Friday, April 1, 2011

The Impending Execution of Daniel Wayne Cook

This post almost writes itself. The pattern is now too common.

A murderer is on the verge of execution. The murders are particularly grusome. (It seems as if the murders are always particularly grusome.) There is no chance the person sitting on death row did not at least participate in the crime that led to the murders. There is some dispute, however, over who did the actual killing or killings. The prosecutor rewards the first person to rat out the other with life, early out, or even freedom. The prosecutor charges the other with capital murder. Death penalty proponents compete among themselves with insightful commentary such as "good riddance" and "rot in hell." Death penalty opponents point to an abusive and disasterous childhood. I simply excerpt an appellate decision, stand mute rather than take a position, and the world goes on without a bother.

Daniel Wayne Cook (see Too Many Waynes) is scheduled to be executed by the people of Arizona on 5 April 2011 for the murders of Carlos Cruz Ramos and Kevin Swaney. There is no viable evidence that Cook did not participate in the kidnapping and torture of the victims. The mutilated bodies were found in his closet, for Pete's sake, while he was still in the room.

From the appellate decision in State v. Cook I offer the lurid details.
Shortly after 4:00 a.m. on July 21, 1987, John Matzke and Byron Watkins arrived at the Lake Havasu City Police Department, where Matzke reported his involvement in two murders committed at his apartment during the evening of July 19 and early morning of July 20. Matzke told officers about the crimes and granted the police consent to enter the apartment. Investigating officers went to the apartment that Matzke shared with Cook. After arresting Cook, officers searched the apartment and discovered the bodies of Carlos Cruz Ramos and Kevin Swaney in the closet of Matzke's bedroom. Autopsies revealed that both victims had been strangled.
Cook and Matzke were each indicted on two counts of first degree murder. In return for the state's dismissal of all other charges, Matzke agreed to plead guilty to one count of second degree murder and to testify against Cook. Cook was not offered a plea agreement. At trial Matzke related the following sordid story of bondage, torture, and sodomy, in which Cook was the principal protagonist. 
Carlos Cruz Ramos was a Guatemalan national employed at the same restaurant where Cook and Matzke worked. He had recently moved into their apartment. According to Matzke, Cook devised a plan to steal Cruz Ramos' money. While Matzke distracted Cruz Ramos, Cook stole approximately $90 from Cruz Ramos' money pouch. Shortly afterward, Cruz Ramos noticed his money was missing, and asked Cook and Matzke whether they knew anything about it. The two then lured Cruz Ramos into Cook's upstairs bedroom. They pushed Cruz Ramos down on the bed and, using strips torn from Cook's sheets, gagged him and tied him to a chair. 
Over the course of the next six or seven hours, Cruz Ramos was cut with a knife, beaten with fists, a metal pipe and a wooden stick, burned with cigarettes, sodomized, and had a staple driven through his foreskin. Matzke suggested that they kill Cruz Ramos because they could not let him go. Cook replied that Cruz Ramos should be killed at midnight, "the witching hour." When midnight arrived, Matzke first tried to strangle Cruz Ramos with a sheet. Matzke then took Cruz Ramos out of the chair, put him on the floor, and pushed down on his throat with a metal pipe. According to Matzke, because Cruz Ramos still would not die, Cook pressed down on one end of the pipe while Matzke pressed on the other. Finally, Matzke stood on the pipe as it lay across Cruz Ramos' throat and killed him. 
Matzke and Cook later dressed Cruz Ramos and put him in the closet of Matzke's bedroom. The autopsy revealed that Cruz Ramos had suffered severe lacerations and contusions as a result of his beating, that he had been cut on the chest, and that his stomach and genitals had been burned. The autopsy also revealed that Cruz Ramos had two puncture holes in his foreskin and that his anus was dilated, although no semen was detected. 
Kevin Swaney was a sixteen-year-old runaway and sometime guest at the apartment. He was a dishwasher at the restaurant where the others worked. Shortly after 2:00 a.m., approximately two hours after Cruz Ramos' death, Swaney stopped by the apartment. Cook initially told Swaney to leave, but subsequently invited him inside. Cook and Matzke told Swaney they had a dead body upstairs and, according to Matzke, Cook took Swaney upstairs and showed him Cruz Ramos' body. Swaney was crying when he and Cook returned downstairs. Cook reportedly told Swaney to undress, and Swaney complied, and Cook and Matzke then gagged him and tied him to a chair in the kitchen. Matzke said he told Cook that he would not witness or participate in Swaney's torture. Matzke then went into the living room and fell asleep in a chair. 
Cook later woke Matzke, who said he saw Swaney bound and gagged, sitting on the couch, crying. Cook told Matzke he had sodomized Swaney and that they had to kill him. Matzke said they tried to strangle Swaney with a sheet, but Matzke's end kept slipping out of his hands. Cook then reportedly stated "this one's mine," placed Swaney on the floor, and strangled him. He carried Swaney's body upstairs and put him in the closet with Cruz Ramos. 
The autopsy revealed that Swaney's anus was dilated and semen was present, although the identity of the donor could not be ascertained. Matzke's fingerprints were found on the knife used to cut Cruz Ramos' chest, but no identifiable fingerprints were found on the metal pipe or wooden stick. Cook's fingerprints were found on the chair to which Cruz Ramos had been tied, the closet door, and the stapler. His semen was found on the strips that had been torn from his bedsheets. There was no other physical evidence of Cook's participation. 
After Swaney's murder, Cook and Matzke fell asleep downstairs. Later in the day, Matzke went to work, but returned a few hours later after quitting his job at the restaurant. Late that evening, some friends came over to the apartment. Early in the morning of July 21, 1987, Matzke took one of the friends, Byron Watkins, outside of the apartment and told him about the murders. Watkins convinced Matzke to go to the police. 
When Cook was arrested and brought to the station, he was questioned by Detective David Eaton of the Lake Havasu City Police Department. According to Eaton, he advised Cook of his Miranda rights, then asked him how the two bodies found in the apartment had gotten there. Cook replied that "we got to partying; things got out of hand; now two people are dead." When asked how they died, Cook said "my roommate killed one and I killed the other."
Now, with the appellate court excerpt cleverly pasted into my post, I add my boilerplate conclusion.

I oppose the execution of people who might be factually innocent of the crime for which they are to die. I suspect that to prevent the execution of the factually innocent, we might have to ban the death penalty entirely.

I find no evidence that Daniel Wayne Cook did not participate in the kidnapping and torture that led to the deaths of Carlos Cruz Ramos and Kevin Swaney. Since I limit my efforts to people who are in all respects factually innocent, I stand mute with regard to the execution of Daniel Wayne Cook.

[Perhaps I'm still bummed about the execution of Eric King, who was likely innocent.]