The Slow Death of the Death Penalty? was a segment featured on the CBS Sunday Morning Show that aired this Sunday, June 13. The segment briefly discusses the case of Ronnie Lee Gardner set to be executed by a firing squad on Friday in Utah but, the majority of the segment focuses on the problems with the death penalty as a public policy and the Gaile Owens’ case in particular. Gaile Owens appears briefly during the segment reading a portion of the letter that she wrote to Governor Bredesen concerning clemency.
Don Strother, assistant district attorney who prosecuted Gaile Owens is also interviewed. He referes to the case on the program, “I remember that it just seemed like a senseless killing.” He also states that he is not buying the “battered woman” defense. “You know, I think that’s something that’s being created at this time,” he said. “I have no sense that that’s, in fact, reality.”
However, at the time of her trial, Owens’ attorneys tried to get the court to give them the funds to hire an expert in order to determine if Owens was suffering from battered woman’s syndrome. The judge refused. However, the judge did allow for the customary examination at the local mental health clinic, where Owen’s competency to stand trial would be determined. And though the doctor who performed this evaluation was not told by the court, the prosecution, or the defense, to address whether Gaile suffered from battered woman’s syndrome , the doctor still noted that it was her impression that Gaile Owens was, in fact, a battered woman.
Strother also didn’t mention that the district attorneys’ office also failed to turn over love letters that Ron Owens, Gaile’s husband, exchanged with his mistress, providing evidence for Gaile’s allegations of her husband’s affairs.
The Nasville Scene reported that “While claiming he’d turned over everything in his possession to the defense, his statement was only half true, according to the testimony of one detective. Wray (Detective) would later testify Gala Scott (the mistress) asked that the love letters be returned to her. When Wray asked someone if he could return the letters — ‘to the best of my memory,’ he said, ‘it was General Strother’ — he was told the letters were immaterial. And so this key evidence was handed off.”
Again, this case is yet one more among many that demonstrate how unfair and arbitrary the current death penalty system is. Even the death penalty supporter interviewed for the story, Dr. Robert Blecker, acknowledges that the system is not perfect but is “a work in progress.”
A work in progress? When describing a public policy that allow the state to kill its own citizens, “a work in progress” is not good enough, particularly when alternatives like life without parole are available.
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