Death reflections

A thought about the death penalty just imposed in Idaho, and the next coming soon in Oregon.

Mainly, this: There’s no assertion of doubt that they did what they’re convicted of, and that their actions really were awful.

It’s a weird parallel. Idaho has not executed a convict since 1994, and Oregon since 1997.

Paul Ezra Rhoades, who was executed in Boise on Friday, took all the shots he could at appeals and legal arguments, over a stretch running for more than two decades. There was no real argument that he committed the crimes, which formally were first degree murder and first degree kidnapping, and which he acknowledged. Three women were killed, kidnapped and shot to death in the Idaho Falls area, which was terrorized during the search for the killer.

This is the kind of guy who helps a death penalty advocate make the case. He deserved more, and harsher, than the state could mete out.

Much the same goes for Gary Haugen, the Oregon convict scheduled for execution (by lethal injection, as in Idaho) on December 6. Haugen has not fought the sentence – he has dropped appeals – or evidently denied that he killed his girlfriend’s mother more than 30 years ago, the event which put him in prison since he was 19: “the murder of his then-girlfriend’s mother, Mary Archer. Prosecutors say he broke into Archer’s house, raped her, then beat her with a hammer and baseball bat.” He has denied that he killed a fellow inmate, for which he also was convicted.

These are not, like some in the last few years, cases where the guilt of the convict was in some doubt. There’s really none here.

That may be one reason these cases seem not to have gotten the national attention some others have. Not that they cut into the anti-death case: That argument applies whether the prisoner is guilty or not.

But these Northwest cases are unlikely to be the kind of turning point cases that have been popping up elsewhere.

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