Inside Opinion

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Tag: death penalty

May
2nd

Trending issues: Same-sex marriage, the death penalty

Today was an important one for those who watch social trends. Rhode Island became the 10th state to legalize same-sex marriage, and Maryland became the 18th state to abolish the death penalty. It was also the first state south of the Mason-Dixon line to get rid of capital punishment.

Those trends are heading one way: toward marriage equality and no death penalty. According to the Associated Press:

Maryland State Sen. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat and constitutional law professor who opposes the death penalty, said he believes pressure is building around the country to focus law enforcement resources on things that are proven to lower the homicide rate.

“The trend lines are clear,” Raskin said. “There’s nobody who’s adding the death penalty to their state laws. Everybody is taking it away.” Read more »

June
27th

Death behind bars shouldn’t be automatic for juveniles

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this week on juvenile sentencing has been widely misconstrued.

The court did not forbid judges from sentencing the youngest murderers to life in prison without a chance of parole. It did forbid states from automatically requiring – through mandatory sentencing schemes – that killers be locked up until death for murders they committed as juveniles.

The ruling might affect six inmates from Pierce County, including two of the perpetrators of Tacoma’s infamous 1998 Trang Dai massacre.

The most dramatic Pierce County case – possibly the most dramatic case in the country – is that of Barry Massey, who was sent up for life after helping kill a marina operator in Steilacoom in 1987 at age 13. At the time, Massey was the youngest defendant in America to receive that penalty.

Life without parole is an important sentencing option. Many supporters of capital punishment fear that depraved killers will eventually be released if they are not executed. Some jurors will opt for life in prison instead of execution if they are assured that the killer will actually remain behind bars.

But the court majority Monday rightly struck down an Alabama law that ordered judges not to factor in circumstances or chances of rehabilitation in juvenile cases.

To state the obvious, adolescents are not adults. By definition, they lack maturity and have had less opportunity to rise above what may have been hellish childhoods. The moral compasses of many teenagers aren’t fully operational. As a rule, they are more emotional and impulsive, and much less likely to think through the consequences of their action.
Read more »

June
20th

Military death penalty discredits American justice

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Genuine justice doesn’t play favorites with either criminals or their victims. A state, for example, that’s quick to execute murderers who kill whites, but not those who kill blacks, shouldn’t be in the business of executing anyone at all.

For many years, the U.S. military court system has been flunking the test of impartiality in handing down death sentences. As The News Tribune’s Adam Ashton documented Sunday, the military has been willing to condemn its own to death only if they kill Americans. For killing foreign noncombatants, U.S. personnel have gotten – at most – life in prison.

The four soldiers, one airman and one Marine now on death row at Fort Leavenworth all got there by murdering fellow Americans. In more recent cases, prosecutors have sought the death sentence against two defendants: Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, accused of slaughtering 13 people in 2009 at Fort Hood, Texas, and Army Sgt. John Russell, accused for murdering five other service members in 2009 in Iraq.

Conspicuously missing from both lists are any troops accused or convicted of killing foreign civilians. Members of the rogue “kill team” – four Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers who killed three Afghan noncombatants for sport in 2010 – never faced capital punishment, for example.
Read more »

Dec.
22nd

Justice needs tailoring for Allen, Lain and Massey

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The old saw, “Do the crime, do the time,” suggests that sentencing is simple. In the case of three men now in the criminal justice system – Darcus Allen, Jerry Dean Lain and Barry Massey – it’s anything but.

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist opted last week not to seek the death penalty for Allen, who’s accused of serving as the getaway driver a year ago after Maurice Clemmons gunned down four Lakewood police officers at the Parkland coffee shop.

Instead, Lindquist decided to settle for life without parole, the only other

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Nov.
11th

John Allen Muhammad: Unlamented evil

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

People may argue about the death penalty, but no one’s likely to miss its latest recipient, John Allen Muhammad of Tacoma.

Those last two words are tough to acknowledge. But Tacoma was Muhammad’s hometown and he launched his offensive against innocent life from the South Sound. He separated from the Army at Fort Lewis. He lived for years on the East Side. He stole his chief murder weapon from Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply in the Dome District. He and his teenage acolyte, Lee Boyd Malvo, apparently practiced marksmanship in the backyard

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