Elissa Self-Braun, then eleven years old, was kidnapped, raped, and murdered in 1991. While most capital cases involve no genuine doubt of guilt, the case against Martin Link was exceptional in that his guilt was doubly confirmed by DNA. His semen was in Elissa's body, and her blood was in a jar of petroleum jelly in his car. The Eighth Circuit opinion from 2006 has the facts of the crime.
Yesterday's News Scan noted the governor's denial of clemency. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has this story on the execution.
Elissa's parents Don Self and Pamela Braun were among the witnesses at Link's execution.
"Justice was a long time coming," Self said afterward.
Link himself apparently absorbed the rhetoric of the anti-death-penalty movement.
"The state says killing is wrong, so why do they do it? It's revenge," Link said. "Where is the closure? There is none. The death penalty is an act of revenge."
Retribution is the correct word. And it is the right thing to do. We need to do it much more quickly, particularly in cases with no doubt of guilt. For starters, Congress should remove from federal habeas all issues that affect only penalty and are irrelevant to guilt.