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October 22, 2011

Is everyone relatively happy with justice when serial killer dies relatively quickly serving LWOP?

The provocative (but also truly genuine) question I have put in the title of this post is prompted by this story in my local Columbus Dispatch.  The piece is headlined "Killer Dillon, who hunted outdoorsmen, is dead; Dillon, who was serving 5 life terms for 5 murders, dies after brief illness," and here are excerpts:

Ohio serial killer Thomas Lee Dillon has gone to his death.  Dillon, who stalked the woods of eastern Ohio and shot five outdoorsmen to death between 1989 and 1992, died yesterday, state prison officials said.

Former Franklin County Prosecutor Mike Miller, who served as special prosecutor in Dillon’s case, does not mourn the murderer.  “He killed purely for the pleasure of killing. He wanted the thrill. He was an evil man,” Miller said.  “I can’t say I have any sadness about him departing this Earth.”

Dillon, 61, died in the prison wing at the Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus at 7:55 a.m. yesterday after an unspecified illness of nearly three weeks.  He was serving five consecutive life terms, with no possibility of parole for 165 years, after pleading guilty in 1993 to five counts of aggravated murder....

Dillon, from Magnolia in Stark County, drove the rural back roads with a high- powered rifle in his search for victims and also claimed to have set 160 fires during his journeys. His victims were: Donald Welling, 35 ...; Jamie Paxton, 21 ...; Kevin Loring, 30 ...; Claude Hawkins, 48 ...; Gary Bradley, 44 ....

Miller became involved in the case when the prosecutors in the four counties couldn’t agree how to handle the case and turned to him as a compromise.  The case was moving toward trial when Dillon and his lawyers offered a guilty plea if the death penalty was taken off the table. Miller accepted after the families of the victims agreed.

Miller’s most-chilling memory of Dillon came when the defendant was being questioned about fatally shooting a man who had very long hair.  Dillon was asked if he had considered the possibility that his victim could have been a woman.  “He said, “What do you think? I couldn’t care less.  It wouldn’t have made a difference to me,’” Miller said.

I presume that persons categorically opposed to the death penalty are happy that this serial killer got life sentences rather than a death sentence and, in turn, that Dillon died a "natural" death rather than being killed by the state.  The post-conviction sentencing, life and death that Dillon experienced is what, I would guess, all abolitionists view as the best and most just state response to mass murder.

Meanwhile, though avid proponents of capital punishment may be troubled that a death sentence was not delivered by the state here, they should be relatively happy that Dillon is dead now "only" 18 years after his convictions given that most Ohio murderers sentenced to death serve two decades or more on death row before facing execution.  Moreover, the very presence of the death penalty in Ohio help get this mass murderer an LWOP sentence (and with the apparent blessing of the victims' families).

Further, for those (like me) agnostic about both the cosmic justice and the cost/benefit profile of modern American capital punishment, this case seems to have probably achieved the most benefits at the least costs once Dillon was captured.  The life sentences were imposed here apparently with little court costs and apparently without victims' families being forced to suffer extra agonies.  Moreover, as recent high-profile trials in Connecticut and a recent federal death sentence reversal starkly highlight, even when guilt is not in doubt, there can be huge litigation costs and appellate uncertainty even when the state pursues a death sentence even for a mass murderer who would seem obviously deserving of a death sentence. 

October 22, 2011 at 11:54 AM | Permalink


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Anybody hanging around this blog besides John Stuart Mill clones?

Posted by: Anon de plum | Oct 22, 2011 3:13:30 PM

Anon - there are a few of us left to be sure. But I will take Doug's argument here against the sense of the death penalty however it is constructed. If governance is to be conducted without reference or regard to a moral and ethical code, yet come to the same conclusion for the benefit of society, I might be saddened by that, but will welcome the conclusion. The moral and ethical code running through society will be strengthened in health, whether that is the intention of the agnostic or not.

Posted by: peter | Oct 22, 2011 4:12:26 PM

"Dillon, 61, died in the prison wing at the Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus at 7:55 a.m. yesterday after an unspecified illness of nearly three weeks. "

As 90% of us will, he lingered in agony before dying. Peter likely does not care. Dillon generated $millions in government costs. So the abolitionists likely have no comment, having gotten theirs.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 23, 2011 5:51:40 AM

An Ohio death penalty costs more than 5-10 millions
10 times a LWOP.
You have 100.000 lifers plus 40.000 lwopers
You will have a lot of news like this.
The funny thing is that someone noticed the dying of Dillon.

Posted by: Dott. claudio giusti, italia | Oct 23, 2011 12:02:31 PM

Claudio has no comment on how Dillon went out the rough way, taking 3 weeks to do it. Compare to any potential slip up in the death penalty. If I were an heir, I would sue the state for his wrongful death. Nice and easy in the death penalty, rough by natural causes, with needless pain and suffering.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 23, 2011 12:20:55 PM

I suspect you meant your comment, Anon de plum, to be an insult, but I took it as a great compliment.

Posted by: Doug B. | Oct 23, 2011 1:42:17 PM

Doug --

Ha! Methinks Anon de plum doesn't know Mill is said to be one of the smartest men who ever lived.

I can only hope that, as a frequent commenter, I got caught up in the same "insult."

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 23, 2011 2:17:18 PM

If Mill was the author of Utilitarianism, and the intellectual heir of Jeremy Bentham, there are precious few clones of Mill on this blog. What we have in overwhelming numbers are pursuers of Adam Smith's rent.

To review briefly, the word rent is an unfortunate Medieval term, not the payment for a lease. Productive farmers handed over a large fraction of their crop to Lords. In return they were not put to the sword. They got nothing back, not even protection from Vikings.

Its opposite is profit. So renting an apartment is profit seeking. You pay money. You get a building and services, at very low, efficient cost. You could never duplicate them. So both sides profit.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 23, 2011 2:56:30 PM

Prof Berman,

I am not surprised at all.

And, of course, since the commentators are 4 or 5 in your favor, that means you "win."

You'd be better off in Vegas than in a law school lecture hall, IMO

Posted by: Anon de plum | Oct 23, 2011 3:11:31 PM

The Green Hornet and I both agree with the prof.

That means it's at least 7 or 8 to one, now.

Ergo, no point in considering anything else.

Posted by: CATO | Oct 23, 2011 3:20:26 PM

Helps to have a little clarity on where the prof is coming from.

Posted by: CATO | Oct 23, 2011 3:30:49 PM

There is the notion of virtue in and of itself.

FYI, philosophy Millionaires

Posted by: Aristotle | Oct 23, 2011 6:10:07 PM

Anon de plum: I am a bit confused about where you want me headed as an heir to Mill; are you saying JSM and his heirs are better suited to playing poker than teaching law? Just trying to figure out what that means and why?

Also, for what it is worth, I find both Vegas and the law school classroom to be exciting places. But I would not want to make a living in Vegas, as it is kind of a zero-sum game for the player. not so, I hope, for those making a leaving teaching in law schools.

Posted by: Doug B. | Oct 23, 2011 9:39:58 PM

Perhaps, Vegas has a zero-sum game going. Someone wins, another loses. The house takes 1 to 20% for itself. They try to be kind with comps. They subsidize the decent food. They offer entertainment of a base sort by has-beens. Everything is phony. No original idea can be found anywhere. Midwesterners may look at imitations of Paris, Ancient Egypt, and pirates within walking distance. Rich Arabs love the place. These are well known for their education and refined taste.

Nobody was forced to go there, and they earn their success. Off the tourist places, it is one of most violent places on earth, which is not well known. Employees are comped for gambling in their own casino. There is no other industry in town. So even with two paychecks, no money makes it home. The financial stress is relieved by ultraviolent encounters between armed citizens. The police does not bother showing up until the danger is over, 3 hours later, in order to do the paper work. Again, no one is forcing anyone to become a gambling addict, and to lose the rent money. No one is forcing people to shoot their spouses, etc.

In law school, one is browbeaten into accepting sicko, disgusting, supernatural doctrines plagiarized from a Church. These are absolutely lawless in a secular nation. They are psychotically delusional, and false. One is forced to overlook the objective evidence for the failure of every self-stated goal of every law subject. For example, contract law discusses quaint pregnant cows, thought to be barren. What they don't say is that below a $million dispute, contract laws is worthless. Alternative never discussed? Ebay system, where over 95% of promises are kept or resolved, down to transactions of a penny, but none with the services of a lawyer. The failure of the criminal law is an abomination frequently discussed here. Some of the lawyer failures are catastrophic, such as the legal decisions that caused a Civil War, such as the feminization of the American male that allowed the attacks of 9/11, impossible on the airlines of other nations. Any mention of these toxic effects of the legal system would get one expelled if brought up in class. Attacks on feminism, the KKK of 2011, are taboo.

Why does law school persist? The Inquisition lasted 700 years because it had one of the most robust business plans in the annals of historic crime syndicates. Law students are inducted into a criminal cult enterprise (CCE) that has replaced the Church in its Inquisition, and its business plan. Its success would shame the Dominicans, the orthodoxy shock troops of the Inquisition. The CCE takes in $trillion a year, and makes 99% of the government policy decisions. No criminal enterprise or church ever came close to such success, or such outright control of government. It is bleeding our nation but not at a pace to kill the nation, just to weaken it. It is in brazen insurrection against the constitution.

People going to Vegas lose $400 an hour. However, they feel they had some fun or some other reward. The law profession is in utter failure except for its rent seeking and Inquisition style business plan. No one feels they did OK, nor got anything from the legal system, not even prevailing parties. The best one can get from this CCE is to escape annihilation. All parties feel taken for a ride, and in need of a shower to get rid of the stench of the legal system, which is the stench of death.

How did Inquisition 1.0 end? When the Church lost its immunity, and 10,000 Church officials were beheaded or expelled in the French Revolution. That is the model for the remedy to save this nation as well from the Inquisition 2.0.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 24, 2011 4:04:14 AM

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