Sunday, January 16, 2005


The January 14 lead editorial in the Sacramento Bee contains a particular inane argument endorsing a reprieve of his impending execution of convicted murderer Donald Jay Beardslee. (Online version) Beardslee's attorneys claim that there is "new evidence of severe brain damage" that "impaired Beardslee's functioning since birth."

The Bee editorial states that "Traditionally, California governors have granted reprieves to conduct further investigation and medical tests to determine whether it would be appropriate to grant clemency." Really. Well, no. The Bee editorial states that the last time a California governor did this was in 1967, which was 37 years ago. Where's the "tradition."

One would think that in an editorial endorsing the reprieve and the commutation of Beardslee's sentence to life without parole there would be facts and argument addressing why a severely brain damaged person should not be executed. The Bee's argument is limited to a single sentence. That sentence was the above-noted sentence about how governors in California have done so. Well, the Bee editorial refutes that "tradition."

There is not a single sentence regarding what the significance of this purported brain damage has on the legal standard which determines whether or not someone should die. The editorial is a rambling mess avoiding this tough argument. If Beardslee had the ability to comprehend and appreciate the acts for which he was convicted and knew the acts were wrong, then what on earth is the basis for granting clemency. Of course clemency is the real agenda behind this editorial. The editorial spends more time advocating clemency without even knowing if he is brain damaged than than providing a factual or legal basis for granting a reprieve. The editorial's title is a classic bait and switch.

What are the Bee's bases for endorsing a clemency: (1) the prison warden supports clemency for Beardslee, (2) "correctional officers" support clemency (How many? Two? Ten? All of them?), and (3) if Beardslee is found to be severely brain damaged, then because California does not execute mentally retarded people we should also not execute those who are severely brain damaged. The Bee also interjects that the "correctional officers" note how Beardslee has been a model prisoner. This is truly distasteful and repugnant to suggest that good behavior in prison should be a consideration of whether to change his judgment.


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