Monday, August 29, 2005

This is the one, Governor

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette over the weekend published the following editorial regarding the pending execution of Arthur Baird, who is severely mentally ill. Baird is scheduled for execution early Wednesday in Indiana:

Clemency for Baird

This is the one, governor.

It's been an unprecedented year for Indiana executions - 5 since Gov. Mitch Daniels took office in January. He has expressed his concern about the death penalty. But if Daniels didnt think there was sufficient reasons to stop the previous four executions, surely the sentence involving a man whom a well-respected Indiana University psychiatrist deemed "grossly psychotic and delusional" is the one that most demands clemency. Commuting his sentence to life in prison without parole would be a merciful act.

Arthur Baird II, 59, of Darlington, is scheduled to die Wednesday for the 1985 murders of his parents, Arthur and Kathryn Baird. He was also sentenced to 60 years in prison for killing his pregnant wife, Nadine. The Indiana Parole Board voted 3-1 Wednesday to deny clemency, but Daniels doesnt have to abide by its ruling.

Baird is mentally ill, incapable of preparing to die. Indiana gains nothing from his death.

Dr. Philip Coons, a professor emeritus at Indiana University School of Medicine specializing in post-traumatic stress disorders, terms Bairds murderous eruption "the perfect storm."

Baird, Coons said, had been sexually molested as a child and developed mental illnesses that included delusions and obsessive-compulsive disorder. At the time of the murders, he was under stress, heard voices and felt possessed.

Police said Baird confessed, telling them he'd gone "berserk." He also said he was going to get $1 million from the federal government for solving the national debt. He was in debt himself and had been laid off from a factory job.

Coons' analysis gives us a reason for Bairds horrific actions, but it does not excuse the crime. No, Coons' analysis should lead Hoosiers to one question: What is the value in putting a mentally ill man to death?

Even the "justice for the family" defense often used by death penalty supporters doesn't work here. LaQuita Anglin, Nadine Bairds sister, said Bairds parents would not want him to die. Neither would she. "He is no harm to anyone in prison," she told the board.

Daniels should also consider the words of Robert Elmore, a juror who voted to convict Baird: "I think if there had been life without parole," he told the board, "I think we would have chosen that." The state did not offer that sentence until 1994, several years after Baird's trial.

So, a noted professor, a family member and a juror have compelling reasons why they think Baird deserves life in prison rather than death.

This is the one, governor.

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