(Another wonderful guest posting by Gloria Killian.)
My views on the death penalty have a dual basis; one philosophical and one experiential. As a child, I was raised to believe that no one has the right to take another human life regardless of the circumstances, provocation, or reasoning. As I grew older, I came to realize that the ultimate premeditated murder was the state sanctioned execution of a convicted felon. The very idea that anyone could calmly, deliberately, and ritualistically take someone’s life repulsed me. The idea that the state kills people to demonstrate that killing is wrong just baffled me. I knew where I stood on this issue, and so I continued living my life, morally opposed to the death penalty, but completely unaware of the real horror that state sanctioned murder entails.
My life as I knew it came to an end on December 16, 1981, when I was arrested for murder and accused of planning a home invasion robbery in which someone was killed. It was designated as a capital case and I was charged with the death penalty. I had not committed this crime so I was in a complete state of shock after my arrest, and the fact that I was facing the death penalty did not really penetrate the fog that surrounded me. I was living a surrealistic nightmare that I couldn’t understand, and the fact that they were going to kill me was just one more factor in the insanity. I rarely thought about the fact that I was facing death but when I did my thoughts about my own execution ricocheted wildly from, “this will never happen, I didn’t do anything wrong” to “they set me up, I know I’ll be convicted, and I’ll just volunteer to be executed.”
After 4 ½ months, the case against me was dismissed for lack of evidence and I was released from jail, but a year later I was rearrested. The District Attorney’s office had resolved their “lack of evidence” problem by helping one of the perpetrator’s phony up a story about my so-called participation in the crime. Once I was convicted, he would be rewarded with a substantial reduction in sentence. Again, I was charged with the death penalty despite the fact that the DA had colluded with his witness to create the false testimony that would convict me. Fortunately, for me the California Supreme Court issued a decision that took my case out from under the death penalty and I was released on bail.
Following my wrongful conviction, I was assigned to work in the Prison Law Library and one day I discovered that the CDC had mistakenly sent us the entire “Death Procedure” to be used in executions. The 73 page procedure set forth in dry, emotionless language the exact manner in which “the condemned” inmate was to be treated commencing 5 days prior to his execution. The complete lack of compassion or minimal human kindness merely emphasized the barbaric horror about to be inflicted by the state on a hapless human being. It truly made me ill in a way that my own brush with the death penalty had never done.