This week Gregory Powell was denied parole for the twelfth time by the California Board of Prisons, for the kidnapping and execution style murder of Los Angeles police officer Ian Campbell during a traffic stop in Hollywood 47 years ago. The case was made famous in Joseph Wambaugh’s bestselling book The Onion Field and the movie by the same name.

Powell and co-defendant Jimmy Lee Smith were originally sentenced to death for the crime, but their sentences were commuted to life in prison after the death penalty was outlawed in the 1970s. When the death penalty was reinstated, their commutations to life stood. Jimmy Lee Smith died in prison in 2007.

So what does life in prison really mean? In most states, the minimum time a convict must serve before they can apply for parole is 10-25 years, unless the sentence is life without parole.

I think that’s ridiculous! Powell and Smith both should have been executed, as their original sentences called for. Failing that, a sentence of life in prison should indeed mean life. The policeman Gregory Powell murdered in cold blood is still dead. His family still grieves for him. Why the hell should the animal that killed him ever be allowed to be free? Time does not heal all wounds.

I am a firm believer in capital punishment. I believe that once a person is sentenced to death there should be a speedy appeals process, and then the sentence should be carried out. I do not believe in second chances for crimes like murder, rape, and child abuse.

Yes, I know that there have been people convicted of crimes that were later proven innocent. Compared to the overall prison population, those numbers are miniscule. Of course, that doesn’t help if you are one of the rare innocent persons convicted of a crime.

But, I also know there are thousands of sociopaths behind bars who should never be set loose on society again, and I do not believe that we should pay to keep them forever. But, if we are going to sentence them to life in prison, make it life and do not hold parole hearings for them!

I do have a very personal reason for my feelings on this issue. When I was sixteen years old, my older brother was robbed and murdered in front of his wife and children. The thug who killed him was my age, and he was sent to a reformatory until he was eighteen. He served less than two years for a crime that destroyed my family! He was released and was only out a short time before being arrested again, this time for stabbing somebody, who survived the attack. But soon after he was released for that crime, the same psychopath murdered his own mother! What good does keeping an animal like that alive do for anybody?

We need to enforce the laws we have. A death sentence should be just that, death. And life in prison should be until the day a convicted person dies.

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20 Comments on So What Does Life Really Mean?

  1. Boy, you picked a tough one this time. I agree with the death penalty for multiple offenders and those cases where there is irrefutable evidence.

    That said however, one innocent man executed is one to many. I was just reading the other day that there in no jurisdiction in the US that has ever admitted executing a person later proven innocent.

    It is coming close though in Texas in the case of the man who was executed for murdering his two children in an arson fire. Later evidence has proven beyond much doubt that his story was true and the evidence of arson has been scientifically dis-proven. He was convicted on the testimony of “experts” who turned out to be wrong.

    There are no “do overs” so we have to very careful about when and where we apply the ultimate penalty.

  2. Oh yeah, I forgot to add that I agree – life in prison should mean just that. No parole ever!

  3. Karen says:

    Another thing I have a hard time understanding is the insanity defense when it comes to murder, because I think you have to be insane to kill someone. Being crazy shouldn’t be a defense for anything.

  4. Redbear says:

    This is a real tough issue. I can see both sides of this.

    As long as there are some DAs who measure performance by their “conviction rate,” and cops who are supervised for “activity” and the percentage of cases closed by arrest and conviction, and lawyers who think of win/lose instead of right/wrong, the false conviction rate may be higher than we think. And we still hear of an occasional case where evidence was planted at a crime scene in order to erase any doubt about an investigator’s theory.

    On the other hand, there is the “out of sight, out of mind” attitude of most people. They just want to get criminals “off the streets.” Guess what, they are still a danger to society behind bars. The nuts who will kill a cop on the street will also kill or maim a corrections officer on the inside, and have nothing but time to find the right moment. And what about raping or killing your little Johnny, who has to serve two years, because all some politicians can do to appear to “get tough on” [name behavior] is to pass [name victim]’s law that makes everything under the sun a felony.

    One anti-death penalty argument I read was that it costs taxpayers less money to keep a murderer locked up than to prosecute all the appeals prior to execution. What? Please! Are they saying if you are going to accidentally lock up the wrong person and throw away the key, it’s OK to deny them appeals? We will only open the courts to allow the wrongly convicted to appeal if they are going to die?

    A different phenomenon that I really can’t figure out is that it appears many of those who speak out against the death penalty are also pro-choice. I can’t comprehend how anyone who could approve of casually ending an inconvenient life that has not yet proven itself, could at the same time fight to save those who have proven themselves unworthy of breathing our air. I’m not denying there are arguments made for each issue, but I honestly don’t understand how both positions can fit into the same brain.

    In the end, I guess I would agree with Bad Nick. If the argument against capital punishment is that the legal system is rigged, slanted to one side, or unfair, then let’s fix the system. I think that would be better than letting bad guys walk because of the possible doubt that some DA or investigator rigged some evidence in order to look good to the public.

  5. Dale Pace says:

    I agree with you Nick. But another point that I disagree with is when a felon is caught on tape committing a crime and he is allowed to plead NOT GUILTY. If we see them doing it on tape and there is no doubt as to their committing the crime. . . they should have to plead guilty.


  6. Rex says:

    I agree, carry out the sentence immediately. For those sentenced to long prison terms, 10 years or longer, I think they should be placed in medical experimentation programs. I do not mean torture. Giving the scientist a population they can control and observe might help find cures for some of the illnesses these prisoners have as well as the rest of the worlds population. In the event, we accidentally kill one of them, tough, they were probably going to die in prison anyway and if we have made them a vegetable, keep experimenting. In the event say at least 25 years if the prisoner is capable of functioning in society turn him lose for he has paid his debt. If he can not function in society, keep him and keep experimenting. Who knows, maybe a shot of Clorox will eliminate the common cold or AIDS.

    As the cost of keeping habitual criminals or those sentenced to life continues to escalate, I do not think society can continue to foot the bill. Society must get a return on its investment or eliminate the loss.

  7. concerned in Texas says:

    How about going back to the French prison concept of “Devil’s Island?”
    Murders, rapists and child molesters and those sentenced to life would be placed on this island with a bottle of water and the clothes on their backs.

    Oh, I can hear the bleeding heart liberals now.

  8. Bill Auld says:

    Gee Rex, your post sounds like the national socialist doctrine of the 1930’s and 40’s in Germany. Come on we are better then that.

  9. Ken Harris says:

    I have absolutely no problem with swift and sure justice. If they are convicted by a jury of their peers, carry out the sentence. Appeals should be limited to errors committed during the first trial. Then, do the deed. The population in our prisions is rapidly becoming a drain on society. Let the libs complain and carp, but carry out the sentence.

  10. Bill Auld says:

    Why do people pigeon hole a person or group bleeding heart liberals or narrow minded bigots just because he or she does not agree with your point of view. Just agree to disagree.

  11. Cal Hall says:

    I’m with you on this one. In fact I sometimes think the Saudis have the right slant on crime. They hold public executions. If you are convicted of stealing they lop off a hand. For murder they behead you. They have very little crime.

  12. Dave B. says:

    I was a correction officer and worked in a correction facility where quite regularly probation and parole officers came to talk with their inmates assigned to them. It was really something to see how these inmates could con their parole officers into thinking they had changed and should be released on parole. They actually would tell each other what to say and what phrases to use that would work. Often they would be escorted back to their cells laughing and commenting about the con job they just pulled off. As guards we were taught that there was no longer anything called “rehabilitation”. Every time an inmate was thought to be rehabilitated, he would just commit more crimes and be back again. An inmate changed only with maturity and age. As they got older, they seemed to change their lifestyle of crime and settle down. In most cases.

  13. Elaine says:

    I agree 100% with you,these criminals that are sentenced to death should have 1 appeal and then killed. They did not give their victims a choice or chance to argue not to be killed. I heard it cost almost a million dollars a year to keep a person on death row with all their appeals. They complain about over crowded prison systems well eliminate and it would decrease the population. I have worked with the forensic mentally incompetent and it is a joke for most of them know how to play the system, on the bright side most can not keep up their little act 24/7 and when this happens they are returned to a regular prison. I have no sympathy for any of these creeps.

  14. Jay says:

    I have been told I’m a Liberal because how I vote but I have strong feelings for those who protect and serve. If they are harmed I am of the thought that that person should get the same dose of retribution.

  15. I’m in the same boat as Nick on this one, as far as being a little prejudice on this issue, since I spent 25 years with the Detroit Police Department and attended over 50 funerals for fellow Officers, 41 of which died from gunshots. Ten of these were casual friends that I had met while working various assignments but 4 of them were close friends, Officers from my precinct house who I worked with, spent 8 hours in the Scout car with, ate breakfast with and knew there spouse’s and kids, so I tend to lean towards capitol punishment. Many of the subjects convicted of these crimes and sentenced to life were back out on the streets with in 14 years and a lot of them within 7 years. That’s the biggest crime.

    If a person is convicted because of DNA evidence then I feel that they should be put on the fast track for execution, Give them three years to file all their appeals and mandate that the courts must accommodate them and hear these appeals within that period. States that do not have the death penalty, or if the conviction is not base on DNA (or there isn’t a video of the crime) then they should be given a living death sentence. This sentence should be where they are kept in solitary confinement, an 8×8 cell, no TV, no books,no computers, no nothing. They have no contact with another human being except for the guards that feed them, take them to their shower twice a week (with out speaking) and medical treatment, also with their attorneys once every three months when appeals are being filed.

    As far as the Cops, DA’s and such fabricating evidence to get a wrongly charged person convicted, this happens in books,TV and the movies all the time but in real life it’s a rarity. I’ve seen cops fudge the evidence, but then it has to get past the team of Detectives assigned to the case, then it has to get past their supervisor who has to approve it, then it has to get past the DA who is going to prosecute the case, then the Judge that signs the arrest warrant. Then it goes to Exam and has to get past the Defense attorney and the Exam Judge who is a different one the the one that signed the warrant and finally the trial Judge along with 12 jurist. Everyone of these people that it has to get past are trained educated professionals who have their job, family and reputation to think about. As I mentioned earlier, that I did see times were they tried to fudge the evidence, none of them succeeded, a few were fired, one went to jail himself and the ones that managed to convince people that is was an honest or stupid mistakes on their part were suspended and sent for retraining. It may have taken place back in the OLD days but in modern times it just doesn’t happen.

    I’ll end with a Dennis Miller quote “But then again I could be wrong”

  16. Bill Auld says:

    You are more right then wrong.

  17. Bob says:

    I think it should be up to the family to decide what they want done to the wrong do’ers!!! (makes my imagination run!)

  18. John Corbett says:

    Yea it’s a crying shame for these bastards to seat in jail and have three damn meals given to them every day, a hot shower and sometimes cable TV. So people like me can bust there butt and work to provide a living for these doosh bags. The whole system should be like it is in mexico. If you go to jail in Mexico your family brings you food. If they don’t then you don’t eat. I like that system much better. Sorry to hear about your brother Nick. My uncle was brutally murdered when I was a kid. Your never the same.

  19. Redbear says:

    “As far as the Cops, DA’s and such fabricating evidence to get a wrongly charged person convicted, this happens in books,TV and the movies all the time but in real life it’s a rarity.”

    True, but it does happen. An investigator from a department about 150 miles from here was recently fired after it was learned he brought a piece of evidence to a crime scene in order to implicate a perp’s mother for aiding and abetting. I don’t remember all the details, I think the crime was a murder/arson. The perp was dead, but I also don’t remember if the death was self-inflicted or not. The mother was convicted of abetting and later cleared when the truth came out. The investigator’s supervisor was also sanctioned for allowing this to happen. It’s probably a one out of 20,000 instance, but it’s not fiction.

  20. don says:

    One of the things that really gets me is that we pride ourselves in the US about giving someone a speedy trial with a jury of our peers. The reality is that it can take years for someone to go to trial. It makes no sense legally but the lawyers (who own Congress and the state legislatures) can make more money if the process is longer. So they stretch things out. And, of course, that’s true of the whole appeal process as well. Bah, humbug!

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