- Hardcover: 264 pages
- Publisher: Arcade Publishing (March 11, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1559708999
- ASIN: B005Q68R3K
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,503,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Capital Punishment: An Indictment by a Death-Row Survivor Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 11, 2009
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About the Author
Billy Wayne Sinclair established himself in prison as a no-nonsense jailhouse lawyer defending the rights of his fellow prisoners and as a journalist, the recipient of many national awards. He lives with his wife, Jodie, in Houston, Texas.
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I felt then and now that Billy was not treated fairly in the length of time he had to serve. There's nothing fair about the penalty phase of our justice system. One person will be given 15 years after deliberating killing a person and sometimes several people and another will get the death sentence. Since his intent was not to kill, I think 40 years was too long to serve in view of others intentionally killing and getting out in a few years. I think it's admirable that he chose to make something of his life while he served his sentence. I don't understand their reasoning that the death sentence should be abolished. Why should a deliberate murderer be allowed to live after heinous crimes, people like BTK and many others? A person should have consequences that fit their crime. So, Billy and Jodie if you read this I would still like to read about your lives from then until now.
The background of this story is Billy Wayne Sinclair's crime. In the commission of a robbery he shot a convenience store clerk. Though Sister Helen Prejean and Billy say the killing was unintentional, common sense looks at the facts: he held up a store, ran, fired at and killed his pursuer. Accidental killing? That's a stretch, Billy fired a gun in the direction of his victim. While committing a felony he killed someone. He was guilty. Sinclair and Prejean try to mitigate murder.
The meat of the book makes compelling universal arguments against the death penalty: revenge, brutality, the chance of the executed being innocent, and so forth, but explores little new territory and extols the weaker sides of the anti-death penalty movement. One such side is a judgment against victims and society for desiring vengeance. For example, John Ledbetter Gray, executed because he raped and killed a child. The author quotes the child's father and writes:
" `Even in prison he had been able to talk, to breathe, and to laugh, and he had taken all these things from my little girl,' Scales (the father) said, continuing to stoke the flames of revenge. `He didn't have the right to continue to live.'"
Mr. Scales lost his daughter in the most horrific manner, yet Sinclair judges Mr. Scales with almost greater condemnation than the murderer. What's worse, Gray was out on parole after murdering a 16 year-old girl in Arizona. The Sinclairs failed to research, or purposely omit this fact, as they judge the father as `stoking the flames of revenge.'
The Sinclairs also lose credibility concerning John Spenkelink, the first person executed after Gary Gilmore. Sinclair writes that Spenkelink claimed self-defense after being raped at gunpoint by a man. But the Sinclairs do not investigate the claim, or did and chose not to write that the evidence proved that Spenkelink had been sexually assaulted after being threatened with a gun, but left, returned with his own gun, and shot the man in the back. Self-defense, indeed. Why do the Sinclairs only show one side?
Later the Sinclairs defend child rapists as having committed a lesser crime than murderers, with no mention of the high rate of recidivism, and a pattern of one crime leading to a more horrific crime in such felons. In the next chapter the Sinclairs focus on victims. Billy expresses remorse for the man he killed, and tries to shows the victim's father side. Yet, once again, Billy Wayne Sinclair comes across as judgmental toward the victim for wanting revenge. Billy Wayne Sinclair is passionate about how evil revenge is in society, but is relatively silent about the evil of rape and crime. Sure, it is in Billy's interest, but what about society? What about law abiding citizens. What is in our interest?
Then Billy criticizes life in prison. Life in prison is the only punishment superior to the death penalty for the worst offenders. But Billy calls this slow torture and death, and that prisoners should have hope for parole. What? Try telling that to Mr. Scales, whose daughter was killed by a man on parole.
Yes, Billy Wayne Sinclair seems to be successfully rehabilitated, remorseful (although it is always in the criminals best interest to show remorse), and is now a productive member of society. He is an exception. Recidivism is far too high, and until the recidivism rate hits zero, only then would I want to hear about why felons should be released back into society.
The Sinclairs demonstrate, once again, that anti-death penalty advocates care too much about the criminal, and care too little about victims and society. Just once I'd like to read a book by a convicted murderer that focuses on the victims. At the very least the Sinclairs should center their attention on abusive and dysfunctional families.
All I can say, Billy Wayne Sinclair, is that you still don't get it. You don't get what it's like to lose a loved one, even after all those years of meditation, and all your will. You still don't understand. You have not eased the pain of one victim. Straight up, Billy, you dont get this: That Mr. Scales, or the father of the man you killed, would rather have been in prison and have their children alive and safe, than have lived free and have seen them murdered.
And that's how I felt when I cracked open this rather interesting book by Billy Wayne Sinclair, a guy who spent years on death row for a murder he acknowledges he committed, but who is now a productive citizen.
Sinclair's take on the death penalty is that it has no place in this country as it does not leave open the possibility for rehabilitation, parole --or hope.
So how do I feel after having read his book? Exactly the same. In fact, I found some of Sinclair's words and thoughts to be a little bit disturbing. He talks about a murder in which the bullet just "nicked" the victim's aorta. Perhaps it did, but I gather that the purpose of wording it like that is to somehow diminish the seriousness of the crime. "Nicked the aorta" sure sounds a lot less awful than "shot in the heart." But if it was YOUR loved one who had their aorta "nicked," I really doubt that that's how you would be referring to the wound.
He also writes of murderers (such as himself) who end up being released --as if that's a good thing. Certainly, Sinclair himself may no longer be a threat to society, but in all honesty --I don't really care. The murderer's victims didn't get a 'second chance' and neither should they.
Someone who has committed a crime worthy of receiving a LIFE sentence deserves to spend the rest of their lives behind bars. He maintains that a "true" life term eliminates hope. Well? So? Good.
What I STRONGLY agree with the author about is the issue of the falsely accused and convicted. In fact, to me, that's the single BIGGEST problem I have with the death penalty. There is something HORRIBLY wrong when someone is wrongly accused and meets his (or her) fate in the electric chair (or at the end of a needle). You cannot simply go "oops, my bad" when the evidence reveals someone's innocence AFTER they're dead.
Sinclair also talks about prosecutors and courts that refuse to hear evidence that will prove someone's innocence following a conviction. I stand with the author in agreement that not only are cases like this a travesty of justice, but the attorneys and judges who would hide such evidence should be thrown in jail.
I've given this book a three-star rating. I thought it was fairly well-written, and pretty interesting. I just had to shave off a couple of stars for the parts that ticked me off!