Ray Allen, who is scheduled for execution at San Quentin State
Prison on Tuesday, is living proof that a convicted killer can
snuff out the lives of innocent people from behind bars. In 1977,
Allen began serving a life sentence for the murder of his son's
17-year-old girlfriend -- her punishment for confessing to a victim
robbed by the Allen gang. Allen then concocted a scheme he thought
would set him free -- file an appeal, kill the witnesses and walk
after a retrial with no witnesses to testify against him.
end, Allen provided fellow inmate Billy Ray Hamilton with a list
of eight names of witnesses before Hamilton was paroled. In 1980,
Hamilton murdered Bryon Schletewitz, 27, an Allen witness, along
with two innocent teenagers (Josephine Rocha and Douglas White)
who worked at the Schletewitz family store, which the Allen gang
had robbed. Authorities later found the list of Allen witnesses
and letters Allen sent to a son about his plan.
Allen and Hamilton to death, and issued life sentences for two
accomplices. "Given the nature of Allen's crimes," Ninth
Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote in a ruling
that denied an Allen appeal, "sentencing him to another life
term would achieve none of the traditional purposes underlying
punishment: incapacitation, deterrence, retribution or rehabilitation."
executing a frail old man? Allen is an old man today because he
was no kid -- he was 50 -- when he ordered the murder of eight
witnesses. Then he gamed the legal system so successfully that
he bought himself more than two decades on Death Row. Now he's
using his cynical use of the system as a reason to put off the
he's innocent? It doesn't help Allen supporters that this week
DNA tests conducted to exonerate rapist-murderer Roger K. Coleman
of Virginia -- who proclaimed "An innocent man is being murdered
tonight" before his execution 13 years ago -- proved that
Coleman was indeed guilty.
of Death Penalty Focus believes that it is wrong to assume Allen
is guilty because, as he wrote to me, "given all the questions
raised about the reliability of snitch testimony in this and many
other cases, it would simply be prudent to question the verdicts
in such cases; especially life-and-death cases."
agree. Juries can make mistakes -- that is why appellate courts
should and do review capital cases. Allen had that benefit, and
he faces execution because the evidence against him was overwhelming.
Hamilton's list targeted witnesses who testified against Allen.
Allen wrote letters about the crimes "in very, very transparent
code," noted state Deputy Attorney General Ward Campbell.
As for the
"snitch testimony": Why do death-penalty opponents embrace
the lingo of killers? In Allen's case, Death Penalty Focus lists
"two crucial witnesses at trial" who received "substantial
benefits for their testimony." But those two -- among 58
witnesses -- were minor players. The two accomplices are serving
life sentences, so they didn't get an undue break.
Allen's claims of innocence is to choose to believe a man who
boasted to his minions that he liked to kill "rats"
and hence ordered the death of a teenage girl because she had
a conscience. When in prison for that murder, he attempted to
evade punishment by killing more people.
Allen is to choose blindness. Why not declare a moratorium on
the death penalty so that a commission can explore it? There already
is a moratorium -- it's called the appeals process. When it takes
more than two decades to carry out a sentence, a moratorium is
if executing "the lapse of many years after imposition of
a death judgment renders an execution cruel and unusual"
-- as Allen's lawyers argue -- then a moratorium is cruel punishment.
Hence, good people should oppose it.