Monday, December 19, 2011

People v. Eubanks (Cal. Supreme Ct. - Dec. 19, 2011)

It's always difficult to figure out who should live and who should die.  I imagine that even God finds the issue not all that easy, so we might rightly expect far-more-imperfect humans to do even worse at this task.

Take this case, for example.  Eubanks murdered multiple people.  There's a big strike in favor of the death penalty, right?  Eubanks is a woman.  Her first name is Susan. Which way (if any) does that cut?

The four people she murdered were her children, ages 14, seven, six and four.  Again:  Which way do those facts cut?  For or against killing her?

After she kills her children, she shoots herself as well.  Doesn't die, though.  Hence the issue.  Should we finish the job?  Does that realization -- that she thinks she deserve to die for what she did, and can't live with it -- mean we should be more or less willing to kill her?

She's clearly troubled.  Obviously.  No one kills their four children who's not.  I need not go into the exhaustive details, but suffice it to say that her past is not good.  At all.  She's got no criminal history whatsoever.  So that cuts against killing her, right?  And there's no real chance she's going to kill in prison, agreed?  Those facts surely cut against the death penalty.  Do we nonetheless off her?

Maybe we can gain insight into her mental state by looking at the numerous notes she leaves for others and she kills her children.  One was to her husband, who was the father of some (but not all) of the children she killed.  It read:  "You betrayed me. You kept a diary, and you and Rene Dodson conspired against me. . . . I've lost everyone I've ever loved. Now it's time for you to do the same."  Adding that he could use any money from her worker's disability case to "bury the kids and find your rainbow. Anna May, I'm sure."  That does not make Eubanks very sympathetic.  But she writes to the father of Brandon, one of the children she killed:  "I know you‟ll hate me forever, but I can't let [Brandon] live without his brothers, so I did what I did," adding that she'd been "strong for 25 years, and I'm tired of all the fight and hurt."  She writes to her niece and sister that "I know what I'm doing is going to hurt you tremendously, but I can't and have no desire to go on," and asks to be buried in the same casket as her four-year old child, Matthew, who was one of the victims.  How do those notes cut?  For or against death?

We choose a sample of the population who feels like showing up for jury duty, death-qualify them, allow both sides numerous peremptory challenges, and let both sides argue.  Then those twelve people decides who lives and who dies.

The jury decides that Susan Eubanks should die.  And the California Supreme Court unanimously affirms.