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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Three Executions

Robert Brian Waterhouse

     In 1966, 19-year-old Robert Waterhouse, during a home burglary on Long Island, New York, murdered a 77-year-old woman. He pleaded guilty to second degree murder, and was  sentenced to life in prison. But in the state of New York, a life sentence doesn't always mean a life behind bars. In 1975, after serving just eight years, Waterhouse was granted parole, and walked out of prison.

     Four years later, after leaving a St. Petersburg bar with 29-year-old Deborah Kammerer, Waterhouse beat and raped her on the beach, then dragged her body into Tampa Bay where she drowned. In 1980, based on the victim's blood, hair, and other trace evidence found in Waterhouse's car, a jury convicted him of murder. A judge imposed the death sentence. (Waterhouse admitted having sex with the victim that night, but denied killing her.)

     Scheduled to die in 1985, Waterhouse appealed his sentence. Three years later, the Florida Supreme Court invalidated his death sentence because jurors at his sentence hearing  had not been presented evidence that may have mitigated his guilt. At a second sentence hearing before another jury in 1990, jurors recommended the death penalty by a 12 to 0 vote. Waterhouse returned to death row.

     On St. Valentine's day, 2013, after living on death row for 31 years, the 65-year-old double murderer died by lethal injection at the Florida State Prison in  Raiford. Waterhouse was the 72nd inmate to be put to death in Florida since 1972.

Mark Wiles

     In 1983, Mark Wiles, a 22-year-old farmhand, was sent to prison for stealing cash and property from his employers, the owners of the Klima family horse farm in Rootstown, Ohio. Although Wiles had been stealing from the family for some time, Mrs. Klima wrote a letter to the parole board in support of his bid for early release. In October 1984, Wiles left prison on parole.

     Mark Wiles, a serial thief and sociopath, returned to the northern Ohio farm on August 7, 1985 to burglarize the Klima house which he believed was at the time unoccupied. In the dwelling, while helping himself to his former employer's property, Wiles encountered 15-year-old Mark Klima. To eliminate a witness who would have sent him back to prison, Wiles stabbed the boy 24 times, leaving the kitchen knife stuck in his back.

     A panel of three judges, in 1986, found Wiles guilty of capital murder. Notwithstanding testimony on the defendant's behalf that 12 days before the murder Wiles had suffered a head injury that affected his impulse control, the judges sentenced him to death. (If head injuries destroyed impulse control, every person who ever played football would end up in prison. Many do, but not because of head injuries.)

     Following numerous appeals, hearings, and delays, the 49-year-old inmate died by lethal injection on April 18, 2012 at the Southern Ohio Facility in Lucasville. Wiles was the 47th prisoner to be executed since Ohio re-instated the death penalty in 1999.  

Shannon Johnson

     On September 24, 2006, 22-year-old Shannon Johnson shot and killed Cameron Hamilin as Hamlin sat in his car in downtown Wilmington, Delaware with Johnson's ex-girlfriend. The woman managed to flee the scene without injury. Two months later, Johnson tracked her down, but when he tried to shoot her, his gun jammed. Once again, his intended victim escaped death.

     In 2008, a jury found Johnson guilty of capital murder, and recommended the death penalty. The defendant's lawyer argued that because his client was mentally retarded, he was not eligible for execution. (Victims murdered by people with low IQs are just as dead as people murdered by geniuses.)  The Delaware Supreme Court rejected the argument, and upheld the sentence. At that point, Johnson waived his right to further appeals.

     Shannon Johnson, on April 20, 2012, died of lethal injection at James T. Vaughn Correction Center in Smyrna, Delaware. Before dying a few minutes before 3 AM (the execution deadline), the condemned man uttered a few words in Arabic. He was the second  inmate in Delaware to be executed during the past twelve months.