Thursday, February 13, 2014


The "Machinery of Death" ground fitfully with starts and stops yesterday, finally achieving the goal is was built for: the death of an inmate on death row. 

5,562 days after Judge Marc Schumacher sentenced Juan Carlos Chavez to death,  the Machinery of Death executed its purpose last night in Starke, Florida. But not smoothly. It never goes smoothly. There were by our count, nine separate appeals in the State and Federal courts. At least three petitions in the last two weeks. The last petition to the Florida Supreme Court was denied on the day before Chavez was executed, the court concluding that Chavez was engaged in tactical maneuvering because he was  aware of the issues he raised before he raised them on the week of his execution. Simultaneously, Chavez's attorneys filed petitions with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta (which for all intents and purposes was shut down because of the winter storm striking the east coast) and the United States Supreme Court. 

As the appointed time for Chavez's execution came and went (6pm yesterday) Chavez remained in the death cell next to the death chamber; Jimmy Ryce's Father and Brother sat silently as witnesses in the empty death chamber, along with prosecutors, police detectives, and one juror who sat on the case. They must have been wondering whether this date with death would be delayed again? Would they have to leave, unfulfilled, as the man who caused them so much pain, "triumphed" one more time, using the justice to system to mock them just by staying alive?

Finally, about an hour later, the Supreme Court denied a stay. Chavez was strapped to a gurney, and drugs- the subject of his final appeals- started flowing into his body.  How ironic that the specific type and mix of drugs used to end a death row inmate's life have become the subject of such intense litigation throughout the nation. The issue confronting the courts: will the drugs painlessly kill the condemned? 

Think about this logic: the state wanted to kill Chavez for his unspeakably horrific acts.  But until they got to kill him their way- painlessly- they gave him health care better than most Americans get. If Chavez had tried to kill himself even an hour before his execution, they would have employed as much medical expertise and technology available to the State to save his life- so they could kill him their way,  on their time schedule. 

The Chavez case is a hard case to talk about. And it is hard to argue against the death penalty for a person who did what Chavez did. But experience has shown us that the use of one or two outlier cases to make public policy usually ends in disastrous and unintended consequences. Would it have been so bad if Chavez had just wasted his life away in his small cell, dying a little bit every day, forgotten by the world, left only to ponder his unspeakably  horrible criminal acts?

We ask questions we are not sure of the answers to. 
We only know this: the machinery of death will continue to creak along like an old rusted machine built a hundred years ago; starting fitfully, grinding into motion, doing was it was built to do, just not very efficiently, not very predictably. It's nothing to be proud of, but in the end it does what it was built to do. 

May Jimmy Ryce rest in peace and may his long suffering Father and Brother find some peace and some slight easing of the pain they have carried in their hearts since the day Jimmy was abducted, be eased, even if just a little. 

See You In Court. 


MC Waste Services, Inc said...

Why do we have appellate review if the accused are factually guilty? asks the defense bar as it silently watches Chavez's murder. We should save the tax payer's money and build better looking DMV offices.

Anonymous said...

He should have hired Grieco.

Anonymous said...

On Channel 10 last night Lorie Jennings made a comment that Chavez was "killed" at 8:15. She quickly corrected herself to say he was 'executed' and used the word executed 2-3 times in the next sentence.
She was right the first time. He was killed. The people of this State killed him.It might have been a legal killing, but he was killed nonetheless.
Perhaps we should start using the word kill more often when we refer to the death penalty. I think it has much more impact.

ex Blackjack Dealer said...

....and at the end of the day the world is a better place today than it was yesterday because this scumbag Chavez is no longer in it. May he rot in hell.

Anonymous said...

I too have issues with the death penalty but, this guy had it coming.

I think it's rather creepy that a prosecutor would watch the execution.

Anonymous said...

9:10 am: thanks for a good laugh.

Anonymous said...

Did the SAO pay for the ASA expenses to witness the execution, oops, killing? It is troubling to say the least that an ASA would want to watch him die. Very unprofessional, at least in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Crucial thoughts:
The problem with the death penalty is that is is not evenly applied. Chavez deserved to be "killed". Anyone who has a problem with Chavez being killed for the crime he did is mentally challenged. However, people have been killed for lessor murders. So where do you draw the line. This is what we need to fix rather then a total abolition of the death penalty. The feds should come in and set up committees which take this power away from the states to insure unniformity. This would solve the problems.

Anonymous said...

11:07 makes an intersting point.

But - shouldn't every prosecutor be required to do so?


The Captain Reports:

Michael Band attends execution....

It is my understanding that former ASA Michael Band attended the execution. Michael was the trial prosecutor on the case. Mr. Band has not been with the State Attorney's Office for many years.

So, as for the questions about why a prosecutor is attending an execution - he is not currently a prosecutor.

As for the last comment about the suggestion that maybe all prosecutors who handle death penalty cases should be required to attend an execution, we would be interested in seeing some of the readers feelings about that suggestion.

Cap Out ...

Anonymous said...

Please. I was a defense attorney for a long time and I have absolutely no problem with Chavez being put to death, "killed" or executed.... However you want to label it. In fact, I think we should resurrect the death penalty for the rape of a child. How about them apples???

Anonymous said...

5,562 days from sentence to execution was 5,561 days too many for Chavez.

Anonymous said...

As someone who opposes the death penalty, I think ASA's who handle death cases should be required to see one take place.
But, at the same point, I'm afraid that they will look at it from the point of view of the family of the victim and end up basing their views more on the emotions of the family members.
It's hard to look at a father and brother in a case like this and not feel that the right thing was done. But we shouldn't be basing laws on these 'easy' cases.

Anonymous said...

Execute Justice - not people


Anonymous said...

910 am:

Best comment.


Anonymous said...

I also believe that prosecutors should witness the executions. If they can't stomach the act, they shouldn't ask for it.

I also think it's noble that a prosecutor would respect the victim and support the victim's family by attending. I commend Michael for going. There's nothing creepy about his attending.


PS---Michael has practiced criminal defense for years.

Anonymous said...

I wonder: Does a Jewish prosecutor who labors on behave of the killing machinary of the Government ever mediate on the historical irony of that labor? Does he/she ever wonder why it is so freakishly applied and so frequently imposed on the 'lesser people' among us?
Just wondering!

Anonymous said...

I think we would be better to discuss the philosophy of the death penalty with another example. The idea is to win the debate, not to be pure in spirit.



Gov. Scott sets the record .....

Does anyone know whether Governor Scott is running for re-election this November?!!

Today, one day after Juan Carlos Chavez was executed, Scott signed yet another death warrant. This marks number 14 since he took office in January of 2011.

AND, In just the past ten months, he has signed ten of those warrants.

Election year justice?

Here is what Scott's Press Release said today in signing the Death Warrant for Robert Henry.

On November 2, 1987, Henry murdered Phyllis Harris and Janet Thermidor in Broward County by attacking them with a hammer and burning them to death. Henry, who worked at a fabric store with the victims, approached Ms. Harris and falsely claimed that the store was being robbed. Henry bound and blindfolded Ms. Harris and brought her to the men’s restroom, purportedly on the robbers’ instructions. Henry then went to the store office, struck Ms. Thermidor repeatedly with a hammer, and robbed the store of money. Henry shortly returned to the office, doused Ms. Thermidor with a flammable liquid, and set her on fire. Henry then went back to the men’s room, where he struck the bound and blindfolded Ms. Harris repeatedly with a hammer, doused her with the flammable liquid, and set her on fire as well. Ms. Harris died at the scene, and Ms. Thermidor died the following morning, with over 95 percent of her body burned.

The execution date has been set for Thursday, March 20, 2014, at 6 p.m.

CAP OUT .....


And speaking of the death penalty, I just spent the last four hours watching The Green Mile on AMC. How Michael Clarke Duncan didn't win the Oscar for Best Actor is unbelievable. I have watched that film a dozen times and it never gets old.

Cap Out ....

Anonymous said...

If we are going to have executions , they should be made public. if We, the State, are going to kill people; We should own it. --- there can never be Justice for Chavez's terrible acts. No punishment could ever be enough. So not just let him sit in a cell, it seems to me that would be the most civilized way to deal with people like him.--- there should by an agree button and a disagree button on this blog, like the like button on Facebook.

Anonymous said...

What good does it do us as a society to have someone like him sitting in a jail cell for the next 40 years?
Why should we have to provide him meals and healthcare?
If we feel there's no chance at rehabilitation, is it simply punitive in nature? If he is, as Rumpole says, left to ponder every day about his unspeakable acts, is that more cruel to him than death?
Do we let him live so we feel like we have a higher moral gound?
Assuming all the right safeguards were taken to make sure the def was guilty (big assumption in some cases) and afforded due process, why not have an execution? And why not make it public?

ASA 05 said...

Despite being a capital crimes prosecutor since 1989 I don't need to attend an execution wherein the murderer is painlessly put to sleep and then death. It's not because I couldn't stomache the observation of an execution,as I witnessed enough innocent members of society hurt, maimed and killed by the criminal element when I was a police officer for a number of years prior to becoming an ASA.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the prosecutor was a Game of Thrones fan (or, you know, a moral person).

“The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man's life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones