Remember victims, not the murderers

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The state of Missouri is on pace to conduct one execution per month this calendar year despite impassioned pleas from capital punishment foes.

Quite frankly, I have never understood nor accepted the argument that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. Yet opponents of the death penalty spend massive amounts of taxpayer funds to fight the issue in every state including Missouri.

In every poll possible, the American public is strongly supportive of the death penalty in those cases that are so horrendous and so evil, no other option seems reasonable.

I have always argued that in capital punishment cases, the victims not the murderer should be front and center.

We hear woeful tales that the killers were raised in abusive homes or were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. We hear the same sad lament that the killers have low-functioning IQs or that there is some racial disparity for administering the death penalty.

But these lame excuses don't overshadow the fact that someone lost their life at the hands of an evil person.

Let's take one upcoming example here in our home state.

On the 4th of July in 1998 - that's 16 years ago! - Earl Ringo Jr. and an accomplice hatched a scheme to rob a Ruby Tuesday's restaurant in Columbia. But as is often the case, the scheme went awry.

A delivery truck arrived as Ringo and his pal were entering the restaurant in the early morning hours.

Dennis Poyser, a family man, was just starting his morning deliveries. He had made the same stop many times before.

But this time Ringo was surprised by the unexpected intrusion. Poyser was shot at point blank range and died instantly.

But the crime was not complete.

Next Ringo approached JoAnna Baysinger, the restaurant manager, and ordered his cohort in crime to shoot her. Those facts are in dispute but regardless, Baysinger was also fatally shot. Two senseless murders in less than five minutes.

So Ringo has lounged on death row since Bill Clinton was still president. And yes, taxpayers have funded his life each and every one of those 16 years.

Barring some additional appeals - which are likely - Ringo will be executed next month. And as usual, death penalty opponents will protest the execution. The Governor will be asked to spare this killer's life. Again, as usual.

In the meantime, two families lost their loved ones nearly two decades ago and their pain has not diminished since that fateful day.

Maybe it's time we put more of the spotlight on the innocent victims and less on the evil that runs in our society. Maybe it's time we recognize that 16 years from crime to punishment is far too long. Maybe we should think about the families who lost a father and a mother. A sister and brother. A wife and husband.

Earl Ringo Jr. will eventually receive the punishment he deserves.

The families that he destroyed will never received justice. It's far too late for that.

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