Those of us who believe in the death penalty for some murders are told by opponents of the death penalty that if the state executes an innocent man, we have blood on our hands.
They are right. I, for one, readily acknowledge that as a proponent of the death penalty, my advocacy could result in the killing of an innocent person.
I have never, however, encountered any opponents of the death penalty who acknowledge that they have the blood of innocent men and women on their hands.
Yet they certainly do. Whereas the shedding of innocent blood that proponents of capital punishment are responsible for is thus far, thankfully, only theoretical, the shedding of innocent blood for which opponents of capital punishment are responsible is not theoretical at all. Thanks to their opposition to the death penalty, innocent men and women have been murdered by killers who would otherwise have been put to death.
Opponents of capital punishment give us names of innocents who would have been killed by the state had their convictions stood and they been actually executed, and a few executed convicts whom they believe might have been innocent. But proponents can name men and women who really were -- not might have been -- murdered by convicted murderers while in prison. The murdered include prison guards, fellow inmates, and innocent men and women outside of prison.
In 1974, Clarence Ray Allen ordered a 17-year-old young woman, Mary Sue Kitts, murdered because she knew of Allen's involvement in a Fresno, Calif., store burglary.
After his 1977 trial and conviction, Allen was sentenced to life without parole.
According to San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders, "In Folsom State Prison, Allen cooked up a scheme to kill the witnesses who testified against him so that he could appeal his conviction and then be freed because any witnesses were dead -- or scared into silence." As a result, three more innocent people were murdered -- Bryon Schletewitz, 27, Josephine Rocha, 17, and Douglas White, 18.
This time, a jury sentenced Allen to death, the only death sentence ever handed down by a Glenn County (California) jury. That was in 1982.
For 23 years, opponents of the death penalty have played with the legal system -- not to mention played with the lives of the murdered individuals' loved ones -- to keep Allen alive.