“I am that little boy Ricky. I saw them killing my parents. I saw them” Richard Dean Pueschel told the court.

Reginald and Jerry Mahaffey were convicted of killing both his parents and attempting to kill eleven year old Ricky. They were sentenced to death, but Governor Ryan may commute their sentences, as well as more than a hundred other killers.

They were all tried. They were all convicted. A jury decided, based on the laws of Illinois and the severity of the crimes, that they should die. They went through the appeals process. The appeals failed. And now, they face the ultimate justice: the death penalty.

Wrong. Illinois Governor George Ryan is going to commute all the sentences on his way out of office. That’s right – every killer, no matter how brutal or sadistic, is going to be shown mercy. One man, the governor, who knows next to nothing about the individual cases and crimes committed, will commute all the sentences from death to life. Clemency used to be reserved for special cases; one or two cases that,for whatever reason, the governor overturns the jury’s verdict. But Governor Ryan has decided to use the clemency process to circumvent the death penalty laws, laws which he swore he would uphold when he took office.

It may be Ryan’s mercy, but you’re going to pay for it. Of course, some of the 142 death row inmates will probably escape, and maybe kill or rape again, as they’ve done before. But even if they stay in prison and serve out their life sentences, you’ll still pay. It costs something like $60,000 per year to incarcerate an inmate, more than most American workers make in a year. But that’s because, in the modern way of thinking, a murderer is worth more than honest worker. And taxpayers, not the death penalty foes, pay the tab.

Americans can no longer tell the difference between movies and real life, so when a movie star like Tom Hanks makes an anti-death penalty movie like The Green Mile, people think innocents are being executed by the score. But TV is not real life, and in most cases there is no serious doubt as to guilt when someone is sentenced to death. Of course, movie stars like Tom Hanks, who can afford bodyguards and security, don’t have to worry too much about real life; they’re insulated. But in the real world it’s much more likely that people like OJ ruthlessly stab others to death, and walk free, than that innocent people face a death sentence.

Now that Mr. Ryan is commuting all death sentences, the next bleeding heart governor can reduce the sentences; or better yet, just release the prisoners. After all, everyone, even those who rape and kill, deserves a second, or a third, or a fourth chance, right?

Cigarette makers are held responsible for smoker deaths; gun makers are held responsible for shooting deaths; fast food restaurants are held responsible for people getting fat; but real murderers? They’re not responsible for anything.

The good may die young, but, in this insane world, the bad never die.

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