The Times West Virginian

August 11, 2013

Death penalty gets strong support in poll


Times West Virginian

— An attack nearly four years ago at Texas’ Fort Hood military base left 13 dead and 32 others wounded, and the man military prosecutors say is responsible for what is being described as “a holocaust” is Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a former Army psychiatrist stationed at the base.

Hasan has essentially “fired” the three defense attorneys and is representing himself in military court. The problem with his self defense as his own attorney is that there doesn’t really seem to be any defense at all. That’s serious considering the fact that the death penalty is on the table.

“He’s looking to be a martyr,” professor Glenn Sulmasy from the Center for National Policy said on NBC’s NewsNation Friday. “His reasoning for not actually questioning, or cross examining, or examining any witnesses ... are evidence that he really isn’t putting on a defense.”

Hasan’s case is one of the high-profile cases in the country where the words “death penalty” are being used. As is James Holmes, the man accused of killing 16 and injuring 17 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., last July.

The death penalty, a controversial subject to say the least, has not been used in West Virginia after 1959 and it was abolished in 1965. In 1949, West Virginia was the last state to adopt the electric chair as its method of execution. State Delegate Robert C. Byrd was a witness to the execution of the first two men in the electric chair. He described it with very few words, though he was a man known for using many. “It’s not a beautiful thing.”

But for the past 27 sessions of the legislature, Delegate John Overington, a Republican, has introduced a bill to reinstate capital punishment in the Mountain State. And for 27 years, it’s never made much progress in the statehouse.

“You want to live in a just society that is fair, and capital punishment, if somebody is murdered, I think there’s a perception that you have fairness if that person is put to death,” Overington told The Associated Press in March. “It sort of adds to the fairness of our society and helps make it work. If you feel that our justice system is fair, it helps you believe in it.”

Following the murder of Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum in April, Overington told the (Beckley) Register-Herald that 80 percent of the state’s residents supported the death penalty. So we decided to ask our readers and see whether that statistic fell in line with those who come to our website, www.timeswv.com, to follow all the news of North Central West Virginia.

In our online poll last week, we asked “A few high-profile mass-shooting cases have brought the death penalty issue into the public debate. What are your thoughts?”

And here’s what you had to say:

• We should focus on forgiveness and rehabilitation for convicts — 1.28 percent.

• I don’t have strong feelings one way or the other — 3.85 percent.

• Completely against it. It targets minorities and lower-income individuals — 12.82 percent.

• Completely for it — it’s a crime deterrent and saves taxpayers’ money — 82.05 percent.

Well, Delegate Overington, you may be on to something with that statistic.

This week, let’s talk about a program being launched by the U.S. Attorney’s office to educate teens about the use of drugs and alcohol mixed with social media in the wake of the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case last year. How effective do you think it will be?

Log on. Vote. Email me or respond directly online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor

mpoe@timeswv.com

@MistyPoeTWV