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Random? Hardly

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Cal Coburn Brown has a long overdue date with justice Friday. Nicholas K. Geranios reports for AP:

"Brown, 52, is to be executed for raping, torturing and murdering Holly Washa, 22, in 1991 over a period of days in a Sea-Tac hotel room.

"Brown has been on Death Row for 16 years. Last year, he was just eight hours away from execution when his lawyers won a stay."

Now, you would think that where the perpetrator raped, tortured, and murdered a young woman over multiple days, the opponents would spare us the tired old refrain that the death penalty is imposed "randomly." Beyond question to rational people, Brown is in the upper single percent on a scale of heinousness, and the choice of sentence in this case is anything but random.  Guess again:

Judith Kay, professor of religion at the University of Puget Sound, has known Brown for eight years and visited him several times in prison. She opposes the death penalty, in part because it appears to be randomly applied. She noted Green River killer Gary Ridgway pleaded guilty to killing 48 women in King County, and was sentenced to life in prison. Both [James] Elledge [executed in 2001] and Brown were convicted of killing one person.
Because one murderer who is clearly worse escaped full justice through legalized extortion that makes every case from there on out "random"? What does Professor Kay think "random" means? Suppose a researcher submits an article for publication in a serious journal. The article finds a strong correlation between variables but nonetheless declares the results "random" because of a single outlier. Would that article be published? Of course not. After the editors stopped laughing, they would throw it in the garbage.

Inevitably, in any system of justice, some miscreants will escape full justice or even escape justice altogether. Some will simply never be caught. Some will receive inadequate sentences. Some will die of natural causes after a short time in jail. Do we forgo justice in all the other cases because some escape? Of course not. There is no reason for imposing a different standard on the death penalty.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, who plans to witness the execution, disagreed [with Kay].

"Cal Brown's sadistic and predatory crimes rank him among the worst of the worst criminals in our state, and there can be no doubt about his guilt," Satterberg said after the state Supreme Court cleared the way for the execution in late July.

BTW, I believe this will be the debut of Washington's new single-drug protocol.

3 Comments

I hope our sometime commenter notablogger sees this and renews her justified pride in the work of the Kings County District Attorney's Office.

Thanks, Bill. I am VERY proud of my friends and colleagues who are still working tirelessly on this case as we speak, as Brown's lawyers continue to file everything they can think of in every court they can. As Yogi Berra so sagely stated, "It's not over 'til it's over."

At some point, this litigation must come to an end. The victim's family has suffered enough. Even Judge Berzon voted against the stay--that she did speaks volumes.

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