life-threatening injuries, you’ll go to the hospital and a forensic nurse will meet you there. If your injuries are not life-threatening, you’ll go to a family advocacy center or something similar; a police officer will have to stay with you at all times. A forensic nurse will collect what is famously referred to as a “rape kit” – it is a pre-packaged kit that directs the collection of vital evidence (like bodily fluids containing DNA) and take pictures of your injuries (cameras can often capture injuries that the naked eye cannot). When the exam is over, the nurse will give you a packet of information on getting tested for HIV and other STDs along with prescriptions for several drugs that will help ward off the initial symptoms of any STDs your attacker may have had.

Among those prescriptions will be one for the morning-after pill. It will be your decision whether to take it. A rape kit is not meant to be paid for by you, nor are the prescriptions.

What happens following a rape is fairly simple. It’s easy to obtain a morning-after pill and I have no problem with that in cases of rape and incest. A coat hanger is a solution that would not become a viable one until at least 12 weeks following a rape. Generally, victims have time to do something well before that point. Unless you’re being held captive by your attacker, there is no excuse not to report a rape and get help to make sure you’re taken care of.

And, quite contrary to what shills like Senfronia Thompson would have you believe, the overwhelming majority of women trying to get an abortion at a clinic aren’t there because they were raped. They’re there because of their own choices. They don’t want to live with the consequences of their own actions. They either didn’t have enough respect for themselves to say no or they knew how easy it was to get an abortion and decided to have a night of fun because it felt good at the moment. Our prisons are full of men and women who did things for the latter reason, yet we allow abortions for this reason. We turn around and dress it up as “a woman’s right to choose”.

I’m sorry, but you made your choice when you jumped into the back seat of your lover’s car and went to town. If THAT was your choice, then there should be another consequence that doesn’t involve ending a life. Since I’m certain that abortion will never be illegal again in the modern age, I think it’s important to have limits on it and require “providers” (if that’s what you can call them) to keep a sanitary, safe environment for their “patients”. The fact that anyone can excuse opposing those kinds of common-sense rules is appalling to me.

I am aware of what Rep. Jodie Laubenberg said in defense of the bill. Yes, she actually did say that a rape kit performed in an ER would “clean you out”. That is incorrect, and I’m not willing to excuse her ignorance on the subject – she is not, however, anywhere near as ignorant as Todd Akin was (he was unforgivably stupid and he was rightly called out by most of the very embarrassed GOP). I am also not willing to call her completely stupid about it. She was on the right track even if she wasn’t prepared to properly articulate the reason for the bill. Yes, I wish she had been a little more educated on the subject, but she is not anywhere near the same ball park as Akin.

Poor Jodi

I tend not to comment on a case while it’s still in the trial phase. Often I believe we don’t know enough about the case from what the media has said because the media will report on every little twitch, giggle and fart – truth be damned. They will report on rumors as though they are fact. This time, however, I don’t need a trial to tell me what I can tell from professional intuition. I tend to be very protective of women who have been abused. I deal with them professionally and have, more times than I can remember, watched them go back to their abusers because they don’t feel they have a way out. I know when I’m talking to a victim. I also know when I’m being strung along; not all women who claim to be victims are, and they frustrate me the most because they are the reason the true victims have such a difficult time getting help. The drama currently playing out in Phoenix is easy to figure out.

Jodi Arias is a complete sociopath.

We know what the facts are, and when you put them together they’re chilling on a level that most people don’t want to believe is possible. Jodi Arias met Travis Alexander during a conference for the company he worked for, Prepaid Legal Services, in Las Vegas in November 2006. Arias moved to Mesa (a suburb on the East edge of Phoenix proper, just East of Tempe) to maintain a relationship with Alexander. She lived with a roommate because Alexander was Mormon and living together before marriage is forbidden. By June of 2007, Arias began telling friends that she and Alexander had broken up. By April 2008, Arias moved back to Yreka, California, where she lived with her grandparents. At this point Alexander had already told his friends that Arias had been stalking him – hacking his Facebook page and slashing his tires. On June 9, after he’d missed several important appointments, co-workers and friends went to his home to check up on him. His two roommates, thinking he’d gone to Cancun, said he was out of town. Among those who had showed up to find him was one of the women he was supposed to have gone with, so they forced their way into his bedroom. Pools and trails of blood led to the master bathroom, where he was found dead (and practically mutilated) in his shower. His throat had been slashed, he had been stabbed 29 times, and he’d been shot in the face with a .25 caliber gun. He had been dead for five days. A bloody handprint was discovered on a wall and his brand-new digital camera was found in the washing machine with heavy damage.

Suspicion was immediately turned on Arias. All of Alexander’s friends agreed to give DNA samples – Arias complied as well, though she strangely began calling the lead detective on the case repeatedly to ask how the investigation was going and promising to help in any way she could. That detective discovered that Arias had also been accessing Alexander’s voicemail over the past several days and calling repeatedly, leaving multiple messages, beginning on June 4 (shortly after he would have been killed). She told the lead detective that she didn’t know anything about the crime, even said that she had last seen Alexander as she was leaving town back in April. The investigation turned up quite a trail of curious incidents.

On May 28, Arias’ grandparents called police to report a burglary. It was peculiar because the bandit took exactly one item from each room in the house, including a single .25 caliber handgun in a safe containing four guns, and cash and jewelry were left untouched. Somewhere around May 30-31, Arias asked a friend, Darryl Brewer, if she could borrow two five-gallon gas cans for a trip; on June 2, she rented a white Ford Focus from Budget Rent-A-Car and claimed the rental would be for local use only. Her credit card was used to buy several items at a Wal-Mart in Salinas, CA (including a third five-gallon gas can) and just over 20 gallons of gasoline (a Ford Focus typical to rentals only has a 12-gallon tank) on June 3. Salinas is just less than halfway between Yreka and Phoenix, a trip that would total 1013 miles according to Google Maps.

After the stop in Salinas (still 675 miles from Phoenix), her credit card wasn’t used again until June 6 – she used it in Sparks, NV, fully 737 miles from Phoenix. By then, however, she had gone to Utah to visit her new love interest – a man named Ryan Burns. He said that she was a day later than they had planned to meet and that, despite the heat, she wore long sleeves and had a bandage on one hand. She excused it by claiming she’d injured herself at work. After meeting with Burns, she drove back to Yreka. The Ford Focus was returned with more than 2800 miles on it (how’s THAT for local use?), the floor mats were missing, and the return report stated there were “kool-aid stains” on both the front and back seats.

Here’s where it gets really creepy. Mesa police were able to recover deleted images from the digital camera found in the washing machine. Whoever had run it through a wash cycle had first deleted several pictures; they wanted to be doubly certain that the images would be forever lost. Those pictures were of a sexual romp between Alexander and Arias on June 4. Both of them looked like they were having fun. Arias was even wearing pigtails during the encounter. The very last image, taken at 5:30 p.m., was of Alexander lying on the floor, bleeding profusely.

A DNA match was also made – it was Arias’ blood mixed with Alexander’s in the bloody handprint on the wall. By the time this evidence was discovered, Arias had lied to police multiple times, lied to Alexander’s family (even going so far as to send his grandmother flowers), and had gone to great lengths to throw off any evidence that she could have possibly committed the crime.

Is anyone else shivering yet?

Not even 24 hours after murdering Travis Alexander, Jodi Arias was cuddling and making out with another man in Utah. She gave no hint that anything had gone wrong. After her arrest for the murder, Arias appeared on 48 Hours to make her case to the public. Again, she lied. She admitted to being there, but that two intruders broke in and killed him – yet she had no explanation as to how she knew this and didn’t report the incident to police. Once cornered on that story, she changed the story yet again: she arrived at the new excuse she’s been using in court, that Alexander was abusive and forced her to engage in “uncomfortable” sex acts.

In my experience, a woman who has been abused to the point that she kills her abuser in a fit of blind terror isn’t arriving at that moment without there first being some kind of evidence. There are usually police reports of neighbors calling to report violence (and Alexander had two roommates), friends and relatives noticing bruises or other injuries (such as broken bones or burns), even hospital records. There was nothing on Jodi Arias. I’ve also never seen an abuse victim who didn’t live with their abuser continue to engage in a relationship with them over a period of over a year – or come back two months after moving away to have sex with them and brutally murder them.

Victims who kill their abusers don’t usually realize they’ve done it until the act is done, and it doesn’t include the extreme method that Jodi Arias used. It’s usually a single stab wound, one or two gunshot wounds, something simple and quick. It doesn’t involve heavy planning, renting a car, finding methods for purchasing gas and food well out of the way to make sure your credit card isn’t being used within hundreds of miles of the city where the crime was committed and going to play tonsil hockey with a man you’ve never met…all while claiming that you deeply loved the man you’ve killed.

Jodi Arias is a classic sociopath. She has no conscience. She feels no real emotion; emotion is a second language to her, one she has likely learned over her three decades of life to mimic. She’s proven that she is very good at turning it on and off at will to get what she wants. She is capable of telling a multitude of lies, and every time she’s caught in one lie she concocts anther set of them to cover her tracks. Now that she’s cornered yet again, she is putting on a grand show of weeping in court. I was there the day prosecutor Juan Martinez began his intense questions, yelling at her to look at the picture of Alexander’s dead body. It was an act that deserved an Oscar. It’s an act I’ve seen before and was just as unsettling in court as it is to witness in real life.

I only hope the jury is able to see through poor little Jodi’s stage act. Travis Alexander deserves justice, and victims everywhere deserve better.