76-year-old murderer Clarence Ray Allen will be executed by lethal injection early Tuesday at San Quentin State Prison. . . . In prison [for murder], he offered $25,000 to fellow inmate Billy Ray Hamilton to kill people who had testified against him in the Kitts murder trial. After he was paroled, Hamilton killed one of the witnesses and two bystanders. . . . The inmate's lawyers said it would violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment to take the life of a man who is so old and ailing. Allen, whose birthday is today, had a heart attack in September, is legally blind, has diabetes and uses a wheelchair.
If a proposition were on the ballot to end the death penalty in California, I would vote for it. Any deterrent value of the death penalty is more than offset by the high costs of imposing the penalty and of possible errors. However, of all the situations were a death penalty is most appropriate, it is this: a person in prison killing someone for participating in a trial as a witness.
Confinement was not sufficient to keep this person from killing. Another life sentence has no deterrent or retributive justice value.
And I can't imagine why it is more acceptable for the State to kill someone who is healthy than a person who is near death (unless you felt that keeping him alive in a painful state was superior punishment). Being old and sick does not make a person more worthy of forgiveness. One might think he would be less capable of hurting others, but he was able to kill three people without any physical act.