Friday, August 06, 2004

In the "So What?" Department

Today's blares this headline: Alabama Executes 74-Year-Old Man
(subhed: Infirm Convict's Death Spurs Debate on Age, Appeals Process)

Then we read that
J.B. Hubbard's failing body kept him lying in bed -- a bunk on Alabama's death row -- most of the last days of his life. Other inmates say they walked his wobbly frame to the showers and listened to him complain about the pain: the cancer in his colon and prostate, the hypertension, the aching back. They combed his hair because he couldn't. They washed him.

When spasms of dementia made him forget who he was -- what he was -- they told him: a 74-year-old, small-town Alabama man gone bad, a twice-convicted murderer, the oldest inmate on "the row." He left them behind, these most unlikely of caretakers, one month ago and was transported south to a drab, gray prison set back in the cotton fields of lower Alabama. As the sun was tipping toward the horizon, Hubbard was put to death there Thursday, becoming the oldest inmate executed in the United States in more than six decades.
Oh, but wait:
Hubbard's attorneys had argued that his execution for the 1977 killing of Lillian Montgomery, the 62-year-old owner of a Tuscaloosa general store, would be an act of "cruel and unusual" punishment and an indefensible stroke of public vengeance against a man they said had a low IQ to go along with a host of ailments, including hepatitis and emphysema.

"An old, frail man isn't dangerous," said Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer with the advocacy group Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, who had consulted with Hubbard.

But prosecutors said long-overdue justice was being done and railed against a court system that took 27 years to execute a two-time killer.
See, Hibbard was 47 years old when he killed Lillian Montgomery. And he wasn't too frail to kill her.

Hibbard should have been executed no more than 26 years ago, soon after his heinous crime and while he was well enough to fully appreciate the justice of his execution. The problem isn't that Hibbard was too old and ill to be executed. The problem is that it took so long to happen.