Florida executes child killer; Texas to execute rapist/killer


Justice can be an extremely slow process in the United States, but 31 years after his conviction, it finally caught up with Larry Mann.

Larry Mann


In August 1978, 13-year-old Genette Tate disappeared off the face of the Earth leaving behind only her bicycle. Her body has never been found, and her killer has never been indicted for the crime. Two years later on the other side of the Atlantic, a girl’s bicycle was found in similar circumstances, but the body of ten year old Elisa Nelson was found the following day, and her killer was brought to book. The victim had been battered about the head, and her throat was cut.

It may have taken three decades, but finally, after a trial in which he was convicted and sentenced to death followed by another sentencing hearing, which affirmed the death sentence, and after decades of appeals, Mann and his lawyers found all the loopholes closed, all the special pleading and frivolous arguments exhausted, and he was executed by lethal injection at Florida State Prison near Tampa.

Although Mann failed to testify at his trial, he had a lot to say afterwards, including that old useless lawyer gambit as played by the likes of Linda Carty. Many of his claims for relief were procedurally barred, but he made them anyway.

Mann was on parole at the time he murdered Elisa, and is believed to have been responsible for other murders in Mississippi.

Next up for execution in the US could be Rickey Lynn Lewis. Lewis was convicted in 1994 of both murder and rape. In September 1990, he was a member of a three man gang that broke into the home of George Norman and his fiancée, Connie Hilton. After shooting Mr Norman dead and killing his dog, Lewis raped Miss Hilton. He was arrested three days later, but his accomplices were never caught.

You can read a bit about what happened to the survivor of this crime here.

Like Mann, Lewis was afforded a second hearing that returned the same sentence: death, and like Mann, he has tried to wriggle out of his execution, this time by claiming he is mentally retarded, as if retards deserved special treatment. As things stand, he will die, hopefully, next Tuesday.

While every accused killer should receive due process, it is nothing less than scandalous that it should take two or even three decades to execute a man convicted of an heinous crime on compelling evidence. This is also an enormous waste of both taxpayers’ money and resources. The vast majority of men and women convicted and processed by the courts are not lost causes, and clearly it would make better sense as well as better justice to concentrate this money and these resources on those who can be rehabilitated.

Earlier this year, the British Government announced a scheme to rehabilitate low risk and petty offenders. The US would do better to emulate this, and to find some way to end this gross abuse of the appeals process, perhaps by limiting the funding of appeals in capital cases to two bites of the cherry, certainly where the only issue is the sentence or the state of mind of the perpetrator.

[The above op-ed was first published April 11, 2013.]

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