Monday, June 17, 2013

Justice, the Death Penalty, and Kami Ring

Today is probably the first time you’ll ever hear the name Kami Ring. Unfortunately, in all likelihood, it’ll probably also be the last.

Ring – 10, of Cecil County – was buried today, the victim of an exceptionally heinous crime committed by someone she regarded as a family member.

Ring’s body was discovered in a field behind the Port Deposit home where she’d been staying last Monday. According to the report in the Baltimore Sun, “She was partially nude, with signs of a cutting injury to the neck and injuries indicating she had been raped, as well as having been struck in the head, the charging documents state.”

Her accused killer, Richard Eugene Madden, Jr., has been charged with first- and second-degree murder, as well as rape and assault. A serial offender, Madden was released from his most recent prison stint in February 2013, and was in jail on drug charges when police linked him to the crime.

Though not related by blood, Ring regarded Madden’s parents as her de facto grandparents, making Madden her de facto uncle.

According to The Sun, Madden posted the following message on Facebook: "right now i am going out of my [expletive] neice kami want missing some time in the night or morning... so pleas if i have seen or heard anything please let me know ASAP."

Apparently, when searchers wanted to check out the field where Ring’s body was found, Madden tried to direct them elsewhere, explaining, “Those babies would not be walking over there near those briars."

A DNA test positively linked him to biological evidence found on Ring’s body. A gray shoestring was found on the child’s body, and Madden’s tennis shoes were found to be missing their gray shoestrings. Madden also had, “scratch marks on his body he could not explain.”

At a candlelight vigil, Ring was remembered as a consistent honor roll student who achieved a perfect attendance record during the most recent school year.

As I heard this story reported on the radio, I felt myself getting angry.

First, of course, I got angry at the monster who perpetrated this crime against an innocent child.

Second, I got angry at the governmental leaders who – through their blithe arrogance – decided to repeal the state’s death penalty during the most recently-concluded legislative session.

Maryland has never been known for its swift and sweeping application of the death penalty. Since its reinstatement in 1978, only five people on death row were actually executed, the last execution occurring in 2005. Instead, it remained an infrequently-used option to be applied in only the most egregious cases, as well as a valuable tool for prosecutors.

Nonetheless, the state’s political establishment – buoyed by ballot box wins on other progressive touchstone issues in 2012 – decided that eliminating capital punishment was its next burning priority.

In a June 2nd opinion piece in The Sun, Benjamin Jealous – president of the NAACP – celebrated the repeal of the death penalty and the failure of so-called “right-wing activists”  to get it on the ballot.

Still, solid majorities of Marylanders (54 percent to 41 percent according to a February 2013 Washington Post poll) supported the state’s death penalty. Among that majority: Democratic Attorney General and gubernatorial hopeful Doug Gansler and Democratic Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger.

Now, the death penalty repeal does not take effect until October 1st – which I presume means Madden could technically still be eligible for it.  

Still, I question whether a prosecutor will even bother trying to impose it during its waning hours.

I hope I’m wrong…because, to me, it sure seems like this guy deserves it.

So, at the end of the day, here is where things stand: Kami Ring goes into the ground, and her killer will – in all likelihood – avoid a similar fate, thanks to the misdirected compassion of the Maryland General Assembly and Governor Martin O’Malley.

I’m sure the progressive activists who worked so hard to repeal the death penalty – majority will be damned – are breathing a collective sigh of relief that Madden will be spared the ultimate penalty if he is convicted.

But I’m pretty sure the rest of us are just thinking about Kami.