The arguments for the death penalty are familiar: It imposes the ultimate punishment on society’s gravest criminals. Capital punishment deters others from committing such offenses. It also saves tax dollars that otherwise would finance baked beans, free weights and cable TV for those on death row.
To that worthy if shopworn list, add this: capital punishment keeps notorious lawbreakers out of the news.
Three well-known hoodlums recently have returned to the headlines. Had they been executed, the American public and — more importantly — the families of their victims would not have to hear all about them again.
Mark David Chapman murdered Beatle John Lennon in front of the Dakota apartment building in Manhattan on December 8, 1980.
“I should have been executed, you know,” he told the Daily Express of London last month “I deserve to die.”
He’s absolutely right. This demented rat deserves 100,000 volts of electroshock therapy. Instead, the 45-year-old has clinched the Olympic gold medal for men’s chutzpah.
“I think he would be liberal,” Chapman said of the man he fatally shot three times. “I think he would care. I think he would probably want to see me released.”
Chapman also revealed that he repeatedly dreams of meeting Lennon’s widow and being received in her loving arms. In the dream, “Yoko Ono is friendly to me and I am, you know, accepted in the home and feel loved.”
Chapman claims to have found God and says he has been “mentally well for 12, 13 years.” He helpfully added: “There really is no Mark Chapman. That’s the person that killed John Lennon . . . I don’t live that life.”
After serving 20 years of a life sentence at Attica prison in upstate New York, Chapman faced the state parole board on October 3. Thankfully, they denied him parole. Still, the notion that he ever would be considered for release surely causes grief, anxiety and frustration for Yoko Ono, her children, the surviving Beatles and Lennon’s billions of fans worldwide.
Had Chapman instead had received the execution he deserved, his photo and sick comments would not haunt anew those who mourn the beloved musician. As it is, they must weigh their sorrow against the words of Ono’s spokesman, Elliot Mintz. As he told the New York Post, “John would have loved to have been here to speak for himself.”
Brian Peterson found himself on the front page of the September 27 Post, handcuffed and flanked by two NYPD officers. “BABY KILLER’S FOUL PLAY,” read the bold headline. “N.J. slay dad busted in Shea bottle toss,” it continued.
Peterson, 22, allegedly interfered as the NYPD arrested his friend, Raymond Maniaci, also 22, for reportedly throwing a bottle at the so-called Ku Klux Kloser, outspoken Atlanta Braves relief pitcher John Rocker. When cops came after Maniaci the evening of September 26, police say Peterson yelled obscenities, waved his arms around, followed the cops after Maniaci was arrested and otherwise impeded their attempts to bring Maniaci into custody. Peterson pleaded not guilty to disorderly conduct, harassment and resisting arrest, all misdemeanors.
New Yorkers were surprised to see Peterson’s face in the papers afresh. He first gained notoriety in 1996 when he and his girlfriend, Amy Grossberg, drove to a Newark, Delaware motel where she gave birth to a baby boy. Peterson then took his newborn son, stuffed him into a plastic bag and tossed him into a Dumpster where he died.
Originally charged with capital murder, these non-model parents eventually were convicted of mere manslaughter. Peterson admitted in court that “mistakes were made” before he was sentenced to two years in prison. Last January, he was freed after serving just 18 months. He was on two years’ probation when he was arrested.
New Yorkers had to relive that atrocity amid Peterson’s attorney’s lame excuses for the young man’s latest collision with the law. “Nobody in Queens is more aware of the stupidity of his actions than my client,” Russell Gioiellla said.
The real question is why Brian Peterson is alive, much less a free man. Had he been executed for infanticide, as he should have been, Peterson would not have encouraged his friend’s alleged hooliganism or forced his own family, Grossberg’s relatives and the broader public to reacquaint themselves with his wicked face and the horrible memories it still triggers.
Despite his March 1987 guilty plea for spying for Israel, Jonathan Pollard still receives favorable treatment from Uncle Sam and calls for mercy from his fans outside prison. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton reportedly intervened with Pollard’s jailers on behalf of his wife, Esther. According to her Senate campaign, Mrs. Clinton “conveyed to the appropriate authorities” her “concern” that the former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst may be transferred to a more dangerous unit than the one where he is serving a life sentence for passing classified data to Israel.
Pollard’s potential clemency has become an issue in Mrs. Clinton’s Senate race against Rep. Rick Lazio (R., New York). The fact that Pollard “only spied for Israel,” the argument goes, entitles him to leniency or even release from prison. Such talk, offered by such prominent Jewish figures as U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D., New York), attorney Alan Dershowitz, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, is dangerous. Security concerns aside, it foolishly reinforces the anti-Semitic stereotype that American Jews share dual loyalties between the United States and Israel. And if Pollard’s espionage for Israel is no big deal, shouldn’t Rick Lazio be free to spy for Italy?
Despite the support of these heavyweights, there’s nothing cute about Pollard’s behavior. Espionage is not something that “everybody does;” it would be hideous to free Pollard and “move on.” In fact, CIA Director George Tenet wisely has threatened to resign if Pollard is released.
Back in 1996, before his wife launched her Senate bid, President Clinton explained that this spy should remain locked up due to “the enormity of Pollard’s offenses, his lack of remorse, the damage done to our national security, the need for general deterrence, and the continuing threat to national security that he poses.”
Jonathan Pollard did not carelessly let a secret pass his loose lips at some long-forgotten cocktail party. He deliberately stuffed his briefcase with thousands of military documents in the early-to-mid-1980s and handed them to Israeli agents. “I did accept money for my services,” he confessed in 1986.
For over a year and a half, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported in the January 18 New Yorker, Pollard sold the National Security Agency’s secret codes, information on American military intelligence in the Middle East, details on the Sixth Fleet’s surveillance of Soviet submarines, and more. Much of Pollard’s handiwork, Hersh says, wound up in the Kremlin.
One intelligence source told Hersh that Pollard was “a serial spy, the Ted Bundy of the intelligence world” who supplied documents to Argentina, South Africa and Taiwan. The FBI also linked Pollard to Iranian and Pakistani arms dealers.
While intelligence agencies rarely confirm such things, several American spies are believed to have been killed after Pollard exposed them. If true, the families of such dead agents should not be tortured by debate over Pollard’s potential release — tied, as it is, to Mrs. Clinton’s desperation to pander to the Empire State’s Jewish voters.
For imperiling American national security and personnel, this termite should have been and still should be executed. That would send potential spies an instant message: espionage remains a high crime, no matter how beloved the country that buys America’s secrets.
Dispatching Jonathan Pollard to his grave — along with Mark David Chapman, Brian Peterson and similar pests — would place such criminals out of sight and, mercifully, out of mind.