Earl Berry Executed - 6 p.m. | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Earl Berry Executed - 6 p.m.

Earl Berry seems to have exhausted his appeals, and is set to be killed by the state of Mississippi today. He is on death row for abducting and beating Mary Bounds to death in 1987. His attorneys argue that he is mentally disabled, making him exempt from the death penalty. They also argue that Mississippi's lethal injection method is not the same as Kentucky's, which the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled was not cruel or unusual punishment.

Previous Comments

ID
130078
Comment

Looks like it's over for Berry. Hopefully, he got the Almighty's forgiveness.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-05-21T09:02:24-06:00
ID
130082
Comment

Now that his appeals are exhausted, send him on his way.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2008-05-21T09:32:36-06:00
ID
130083
Comment

Parch-man ought to be trying to live down its reputation instead of trying to live up to it. I can't wait to see if the victims will claim to feel better or to have found closure after his death. It seems to me that if the death of someone is supposed to make you feel better, give you closure or relief and so on, you should yourself extract the revenge yourself. Doing it yourself ought to be the ultimate relief or revenge or closure. Few do this because they think it's wrong or are too cowarly to kill or face the resulting charges.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-05-21T10:19:08-06:00
ID
130096
Comment

Clear as mud, Walt. He knew the law, and choose to murder anyway.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2008-05-21T16:52:51-06:00
ID
130097
Comment

Iron, What are you talking about? What part of "he is mentally disabled" are you having a problem understanding?

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2008-05-21T17:24:33-06:00
ID
130098
Comment

Doesn't matter for him now. It's done.

Author
Lady Havoc
Date
2008-05-21T17:25:54-06:00
ID
130112
Comment

Ronni: Is there actual proof he was "mentally retarded"? Do you expect him to suddenly get a free pass for the murder then? But like they say, it's a moot point now.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2008-05-22T10:54:11-06:00
ID
130115
Comment

Do you expect him to suddenly get a free pass for the murder then? Iron, that's an ignorant question. No one is saying that mentally retarded people should get a "free" pass for crime--even if you could remotely call spending time--or a lifetime--behind bars "free." The U.S. Supreme Court declared that the execution of mentally impaired people is unconstitutional on June 20, 2002. Berry's attorneys have stated emphatically that he is mentally retarded; however, because of the rules of evidence (his mental state was not brought up in the original trial), facts to support their allegation have not been heard. Is there proof that Berry was retarded? I can't answer that any more than you can prove he wasn't. The fact remains that Mississippi has put a human being to death. Put whatever spin you want on it, killing, whether legally sactified or not, is barbaric. There's right and then there's wrong. Killing, in my book, is wrong.

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2008-05-22T11:47:14-06:00
ID
130116
Comment

I know all the lawyers who worked on the case. If proof of mental retardation didn't exist they wouldn't have argued it. The courts require proof not mere opinions.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-05-22T11:57:12-06:00
ID
130139
Comment

Which is actually what I was asking for, Ronni. Proof. It didn't show up until the last second, "but wait, this guys reee-tard-ed!" stage. Can I prove he's not? Sure. He knew well enough to lure his victim someplace quiet, and then kill them. As for the death penalty, that's not this argument.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2008-05-22T16:12:09-06:00
ID
130140
Comment

Retarded people aren't totally dumb or incapable of doing many things common folks can. There is a scientific or psychological definition of mental retardation and a psychologists based on testing and adaptive functioning can declare it. Many mentaly retarded people are very skillful at hiding it due to shame concerning it. There is a whole body of work available that deals with this issue. It is not a simple matter that just any one can declare, find or understand. Even psychologists often disagree about whether or not it exist. Oftentimes there are different psychologists or psychiatrists on both sides making different diagnoses based on the same data.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-05-22T16:24:56-06:00
ID
130149
Comment

If a person feels that the death penalty is wrong because it's killing -- then, no matter if the criminal is mentally challenged (the word retarded bothers me)or not, they won't see a justification. Even if the person isn't or wasn't mentally challenged (which I am not convinced at all that Berry was)there would still be no justification - if the person is against the death penalty. As Ronni stated, whether legal or not, it's killing and there is no justification - if you're against the death penalty. No ifs ands or buts, no excuses, no justifcation, no exceptions....just-- it's wrong.

Author
Queen601
Date
2008-05-23T09:12:47-06:00
ID
130163
Comment

Iron, That isn't proof of anything. The ability to lure and kill exists throughout the animal kingdom, in brains as small as a fish. Since neither of us are psychologists or psychiatrists, I'm not going to argue the point with you. However, I disagree completely that this isn't part of the death penalty argument. When you can't afford a high-priced lawyer, getting a proper defense in a capital case is almost impossible. Court appointed lawyers in Mississippi are usually the most inexperienced lawyers in general (the experienced ones know how to not get appointed), and public defenders are woefully underfunded, receiving far fewer funds than district attorneys offices. The playing field isn't level by any stretch of the imagination. Add that to judges who get elected on "law and order" platforms (i.e., many have already made up their minds about how cases will go in their courts, which is hardly the "impartiality" judges are mandated to show) and you end up with a lot of people on death row who shouldn't be there. (Which is NOT to say that Berry is innocent, so don't even go there, Iron.) Talk to the people who do post-conviction appeals and you'll hear stories about inadequate defenses that will curl your hair. Queen, it's not quite that simple for me, but I have a tendency to state the obvious. Besides being morally opposed to killing (which I am), and knowing that justice is far from equal in the U.S. (which it is), another thing what bothers me is the death penalty's inherent hypocrisy: Citizens can't kill, but the state can. We then hide those state killings away in dark rooms to be performed in front of hand-picked audiences by "anonymous" executioners. If it's not a shameful act, why hide it? How can it be a deterent if we hide it away? Certainly the public hangings and beheadings in days past were not thought of as shameful by the governments carrying them out. And Americans are bombarded every day by killing through popular TV and other media. So why do we treat state-sanctioned killing differently? Not that I want to see an execution, mind you, but if we condone it as a society, I think we ought to bring it out of the closet, so to speak. And here's my single, most powerful argument against the death penalty: I've personally witnessed and reported on cases where wrongfully convicted men have been exonerated after years on death row. What that says to me is that we have killed, and will continue to kill, innocent people with our unequal application of justice. What justification can be found for such an act?

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2008-05-23T10:32:28-06:00
ID
130170
Comment

Excellent commetary, Ronni. Anti-death penalty lawyers would love to have you on thier juries and pro-death penalty lawyers want you done away with. Ray Carter told me to tell you he will be needing your type of person as a juror in about 3 weeks in north Mississippi where he has to overcome the scourge of drug dealing, interacial dating and an interracial killing or death by a black male of a white woman likely all before an all white jury. If you know anything that will help him please give him a call. He performs a rough job but he thinks he's a no limit soldier. He's probably a nut, but hopefully, he'll get out alive and victorious - without a death verdict, at least.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-05-23T12:24:34-06:00
ID
130176
Comment

I wonder if people who are for the death penalty would have the guts to push to inject the needle or whatever, if they were chosen to do so. I bet a lot of them wouldn't.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2008-05-23T14:04:14-06:00
ID
130203
Comment

It didn't show up until the last second, "but wait, this guys reee-tard-ed!" stage. That's not correct. Berry was tested when he was in school, 20 years before this crime, and was found to be mentally retarded. And the prison's own mendical records had him diagnosed as mentally retarded. Berry would not have "gone free" if the Courts had considered his appeals. He would have been sentenced to life without parole. The US Supreme Court has ruled that mentally retarded prisoners are not in the "worst of the worst" category for which capital punishment is reserved. But once again, the Mississippi jusice system found a way to avoid following the US Supreme Court -- just give the defendant a lawyer who doesn't know the procedural rules, and maybe we can kill more folks than even the conservative US Supreme Court allows.

Author
GenShermansGhost
Date
2008-05-24T17:55:57-06:00
ID
130204
Comment

Berry's IQ consistently tested between 72 and 76; 72 is above the traditional threshold for mild retardation (classified as 50 to 70), but below the threshold of 75 established by the Mississippi Supreme Court in Chase v. State. One test at 76 is not adequate to eliminate the possibility of mental retardation under Chase, particularly given that there have also been tests, dating back to his childhood, in which his IQ was found to be below 75. I had remarked elsewhere that I thought that the 2002 Atkins ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, outlawing the execution of the mentally handicapped, referred to more severe mental handicaps than mild mental retardation. Turns out that mild retardation is exactly the condition Atkins addressed. I was wrong. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Berry's public defender, had he done his job, would have been able to successfully defeat a capital sentence, or at least to delay it pending psychiatric testing. This execution, like most executions, illustrates disparities in counsel more than anything else. Berry met the definition of mental retardation according to the Chase ruling; his public defender did not challenge his execution on that basis; and the Court did not grant a stay of execution. So the State of Mississippi has executed a man who was most likely mentally retarded, in direct violation of Atkins, and the only reason it was able to do so was because his previous attorney screwed up. If he had the money to hire a better attorney, he almost certainly would never have been on death row. It's stuff like this that illustrates why the criminal justice system is broken. People shouldn't be able to buy their way out of a capital conviction if they're guilty, or get railroaded into a capital conviction if they're innocent. And both happen quite often.

Author
Tom Head
Date
2008-05-24T20:16:20-06:00
ID
130206
Comment

Amen, Tom.

Author
GenShermansGhost
Date
2008-05-25T18:13:34-06:00
ID
130221
Comment

We're more worried about his death than his victim now?

Author
Ironghost
Date
2008-05-27T13:37:08-06:00
ID
130223
Comment

We're more worried about his death than his victim now? Who the hell said that, Ironghost? Is it truly beyond your capacity to understand that a person could actually feel compassion for a victim as well as believe that the state should not turn around and have state employees kill the murderer? Come on. You can't possibly be that binary in your thinking.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-05-27T14:13:57-06:00
ID
130317
Comment

And here's my single, most powerful argument against the death penalty: I've personally witnessed and reported on cases where wrongfully convicted men have been exonerated after years on death row. What that says to me is that we have killed, and will continue to kill, innocent people with our unequal application of justice. What justification can be found for such an act? <<

Author
Queen601
Date
2008-05-30T14:57:53-06:00
ID
130318
Comment

or maybe it's done that way as not to glorify the act of killing. Seems as if we already glorify it by performing executions.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2008-05-30T15:20:06-06:00
ID
130319
Comment

I dont think that's necessarily true. Why do you say that golden eagle?

Author
Queen601
Date
2008-05-30T15:37:13-06:00
ID
130320
Comment

IG, nothing anybody did after 1987 will help his victim, I'm sorry to say, so that isn't a factor. Re public executions, I used to be in favor of the idea but now I'm strongly against it. What changed my mind was researching the history of public executions in the United States (the last public execution, of Rainey Bethea, was held in 1936), and the way they became parties much like lynchings did, with people getting drunk and hooting and hollering and later rushing the gallows for souvenirs. Very much like what Aztec human sacrifice must have been like, on a bad day. Conventional wisdom tells us that this spectacle would be enough to get rid of capital punishment by showing the worst of human nature, but I have a feeling it would have the opposite effect. Iraq war photography, for example, seems to have a very large audience of people who try to Google up the images because they enjoy looking at them, an audience that seems much larger than the audience of folks who Google up the images because they're horrified by what our country is doing and feel an obligation to look. I already know somebody who attended a party celebrating the execution of Berry; if every execution were made public, they'd be Super Bowls for a large segment of the population and we'd have an even harder time getting rid of capital punishment because everybody would know somebody who attends the damn things. Better, IMHO, to keep them private, so people can't get this unsavory and pornographic joy out of witnessing and celebrating a human death.

Author
Tom Head
Date
2008-05-30T15:52:47-06:00
ID
130322
Comment

I hear you, Tom. We'll have to agree to disagree. The death penalty seems like just another piece of the overall violence sickness that we live with in the U.S. Glorifying death and killing in any way demeans us all, whether it's in our "entertainment," our laws or our foreign policy. What we condone as a society, we inflict on ourselves individually in measures of fear and numb indifference. I'd rather have it out in public so that we ALL have to face it. It's too easy for many to NOT deal with when it's hidden away. Wasn't it Jesus who said, "Whatsoever you do unto the least of you, you do unto me"? It seems we're so separated from our better natures and so misunderstand what responsibility is, that we don't even see what our attitudes do to us--individually and as a culture. Voltaire said, "No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible." We're all "snowflakes" in the sense that Voltaire meant it. All of our actions, individually, add up to the big collective picture, which we are all part of. Maybe getting really disgusting with all this killing will have some of the people who glorify violence wake up, and some who don't, finally take a stand against it. I see it a little like taking an emotion to the extreme on purpose. Try this: Pick an emotion, like anger. Now get really angry, then get angrier and REALLY angry and then REALLY, REALLY angry. Just keep going, on purpose, until you can't possibly get any angrier. If you do it purposefully instead of "letting anger be done to you," you'll either stroke out or end up laughing because eventually, it becomes both exhausting and absurd to try to maintain it.

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2008-05-30T18:12:37-06:00
ID
130324
Comment

Good post, Ronni. Very good post. I hear what you're saying and I can relate to it. There's a lot to be said for what Stalin called heightening the contradiction--letting things get horrible enough that people finally realize the absurdity of what they're doing and just let it go. But I guess I'm just afraid that there is no rock bottom left to hit. We've all seen the lynching photographs--standing by the corpses of good people are these strange smiling men who would never think of being rude to each others' parents, who played with their babies and kissed their wives and remembered a funny joke from the pastor's Sunday sermon, who liked a little bacon in their potato salad and thought Johnny Cash had a nice voice... These ordinary men went out and murdered and slept and woke up the next day smiling. It's what Hannah Arendt called the banality of evil. Vegans say, with some justification, that we're all that way with animals, and most of us are that way with foreign war casualties. I'm just not sure public executions would have the desired effect. But maybe it's something that policymakers can try in one or two states, and see what happens. Maybe I'm wrong about the likely result. I'd certainly like to be!

Author
Tom Head
Date
2008-05-30T19:19:08-06:00

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