Brown & Little, P.L.C. » Arizona Cases, Death Penalty » A Waste

A Waste

From this article at the Arizona Republic:

I do wish I could die doing something meaningful. You know, this seems such a waste.

Those were a man’s last words. He died soon after without uttering any “official” last words. He liked porterhouse steak, french fries, okra, cauliflower, salad, fruit and ice cream. He liked those things so much they were the last things he ate before we murdered him.

The good folks at the prison complex where we killed him, our crackerjack “execution team,” didn’t have an easy job. The doomed man was nice enough, joking with them as they prepared to end his life, but they had a real tough time setting the two intravenous lines intended to deliver fatal toxins. They had to cut into the femoral vein in his leg. Rough job.

The man we put to death was Richard Dale Stokley, and we did it because he participated in the killing of two girls. It was a horrible crime.

There was widespread media coverage surrounding the whole thing. The victims were young and popular, and the incident shook the rural part of the state where it happened. There were petition drives and fundraisers for the victims’ families, flyers distributed about a fundraiser for the victims’ funeral expenses, numerous newspaper articles, and hundreds of area residents demanding no plea agreement be given. Almost all of the prospective jurors had heard about the case, but Stokley could never prove the effect of the publicity on their objectivity.

The death-qualified jury in his case was obviously pro-prosecution, as the ones unwilling to order him dead like the state wanted were struck while the ones who would happily comply went on to do what they said they’d do, but state and federal case law obviously disposed of that silly little argument. Gruesome photos of the innocent young victims presented at trial weren’t gruesome enough to be inflammatory either.

Poor, male defendants are discriminated against in the application of the death penalty, but Stokley couldn’t prove purposeful discrimination in his case. The people who impose and uphold the death penalty in Arizona agreed it isn’t imposed arbitrarily and irrationally in Arizona, as they’d previously explained who knows how many times.

At the time of the offense, Stokley had consumed an enormous amount of alcohol and had earlier suffered head injuries. He struggled with mental disorders throughout his life. His self-reported alcohol consumption and self-reported blackout on the night of the crime weren’t enough to meet the statutory mitigation requirements, though his self-reported involvement in the offense was more than sufficient to help convince the jury of his guilt. His head injuries weren’t enough to show he was unable to conform or appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct, and his serious psychological troubles didn’t quite meet the applicable statutory burden.

Stokley’s documented history of substance abuse didn’t matter to the courts, and neither did his lack of a prior felony record because of a few previous misdemeanors. Tsk-tsk. His cooperation with police wasn’t mitigating at all for some reason, and the courts didn’t agree with the expert who thought he had the ability to be rehabilitated, concluding based on their presumably voluminous personal experience with convicted killers shown mercy that “such prospects” were “slim.”

Stokley had a chaotic and abusive childhood, which the courts acknowledged. He never knew his father and was raised by various unfit family members. He couldn’t prove it influenced his behavior on the night of the crimes, however. His ex-wives readily dispatched all of his good character evidence, anyway, as former spouses obviously have no motive to disagree with that sort of favorable evidence.

No one on the bench really gave half a shit at all about Stokley’s exemplary behavior while incarcerated or his lack of future dangerousness if confined to a sentence of excruciatingly slow death in a cage. These words at sentencing didn’t adequately express remorse:

I do not deny culpability, but there was no premeditation on my part. What I am guilty of is being an irresponsible person for most of my life, running from responsibility, living in a fantasy world and it was my irresponsibility on the night that this incident occurred that involved me in the incident. There is no words that can express the grief and the sorrow and the torment I have experienced over this, but I am just going to leave everything in the hands of God because that’s where it is anyway.

The fact the other guy, who was just as guilty if not more guilty, got twenty with a plea after snitching and saw leniency in sentencing wasn’t a big deal because it was a result of “appropriate plea bargaining.” That other guy, who now lives in Arkansas and is happily married, expressed his thoughts about his partner in crime’s murder at the hands of the state as follows:

Good riddance to him

Nice guy.

Stokley was procedurally defaulted on all sorts of seemingly valid claims about the effectiveness of his lawyers despite a horribly fractured and largely non-existent relationship with certain counsel he never really met. Now, the Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights would’ve afforded him a jury trial on the aggravating factors that rendered him eligible for the death penalty, but the case so generously affording others that important right didn’t apply because his case was already final on direct review. I’d say better luck next time, but there’ll be no next time. Not for him.

All of that’s really just the tip of the iceberg of issues in Stokley’s case, but it doesn’t matter much anymore. He’s dead as a doornail. We killed the shit out of him. His tragic life was met with this response from a victim’s mother:

He was a coward from the beginning and he died a coward

It was because of this:

He never looked at us

The victims are still dead. Every bit as dead as we made Stokley at 11:12 a.m. last Wednesday. At least it was after we fed him a porterhouse, I suppose. I imagine the other guy involved will eat many a steak before he dies a free man with his wife at his side. The victims’ families clearly don’t feel any better. The pain isn’t gone. There’s still anger and sorrow and torment.

This is the death penalty. This is the decision of a judge doing what a jury is now supposed to do based on a law with irreversible consequences supported by a voting public in the same state that elected a scofflaw attorney general, a now-disbarred top county prosecutor, and a county sheriff who keeps getting reelected despite having been the subject of abuse of power investigations for as long as I can remember.

Quite the system, isn’t it? Quite the state. Quite the punishment.

Filed under: Arizona Cases, Death Penalty · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 Responses to "A Waste"

  1. […]  Ohio’s Jeff Gamso, Connecticut’s Gideon Strumpet, Texas’  Mark Bennett, Arizona’s Matt Brown and Fishtown’s Leo […]

  2. Justin says:

    I have not followed your blog up until now. I saw that a friend of mine, Scott Greenfield, nominated you for a spectacular post.

    I have to say that as an abolitionist, I am horribly biased on the topic.

    I will say, as a human, I hope posts like these reach the uninitiated.

    Well written.

  3. […] Unlike the other Beauty Pageants in the blawgosphere, the idea here is to provide a platform to revisit the excellent work done over the past year.  Past winners of the JDog prize are luminaries of the blawgosphere,  Ohio’s Jeff Gamso, Connecticut’s  Gideon Strumpet, Texas’  Mark Bennett and Arizona’s Matt Brown. […]

  4. Turk says:

    Well written.
    (I’m here via Greenfield)

  5. Stella says:

    Excellent write up. The above commenter said it perfectly: no one finds fault in the death penalty unless they are facing it (or work it and see the arbitrariness like we do).

  6. Don says:

    Yep a post by another left leaning bleeding heart liberal who thinks there should be no punishment

    1. Yogi says:

      Possibly you could learn to read. It might make a difference to you someday.

    2. Andrew Becke says:

      Hahahahaha! I guess you don’t know Matt too well….

    3. EmeraldCityGirl says:

      Must one be a “bleeding heart liberal” in order to question the validity of the application of any law? Punishment and deterrent are but two facets of criminal law. Please read the last paragraph again — or for the first time if you jumped immediately to a conclusion and didn’t get that far.

  7. Max Kennerly says:

    “What I am guilty of is being an irresponsible person for most of my life, running from responsibility, living in a fantasy world and it was my irresponsibility on the night that this incident occurred that involved me in the incident.”

    He talks about it like a DUI that resulted in a fatal car accident. When he was 38 years old, long a grown man, he abducted, raped, and murdered two 13-year-olds, then threw their bodies in a ditch. That’s not an “incident” caused by “irresponsibility.”

  8. One of the best written diatribes against the capital punishment system in Arizona that I have read. Great job, Matt! It is definitely a broken system, but no one seems to care unless they are facing the death penalty themselves, guilty or not.

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