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Art Callaham: No petition necessary to see death-penalty reality

June 16, 2013|By ART CALLAHAM

Well, (that’s how Ronald Reagan opened a lot of his remarks) I’m no Ronald Reagan but I’m interested in what’s going on in our nation and in particular our state. 

First, let me clearly say I’m no fan of Del. Neil Parrott. Anyone who runs on a platform of “more jobs” and doesn’t sponsor a single “jobs bill” during three legislation sessions certainly doesn’t seem very genuine to me.  However, Neil got it right in his effort to bring some sanity to the legislation repealing the death penalty in Maryland.

Now whoa, kemosabe; this is not an endorsement of Neil, nor his methods (his last three petition efforts failed miserably) and his latest petition effort also failed. Rather, this is a small testament to Neil’s thesis (although I expect that there are other parts to Neil’s agenda) that the “death penalty” is appropriate in some instances.

From my perspective (Neil can write his own perspective) here are three examples that, to me, defy any logical arguments to the contrary, and exemplify a need for the death penalty. For this argument, forget the level of jurisdiction, or mitigating circumstances; just focus on the crime as the justification for the penalty.

Case one: the Oklahoma City bombing, Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, April 19, 1996. The death toll eventually reached 168. Most of the deaths resulted from the collapse of the building, rather than the bomb blast itself. Those killed included 163 who were in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, one person in the Athenian building, one woman in a parking lot across the street, a man and woman in the Oklahoma Water Resources building, and a rescue worker struck on the head by debris.

The victims, including three pregnant women, ranged in age from three months to 73 years; 19 of the victims were children, 15 of whom were in a day care center. More than 680 people were injured.

Timothy McVeigh, who drove the truck and detonated the bomb later justified his killing of children in the bombing: “I didn’t define the rules of engagement in this conflict. The rules, if not written down, are defined by the aggressor. It was brutal, no holds barred. You give back to the government what they laid down.”

Gov. O’Malley, visit the memorial, focus on the 19 “small chairs” among the 168 vacant chairs and consider: Did Timothy McVeigh deserve to die for his crime?  I certainly believe he did and I don’t need a petition to defend my belief.

Case two: Fort Hood Shooting, Nov. 5, 2009. Thirteen people were slain in the attack. Over 30 people were wounded. As the shooting continued outside, nurses and medics entered the building, secured the doors with a belt and rushed to help the wounded. According to the responding nurses, there was so much blood covering the floor inside the building, that they were unable to maintain balance, and had difficulty reaching the wounded to help them.

Gov. O’Malley, go to Fort Hood, walk in the Soldier Readiness Processing Center, imagine not being able to keep your balance because of the amount of blood on the floor. Does Nidal Malik Hassan, a doctor assigned to “help” returning and deploying soldiers deserve to die for killing, in cold blood, those same soldiers? I believe he does.

Finally, Case Three: Gov. O’Malley, don’t want to travel far? How about Hagerstown, Md.? Brandon T. Morris crouched over a Roxbury Correctional Institution officer in a hospital room and said in a deep, angry voice, “I’m gonna kill you, you (expletive).” A split second later he shot the man, a Washington County Hospital nurse testified.

Jeffery A. Worten, the Roxbury Correctional Institution officer — the victim — could have been working for you, governor, were it not for the timing of this criminal act.  In cold blood, and premeditated (“I’m gonna kill you”), I don’t need more evidence, this man, Brandon T. Morris, in my opinion, deserves the death penalty.

I’m not a die-hard death penalty proponent; yet the death penalty has its place.  Don’t believe it; just visit Oklahoma City and see those 19 “small chairs,” or walk across the floor at any military station and imagine not being able to stand because of the blood of innocents, or visit any hospital room and imagine being shot while trying to do your duty.

No petition here, just a simple review of cause and effect, Maryland legislators need to rationally review the need for a death penalty!


Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.

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