Because the Guy We Want To Kill Can't Be Found

Kenneth Smith, you'll recall if you read this post from a month ago, has had his larynx removed due to cancer since he was put on death row in Ohio. He speaks now through an artificial voice box. When they kill him in a couple of weeks, they plan to leave one arm free (usually they strap both down) so that he'll be able to use that voice box to say his last words. I don't know what those words will be, though some reporter will likely either quote or summarize them. I do know what he told the parole board though, when they interviewed him by videoconference. I know because they told us in the report they issued on Friday. The applicant told the Board that he was truly sorry for his crimes and that he takes full responsibility for his actions that led to the deaths of Lewis and Ruth Ray. The applicant stated he is asking for clemency for his family, his kids and his church because his life has meaning to them. He is requesting clemency in the form of a commutation to life without parole. The applicant explained that he has two children, a son and a daughter, and one grandchild. He related that he has become a better person in the last 16 years, has stayed out of trouble, and has joined the Catholic Church where he is an active member. The Parole Board's response, and this time I'm paraphrasing from their report, was a unanimous Big whoop. Who gives a shit? Smith was 30 when he was sent to death row. He's 45 now. He had a substantial criminal history before he committed the crimes that sent him to the row. In the 15 plus years that he's been there, the Board report indicates, he has never been placed in Disciplinary Control nor has he been cited with any conduct reports. Without going back and reading all the prior clemency reports, I think it's likely that he's the first they've said that about. Big whoop. Who gives a shit? Smith's siblings and children told the Board that he's important to them, that he helps them. Big whoop. Who gives a shit? His priest talked of his conversion and his spiritual growth. During their time together, the applicant was baptized and confirmed in the Catholic faith. He became very involved in the weekly masses and has become very spiritual. Father Borgia stated that when the applicant prays, he prays for forgiveness, for his wife Brenda who is deceased, for his victims and his victims' families. Father Borgia stated that the applicant is not the same person he was 16 years ago. One more time. Big whoop. Who gives a shit? Really, I shouldn't do that. All that "Big whoop. Who gives a shit?" makes the Board sound callous, like they're dealing with something they might refer to as "the applicant" rather than a real, individual person with, you know, a name. (Uh, Gamso, pay attention. They do refer to him as "the applicant.") It's not the Board that's callous though. They're just doing their job figuring out that all the stuff that makes Kenneth Smith worthy of life isn't really worth much at all because it doesn't outweigh the nature and seriousness of the offense. Which isn't too surprising since from the Board's perspective only actual innocence can really outweigh those things. That's the Board though. More interesting is what Butler County prosecutor Michael Gmoser told the Board. While the applicant's family has provided testimony regarding the man he has become, this case is not about the man he is now; it is about the man he was at the time of the offense and the facts of that offense. The progress he has made while in prison should not be relevant in considering a clemency application. Gee, what should then? A couple of weeks ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Tapia v. United States that it's improper to consider rehabilitating someone when imposing a federal prison sentence. Gmoser takes that several steps further. OK, maybe I'm being a shade too glib. But Gmoser's position is worthy of a glib response. It doesn't matter who Smith is now, he says. We should kill him for who he was. He doesn't add that it's a shame the Smith of today has to die in order to kill the Smith of 1995. Collateral damage. Friendly fire. Something. Maybe he doesn't think it's a shame. Sure we're killing this guy. So what? It's the best we can do since the guy we wanted to kill, the guy who deserved killing isn't around any more. This guy? Different fellow? Big Whoop. Who gives a shit? Smith Clemency Report //

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