Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Impending Execution of Thomas West

Thomas Paul West sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Arizona on Tuesday, 19 July 2011.

Thomas West admits he killed Donald Bortle while burglarizing Bortle's home. The appellate court summaries are unnecessarily long, and I'll quote instead from the AP story I found at AZcentral.com. The story discusses West's appeal to the clemency board.
In West's petition to the board, defense attorney Dale Baich wrote that West does not deny killing Bortle and is extremely remorseful. He said West's father was verbally and physically abusive and that West was sexually abused by a teacher, a neighbor and a priest at various times in his childhood.
He said West also was recently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder because of his past.
"These sexual predators forever scarred and changed him as a human being," Baich wrote. "Tom offers these facts not to excuse his crime, but to provide an explanation that puts his actions into context."
Prosecutors have said in court filings that West's past abuse "was irrelevant to the circumstances of the murder."
"West murdered Bortle in order to complete his burglary of Bortle's home," prosecutor Jonathan Bass wrote. "He severely beat Bortle's face with a blunt instrument, bound his hands and feet with a vacuum cleaner cord and lamp wire, and threw him in a closet, where he bled to death."
West reported having a vague memory of the crime, and said he "freaked out" when he saw Bortle appear in a hallway as he was robbing his home.
"I can't believe I did this, but I know I did," West said in March. "He did nothing to deserve this."
I don't doubt that West is guilty of the crime for which he is to die. I will therefore stand mute regarding the propriety of the death penalty in his case.

I will admit, however, that this one bothers me a bit more than usual. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's because he seems sincerely remorseful. Perhaps it's because his crime, vile as it was, was not the worst of the worst. I can't quite put my finger on it.

It's not the first time I've had this feeling. A year ago I wrote extensively of An Unexpected Touch of Sympathy for Ronnie Lee Gardner.

I need to keep reminding myself to conserve my time and energy for those who are factually innocent.

Still ...