Saturday, November 19, 2005


Robert Shulman, 51, admits he murdered and dismembered five women in New York. One jury convicted him of three murders in 1999; another panel found him guilty of the other two slayings. Shulman got death.

But on Thursday a judge downgraded the sentence to life in prison without parole (an L-Wop, as railbirds like to say).

The reason, according to The Associated Press:
In a 4-3 ruling in June 2004, the state's highest court declared a sentencing provision of New York's capital punishment statute -- enacted in 1995 -- violates the state constitution. The court ruled that jury-instruction provisions in the statute could coerce some jurors into voting for death against a defendant.

"The deadlock instruction gives rise to an unconstitutionally palpable risk that one or more jurors who cannot bear the thought that a defendant may walk the streets again ... will join jurors favoring death in order to avoid the deadlock sentence," Judge George Bundy Smith wrote for the majority of the court.

Since the Court of Appeals ruling, the state Legislature has been unable to agree on a bill to correct the problem. No one was ever executed under the 1995 death penalty law.
Death-penalty proponents will make their usual noises about "activist judges" and how terrible it is that a serial killer was spared the Big Squirt. They like to exploit easy cases to make their bloody point. Shulman's a slam dunk.

Let Shulman rot in prison; it's the proper punishment. But killing him? Why would anyone want to stoop to his level?

1 comment:

Dave said...

His Excellency S R Nathan
President of the Republic of Singapore
Orchard Road Singapore 238823

November 3, 2005

Your Excellency,

Smuggling 396.2 grams of heroin is a terrible crime; but premeditated execution is heinous.

Capital punishment is a deplorable act; it is a cruel and unusual discipline shackled to history's barbarous past. A death sentence eliminates retribution; it severs the establishment of moral conscience and mercilessly smothers all ethical instincts. Execution is a crime that cannot be undone, and murder is an unjustly permanent measure when weighed against fleeting transgressions.

Hanging Van Tuong Nguyen demonstrates to the world that Singapore's judicial system has principles set no higher than those of criminals themselves. To sell a man's life for an evil that will be forgotten faster than death oft takes its toll is beyond comprehension. Worse still, it lifts the offender to the moral equality of societal norms.

Repaying stupidity, ignorance, and lack of forethought with termination can only be considered uncaring, unenlightened, and underdeveloped. Any government with the insolence to wield such a law shall be shrouded in those very traits. Disciplinary alternatives are available that meet the needs of society (which the State is supposed to represent), while being a fair reproach for the felony.

Where iron rules are forged, iron fists and iron curtains have both been known to rise. Leaders like Lenin, Mao, and Hitler lacked the mercy that separates humans from hellions. Abolish capital punishment in your country. Van Tuong Nguyen must certainly realise the seriousness of his mistake; make him pay, but not with his life. Grant him clemency; and in so doing, show the world Singapore's capacity for compassion.

Dave Jarvis
Show your support: Clemency for Van!