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January 25, 2012

Triple killer in North Carolina taunts he is "gentleman of leisure" of death row

This new AP story from North Carolina, headlined "NC killer's taunt: Death row means leisure," highlights one reason it can be real hard to be a fan of an ineffective (or non-existent) system of capital punishment. Here is how the ugly story begins:

A death row inmate accused of killing three North Carolina women has written a taunting letter to his hometown newspaper, predicting he'll spend many years as a gentleman of leisure, watching color TV and enjoying frequent naps.  "Kill me if you can, suckers," Danny Robbie Hembree Jr. wrote in a letter to The Gaston Gazette [available at this link]....

No one has been executed in North Carolina since 2006 due to a series of legal challenges about the use of lethal injection and whether executions must be overseen by a physician. "Is the public aware that the chances of my lawful murder taking place in the next 20 years if ever are very slim?" asked Hembree, 50.

"Is the public aware that I am a gentleman of leisure, watching color TV in the A.C., reading, taking naps at will, eating three well-balanced meals a day?"   The inmate also pointed out he gets free government health care.

Hembree is on death row at Central Prison in Raleigh for suffocating Heather Catterton, 17, in 2009.  He's also accused of the 2009 killing of 30-year-old Randi Dean Saldana, whose burned remains were found near Blacksburg, S.C.  Hembree admitted to taking drugs and having sex with Catterton and Saldana the day they died, but he told jurors he did not kill them or dump their bodies.

He is scheduled to go on trial in March for Saldana's killing.   He is also charged with killing 30-year-old Deborah Ratchford, whose body was found in a Gastonia cemetery in 1992.

Several commenters on the newspaper's website called Tuesday for Hembree to be put to death immediately.  But some also questioned the decision to give Hembree any further attention.

January 25, 2012 at 08:07 AM | Permalink


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if there was no death penalty and Erika's Law was passed allowing for rapists to be castrated before being tossed in the general population to serve their LWOP sentence, this serial rapist/murderer would not be enjoying a life of leisure.

erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Jan 25, 2012 9:18:41 AM

1> Is this taxpayer-funded taunt an affront to the "public" or just to pro-DP people. Seems those opposed have gotten what they asked for: "No one has been executed in North Carolina since 2006 due to a series of legal challenges".

2>> He has put in a Racial Justice Claim Act, so he must be caucasian.

3>>> Ostensibly a perfect candidate for the *Innocence Project.*

4>>>> "Kill me if you can, suckers": No worries, mate: suckers don't kill, they "rehabilitate". [only "retributionists" kill]

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 25, 2012 9:39:25 AM

I view this fellow's letter, and Adamkis' reaction, the way I do trash talking in football - it's a natural inclination to taunt the opposition in adversarial settings, but it's pretty much meaningless, as the scoreboard tells the real story. And in this case, looking at the scoreboard, the state has already notched one death-eligible conviction and has two more cases lined up, so one way or another he'll die in prison.

Until then, death row means solitary confinement, an experience described thusly by Adam Gopnik in the current New Yorker, "Lock yourself in your bathroom and then imagine you have to stay there for the next ten years, and you will have some sense of the experience." Claiming that lifestyle makes him a "gentleman of leisure" is a little like Pee Wee Herman making some bone-headed screwup then claiming "I meant to do that."

IMO it was irresponsible of the newspaper to publish it, serving no legitimate purpose but to inflame an already awful situation.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jan 25, 2012 10:43:30 AM

"IMO it was irresponsible of the newspaper to publish it"

If it brings attention to this, i.e.

"No one has been executed in North Carolina since 2006 due a series of legal challenges *about the use of lethal injection* and whether *executions must be overseen by a physician*", then it may have been worth it (litera scripta manet).

Such legal "challenges", or better yet 'stall techniques', obfuscations, Machiavellian manoevers, or deceptions, are truly "irresponsible"

[I am not taunting the murderer, but the blood of his victims cry out from the grave, as it were.]

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 25, 2012 11:25:26 AM

Adamkis, for somebody so quick to use victims as a foil, I'm surprised you fail to understand why giving the killer a media platform might be problematic.

Also, I didn't think you were taunting the murderer. You're taunting the Innocence Project, civil rights activists, death penalty abolitionists, etc., and your schtick is no more probative than Mr. Hembree's.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jan 25, 2012 11:52:41 AM

Perhaps you are right.
I shall try to make amends by using others more qualified than myself to proffer a bill ensuring the speedier application of execution. [No foils here, just relevant witnesses to the process and commentators for reform].

_ "Charles Rhines admitted to killing their son, Donnivan"
__ "Justice delayed, Peggy and Ed Schaeffer would tell you, is a car in a cemetery, tears falling and a grave
nearby with a casket inside it but no real sense of finality"
___ "….because of maneuvering and appeals “that make it seem like a game" Peggy Schaeffer told a Senate Judiciary Committee"
____ "20 years have taken [a toll] on their health as they wait for their son’s killer to be executed."
_____ “Killers should not be allowed to live even in prison…"
______ "We had no idea that perpetrators could have so many different lawyers,” Peggy Schaeffer said. “[An appeal] isn't done in a timely manner but is done on the last day and hour possible.”

~{"Jackley’s bill puts a cap on how often indigent defendants can argue that their court-appointed lawyers are ineffective,
and the time frame [to] make that claim."}~ .....http://www.argusleader.com/.....

~ "Before the hearing, Dottie Poage of Rapid City noted that one of three men convicted of killing her son, Chester, in March 2000 near Spearfish is taking classes through the mail while he sits on death row… “So yeah, if the attorney general’s office can pass this bill, they’re helping me out by getting justice resolved and putting an end to it.”

~~ "Jackley said a second motivation for this bill is to save taxpayers money spent on frivolous claims. The Pennington County Commission… vice chairman, Ken Davis said, having spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to execute Rhines after he admitted to killing Donnivan Schaeffer."

~~~ "Similarly, Bob Ewing, chairman of the Lawrence County Commission, said his county has spent $1 million on the prosecution of Piper." “He’s never maintained any innocence whatsoever,” Ewing said.

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 25, 2012 3:15:56 PM

Adamakis --

Will you please get with the program?

Look, here's how it is. It's OK for the Innocence Project, civil rights activists, death penalty abolitionists, etc., to "taunt" retentionists with years of 100% false bellowing about how, say, Roger Keith Coleman was innocent, and those who backed his execution were a bunch of wahoos, Nazis and bloodlusting savages.

That's OK, no problem. Got that?

It is NOT, however, OK to comment favorably on an article Prof. Berman chooses to post in order to illustrate (to quote Prof. Berman's words) "one reason it can be real hard to be a fan of an ineffective (or non-existent) system of capital punishment."

Indeed, what death row inmates like Mr. Hembree have to say about their confinement should be censored, and replaced with what writers for the New Yorker have to say about it.

I should probably tell you, however, that the censorship regimen is subject to change without notice. It will be fine for death row inmates to speak publicly about their confinement if what they say is designed to show how victimized they are by the system. It will remain off limits, however, for them to speak publicly if what they say is designed to show the public how foolish it is to allow years of manufactured procedural delays that have zip to do with guilt or innocence.

OK, Adamakis, got the picture? A little selective censorship never hurt anyone.

Thanks, and remember to Give Peace A Chance!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 25, 2012 3:52:33 PM

Goal to Grits, assist to Bill.

This killer is trolling and the newspaper was dumb enough to bite.

Posted by: Robert | Jan 25, 2012 9:10:07 PM

Robert --

Might I suggest that the most effective way to keep the killer from "trolling" would be to carry out the sentence promptly? It's not like there's any doubt of guilt or of the atrocious nature of the crime.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 25, 2012 9:35:58 PM

Bill Otis & Robert,

Isn't the nixing of unneeded cost also a common ground issue for both sides?

If so, Jackley's bill might be a "Goal" for all of us.

Regarding the impenetrable stance of Grits, it frustrates me because I hope to convince people of certain facts, to allow myself and my positions to be reversed or modified if the evidence/argument moves me thereto, toward the overall goal of improving our great nation!

It is telling that Grits favourably--actually definitively—quotes the magazine New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik to define the relative severity of death row, but rejects Hembree’s descriptions. Would he similarly reject my former resident New Yorker Father’s description which dovetails close to that of Hembree? My father worked at a maxi-max for 10 years, in which inmates spent 23 hours a day in solitary if my memory serves me, and 25 at a max facility. I would not give a killer a platform, (except a scaffolding or such for an execution).

Bill, thanks for your work for the country over the years.

I just retired from the mil, though I might go back somehow.

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 25, 2012 10:58:07 PM

Adamakis --

"Bill, thanks for your work for the country over the years."

You're welcome, although I doubt my contributions, such as they may have been, equaled yours.

"It is telling that Grits favourably--actually definitively—quotes the magazine New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik to define the relative severity of death row, but rejects Hembree’s descriptions."


I always look forward to your posts, here and on C&C.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 25, 2012 11:22:29 PM

This letter is an example of the lawyer entitlement of all evil, oncluding, bad bvehavior by childrenm yelling abuse, at the slightest criticism.

First send him to general population. With that personality, things will get settled naturally.

Second, arrest the entire lawyer hierarchy. Give them an hour's fair trial, where the sole evidence is their legal utterances, not any collateral corruption. Summarily execute them in the courthouse basement. Once these immunizers of evil are gone, "settle all family business," with all violent repeat offenders and re-establish the moral authority and powers of the institutions damaged by these internal traitors to the constitution, the family, fathers, the church, schools, employers. Allow cheap, effective corporal punishment of both adults and children. If a criminal is convicted, allow enhanced interrogation to solve other crimes. Have full tort liability of all lawyer institutions for their carelessness causing damage, including, all benches, prosecutors, and legislatures. Damages should come from the personal assets of the lawyer, not from the taxpayer. Have them carry insurance for aggregate claims.

Just end crime in this country because the criminals will have all been dispatched before 18, the start of their busiest years as criminals. Take the $trillion wasted on the legal system's worthless paper shuffling each year, and invest it in research and development of technology, boost economic growth to its natural 10%.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 26, 2012 8:45:15 AM

mr. claus,

again with the corporal punishment [mainly for adult women, no doubt]? I think that you're obsessed :P

sweet dreams,

erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Jan 26, 2012 11:16:03 AM

Virginia: I am obsessed with the ridiculous 20 million FBI Index felonies, a year, enabled by the lawyer. Corporal punishment is cheap and effective punishment. Overwhelmingly, it would affect males. That is a trivial, self-evident fact, the only one you picked out from the issue rich comment. I have never struck a female, and doubt I could, unless an appellate judge, maybe.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 27, 2012 6:41:25 AM

Hell, Bill and Adamkis, let's just give death row inmates their own blog so they can spew bile, taunt victim families and manipulate the press all the way to the end. That would surely serve the interests of victims, right?

Bill, your penchant for red herrings and straw men has past the annoying phase and, for me anyway, become a great source of amusement. As a lawyer, surely sometime in your career you've actually confronted someone else's arguments instead of making up outlandish, imaginary positions, attributing them to your opponent, and arguing against your own, phony creation, but you so seldom do so here it makes me think it probably hasn't happened very often.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jan 27, 2012 8:28:23 AM

Grits --

"Hell, Bill and Adamkis, let's just give death row inmates their own blog so they can spew bile, taunt victim families and manipulate the press all the way to the end. That would surely serve the interests of victims, right?"

With years of huckstering for criminals under your belt, your newfound soft spot for victims is truly touching. Yet, after years of insisting that inmates should not forfeit their Constitutional rights behind prison walls, your newfound fondness for censoring them is, ummmmm, odd. Gosh, Grits, are you becoming "tuff" on crime all of a sudden? Could be since, as you so often tell us, you Texans are really "tuff."

On the other hand, it would seem that your fondness for censorship is a sometime thing. You were all giddy for the New Yorker's publishing an article about death row inmates' plight -- you know, like being locked in your bedroom forever, etc. Did you forget about your eagerness to give a platform to killers' complaints when it suits your agenda? Gee, it was just a few days ago.

"Bill, your penchant for red herrings and straw men has pas[sed] the annoying phase and, for me anyway, become a great source of amusement. As a lawyer, surely sometime in your career you've actually confronted someone else's arguments instead of making up outlandish, imaginary positions, attributing them to your opponent, and arguing against your own, phony creation..."

HELLO!!! Is that you, Grits? Is that the same fellow who said that I support" all state killing as inherently good in all circumstances?" You know, kind of "making up outlandish, imaginary positions [and] attributing them to your opponent...," to, uh, coin a phrase? Do you recall who concocted that outlandish, imaginary position?

Righto Grits. It was your very own self. And it retired the award for Best Strawman Ever, since, not only do I not believe it, NOBODY ON EARTH BELIEVES IT.

But if you understandanly want to whistle on past that one, how 'bout this one from just last week, in a post to directed to me (Gritsforbreakfast | Jan 23, 2012 6:35:12 PM).

Here it is: "[F]olks like you...want to attribute ALL crime decline to incarceration..."(emphasis in your original).

Now we all know that attributing ALL the massive decline in crime over the last two decades solely to incarceration would be -- how should I say this? -- making up an outlandish, imaginary position and attributing it to your opponent.

In fact, as you full well knew when you wrote this crock, I never said any such thing. To the exact contrary, I had been quite explicit that imprisonment accounted for ONE-QUARTER of the decline. Indeed, I had said this over and over (citing the Levitt and Spelman findings holding exactly that).

But off you went anyway, completely concocting what you claimed was my position that incarceration accounted for ALL of the decrease in crime.

Grits, the old saw about the pot calling the kettle black hardly does justice to your penchant for lying about my position to make it seem absurd, then refusing to withdraw your lies even when documented beyond cavil. (For a demonstration of this, see the wonderful comment thread at http://sentencing.typepad.com/sentencing_law_and_policy/2012/01/the-law-and-economics-of-fluctuating-criminal-tendencies.html ).

When you were finally cornered at the end of the chase, what did you do?

You fled the battlefield!

Well that's just so far out, Grits. You are indeed Texas tuff.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 27, 2012 9:17:50 PM

mr. claus: "Corporal punishment is cheap and effective punishment"

me: it may be cheap, but considering that millions of people around the world participate in consensual bdsm activities, I question its effectiveness. How effective can a "punishment" that people voluntarily participate in for pleasure be?

many studies have also shown that its not very effective at getting children to behave properly and instead increases aggressiveness in children and adults who have received corporal punishment. Given the well documented failure of corporal punishment as a means to discipline children, what makes you think that it will actually work to discipline adults?

mr. claus: "Overwhelmingly, it would affect males."

me: in the states where corporal punishment of children is still allowed in schools, it also overwhelmingly and disportionately effects minorities and children with disabilities. Now I have personal first hand knowledge to know that yes sometimes cute white girls get paddled - but I also know that unlike my Black male classmates, I actually had to earn it through serious (at times actually criminal!) misbehavior. And as I've told you, I also experienced harsh corporal punishment at home as well.

Of course, as you can probably tell, I'm still rather incorrigable as an adult - which provides more proof that corporal punishment of children is just child abuse that doesn't work ;)

mr. claus: "I have never struck a female, and doubt I could"

me: you know I cannot say that. I do have to ask, why is it that you men seem to enjoy watching women fight so much? ;)

unfortunately, not all men are as gentlemanly as you. I have been hit or otherwise physically abused by men before :(

(obviously I am excluding consensual mutually enjoyable spanking activities in this statement because obviously that is sexual contact and not abuse)

erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Jan 28, 2012 10:38:37 AM

Virginia: The biggest damage to you was done in 1L. You came to believe supernatural doctrines. You believe this profession is the best in the in world, when it is the worst. And a host of criminal cult indoctrinations.

Your upbringing is that of the majority of the world's children. It served you well. The feminist lawyer has now defined it as abuse. That is an attack on the Southern child rearing still practiced by black people in the North. It results in the removal of too many black children, but grows government very well.

In Delaware, and coming to your local state, derogatory remarks are called emotional abuse. OK, so stay silent. Ignoring is called emotional neglect. Both must be reported by all mandated reporters. Who are mandated reporters? Licensed professionals working with children? No. Everyone is a mandated reporter subject to $10,000 fine for the first failure to report, and $50,000 and jail for the second time. Street child welfare workers are seething. They are carrying cases of broken bones and starvation, and now must investigate reports of a mother ignoring bad behavior. "Stop acting like a fool. You are embarrassing me." Emotional abuse, now reportable.

Funny. When you have children, with your sharp tongue, they will be taken from you, and put in a feminist System foster home in the slums, where the drunk father will use them as sex dolls.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 29, 2012 11:58:09 AM

Bill, despite your mocking tone, it's clear from your last post that you think my stance against giving a media platform to killers is actually the correct one, and I'm glad you now understand how ridiculous it was for you to champion death-row inmates' free speech rights against "censorship."

That said, it's exceedingly amusing that you continue to take a comment I made years ago out of context and pretend it's an excuse to disregard every argument I make. Far from feeling "cornered," usually I just get sick of debating BS red herrings and choose to return to more productive activities. Unlike you and SC, I actually have a life beyond SL&P comment strings.

It's also telling that for you, these comments are a "battlefield" where debates have life or death consequences. To me, they're just comment strings with little practical import.

I'm flattered that you care so much about my opinion. I must admit, though, I hardly give a whit about yours, which is the main reason I sometimes don't respond to your endless straw men and self-involved whining.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Feb 1, 2012 9:33:57 AM

Grits --

I thought there was a chance that somewhere amongst the insults and other nonsense, you might take at least a little responsibility for lying about my positions. Instead you just lie some more.

You really are tuff.

Indeed, you're so tuff I invite you to debate me face-to-face on the question: "What Accounts for the Nationwide Drop in Crime over the Last 20 Years?" No one could deny the importance of that topic. The debate would be held at a time and place of mutual convenience, and would be before a law school audience, both students and faculty.

My one condition is that the debate be taped and available to viewers on a link to be put up here (with Doug's permission).

I trust you will relish and take advantage of this opportunity to expose my "endless straw men and self-involved whining." You'll also have a chance to take me to the cleaners for believing that "all state killing is inherently good in all circumstances" (a particularly exotic claim about my beliefs that you continue to refuse to withdraw). You can show how myopic and deceitful I am for maintaining, as you have claimed I do, that "ALL" (your emphasis) the crime reduction of the last 20 years is due solely to increased incarceration.

It's a golden opportunity, Grits. "Homegrown Texas college dropout demolishes Stanford Law grad." WOW!!! Now wouldn't that make a cool headline on your blog? Plus you'd have the tape to prove it! I'd have to slink away in shame!

So how 'bout it, Grits? Wanna debate?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 2, 2012 3:38:19 AM

Sure, Bill, though we'd need to define a topic that's actually a real question and not just some blathering bullshit you want to pretend are my positions. Otherwise, like most of the debates you engage in on this blog, I doubt it would be a very productive experience for anyone.

Also, you'd need to agree to stick to the topic, not dredging up unrelated ones and changing the subject every time the weakness of your positions are exposed. E.g., on "state killing," as we've discussed countless times, you took a comment about capital punishment out of context and have spent literally years pretending it wasn't referencing death penalty debates. When I finally asked you what "state killing" you did oppose (since you insisted on that out of context interpretation), the only examples you could give were killing by the Soviet Union and the My Lai massacre. I'm sick of that debate and don't care to engage in it any more.

But if you want to limit the subject to "What Accounts for the Nationwide Drop in Crime over the Last 20 Years?", I'd have no compunction about taking you on. I'm not intimidated by a Stanford Law degree. As the late, great Jerry Clower said, "There are many people who have been educated beyond their intelligence."

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Feb 2, 2012 11:35:50 AM

Grits --

As I said, and as you apparently agree through the underbrush of your usual numerous insults, the topic will be "What Accounts for the Nationwide Drop in Crime over the Last 20 Years?"

In connection with that, I will discuss anything I think relevant; you are obviously free to do the same. If you think your superior morals (according to you) and superior intelligence (according you) are relevant, have at it. I would expect nothing different. If you think that what I'm saying is off-topic or otherwise inappropriate, you will be free to point that out in rebuttal. But you will not be the gatekeeper or the judge of what I say or the relevance thereof -- the audience is the judge of both. If I'm the village idiot/bully you so often claim, they'll see and judge that too, all to my detriment and your benefit.

I will be back on the mainland about March 10. Until about mid April, I will not be able to leave the Washington DC area except on weekends. So we could have the debate at Georgetown during that period. I realize that travelling there would probably be inconvenient to you, so if you can wait until mid-April, we should be able to find a spot midway, or in Texas as far as I'm concerned. I have previously done death penalty debates at U. Texas law school, with Profs. Carol and Jordan Steiker.

The debate could be under the auspices of the Federalist Society, in conjunction with a group you might find more hospitable, such as the ACLU or the ACA. I should be able to arrange the FedSoc part. If you want another group as well, you would need to contact them.

The format I propose is ten to twelve minutes for an opening statement, five minutes for rebuttal, then audience questions. There woud also be a moderator, probably a faculty member.

Preliminarily, what date and what location is your preference?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 2, 2012 1:22:41 PM

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