Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Travesty Of Justice...

In February of 2013, Jessie Con-Ui murdered a federal correctional officer in cold blood by stabbing him at least 200 times. Officer Eric Williams never had a chance. It is reported that Con-Ui broke his homemade knife in the middle of the attack, retrieved another one and continued stabbing Officer Williams.

Last week Con-Ui was convicted in federal court of First Degree Murder. The jury was tasked with deciding whether Con-Ui's sentence would be the death penalty or life in prison. Con-Ui was already serving a life sentence for murder. Any sensible person should understand that sentencing a murderer to prison for life does not automatically prevent that person from killing again.

Inmates cannot be routinely isolated and/or prevented from being in general population with other inmates. Weapons can be made from nearly anything, including plastic wrap, paper, a plastic spoon handle, even a pencil or ball point pen.

After deliberating for 5 hours the jury returned and recommended a sentence of life in prison for Con-Ui. He will serve at least the first three years in isolation at the Administrative Maximum Security prison in Florence, Colorado. But after three years of good behavior he will automatically be reviewed for return to general population. Only severe and documented circumstances will allow him to be kept there indefinitely. Killing a staff member may be enough – or it may not.

After the sentencing was completed one juror spoke out about the decision. He said that eleven of the jurors voted for the death penalty while one, the jury foreman, was against it. For the death penalty to be imposed the jury must vote unanimously for it. The lone juror held out and the jury had to recommend a life sentence.

Federal law allows for the death penalty for the murder of a federal law enforcement officer. It has been applied in the past and has been carried out. If anyone deserved the death penalty it was Con-Ui, a double murderer who will one day have the chance to kill again. Yet one juror could not allow herself to approve it.

As it turns out, that lone juror has a son who is serving time behind bars. She could not vote for the death penalty because she would not want that to happen to her son. But what if her son was the correctional officer? Of what if her son was murdered by another inmate while serving time? Would she feel the same way?

This woman essentially gave Con-Ui a slap on the hand for murdering Eric Williams. He lost nothing, with the exception of his period of isolation that may or may not be permanent.

Officer Williams' family and friends are devastated. Correctional workers around the country are dismayed and angry, saying that this sentence opens up the field for more violence against correctional staff. If an inmate is confident he won't receive the death penalty for murdering a staff member (or another inmate) that increases the possibilities of it happening.

If Jessie Con-Ui ever kills again while in prison it will fall directly on that one juror who just couldn't make herself vote the right way.

It will also fall on the Assistant U.S. Attorney who either failed to discover that the woman had a son doing time or discounted it as unimportant. Inmate families as a rule feel differently about things like this than people who are not acquainted with the correctional system.

There was no justice for Eric Williams this week. His murderer went without punishment and his legacy will be that of being denied just punishment for his killer. At least his fellow staff members will remember him always. That's how it works. We remember and mourn him as our brother in arms. Because that's what he was.

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