Murders That Could Have Been
Averted By Capital Punishment
Some 80 years ago, Charles Fitzgerald killed a deputy sheriff and was given a 100-year prison sentence as a result. He was released after serving just 11 years, and in 1926 murdered a California policeman. He was given "life" for that killing, but was paroled in 1971.
In 1931, "Gypsy" Bob Harper, who had been convicted of murder, escaped from a Michigan prison and killed two persons. After being recaptured, he then killed the prison warden and his deputy.
In 1936, former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover reported the case of a Florida prisoner who committed two murders, received clemency for each, and then murdered twice more. On March 17, 1971 Hoover told a congressional subcommittee that 19 of the killers responsible for the murder of policemen during the 1960s had been previously convicted of murder.
In 1951, Joseph Taborsky was sentenced to death in Connecticut for murder, but was freed when the courts ruled that the chief witness against him (his brother) had been mentally incompetent to testify. In 1957, Taborsky was found guilty for another murder, for which he was electrocuted in May 1960. Before his execution, he confessed to the 1951 murder.
In 1952, Allen Pruitt was arrested for the knife slaying of a newsstand operator and sentenced to life in prison. In 1965, he was charged with fatally stabbing a prison doctor and an assistant prison superintendent, but was found not guilty by reason of insanity. In 1968, his 1952 conviction was overturned on a technicality by the Virginia Supreme Court. He was re-tried, again found guilty, but given a 20-year sentence instead of life. Since he had already served 18 years, and had some time off for "good behavior," he was released. On December 31, 1971 he was arrested and charged in the murder of two men in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
In 1957, Richard Biegenwald murdered a store owner during a robbery in New Jersey. He was convicted, but given a life sentence rather than death. After serving 17 years, he was paroled. He violated his parole, was returned to prison, but was again paroled in 1980, after which he shot and killed an 18-year-old Asbury Park, New Jersey girl. He also killed three other 17-year-old New Jersey girls and a 34-year-old man.
A man convicted of murder in Oklahoma pleaded with the judge and jury to impose the death sentence, but was given life instead. He later killed a fellow inmate and was executed for the second killing in 1966.
In 1972, Arthur James Julius was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. In 1978, he was given a brief leave from prison, during which he raped and murdered a cousin. He was sentenced to death for that crime and was executed on November 17, 1989.
In 1976, Jimmy Lee Gray (who was free on parole from an Arizona conviction for killing a 16-year-old high school girl) kidnapped, sodomized, and suffocated a three-year-old Mississippi girl. He was executed for that second killing on September 2, 1983.
Also in 1976, Timothy Charles Palmes was on probation for an earlier manslaughter conviction when he and two accomplices robbed and brutally murdered a Florida furniture store owner. Palmes was executed for the killing on November 8, 1984. An accomplice, Ronald Straight, was executed on May 20, 1986. (The other accomplice, a woman, was granted immunity for testifying for the prosecution.)
In 1978, Wayne Robert Felde, while being taken to jail in handcuffs, pulled a gun hidden in his pants and killed a policeman. At the time, he was a fugitive from a work release program in Maryland, where he had been convicted of manslaughter.
In 1979, Donald Dillbeck was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for murdering a Florida sheriffs deputy. In 1983, he tried to escape. In January of this year he was transferred to a minimum-security facility. On June 22nd, he walked away from a ten-inmate crew catering a school banquet. Two days later, he was arrested and charged with stabbing a woman to death at a Tallahassee shopping mall.
In 1981, author Norman Mailer and many other New York literati embraced convicted killer Jack Henry Abbott (who had murdered a fellow prison inmate) and succeeded in having him released early from a Utah prison. On July 18, 1981 (six-weeks after his release), Abbott stabbed actor Richard Adan to death in New York. He was convicted of manslaughter and received a 15-year-to-life sentence. Mrs. Adan sued Abbott for her husband's wrongful death and her pain and suffering. On June 15, 1990, a jury awarded her nearly $7.6 million.
On October 22, 1983 at the federal penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, two prison guards were murdered in two separate instances by inmates who were both serving life terms for previously murdering inmates. On November 9, 1983 Associate U.S. Attorney General D. Lowell Jensen told a Senate subcommittee that it is impossible to punish or even deter such prison murders because, without a death sentence, a violent life-termer has free rein "to continue to murder as opportunity and his perverse motives dictate."
On December 7, 1984 Benny Lee Chaffin kidnapped, raped, and murdered a 9-year-old Springfield, Oregon girl. He had been convicted of murder once before in Texas, but not executed. Incredibly, the same jury that convicted him for killing the young girl refused to sentence him to death because two of the 12 jurors said they could not determine whether or not he would be a future threat to society!
Thomas Eugene Creech, who had been convicted of three murders and had claimed a role in more than 40 killings in 13 states as a paid killer for a motorcycle gang, killed a fellow prison inmate in 1981 and was sentenced to death. In 1986 his execution was stayed by a federal judge and has yet to be carried out.
When he was 14, Dalton Prejean killed a taxi driver. When he was 17, he gunned down a state trooper in Lafayette, Louisiana. Despite protests from the American Civil Liberties Union and other abolitionist groups, Prejean was executed for the second murder on May 18, 1990.