The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 3, 2009

Weird News: Life is better on death row

By Chuck Shepherd

In October in Orange County, Calif., Billy Joe Johnson, who had just been convicted of murder as a hit man for a white supremacist gang, begged the judge and jury, in all sincerity, to sentence him to death. Johnson knew that those on California’s death row get individual cells and better telephone access, nicer contact-visit arrangements, and more personal-property privileges than ordinary inmates. The Los Angeles Times reported that the state’s spending per death- row inmate is almost three times that for other inmates. The current death-row census totals 685, but because of legal issues, only 13 have been executed since 1977 (compared to 71 death-row fatalities from other causes). In fact, Johnson was so eager to be put on death row that he tried to confess to two murders that no one yet knew about.

The Continuing CrisisIn October, Poland’s Polskieradio reported a settlement in the 18-month legal battle between two neighbors in Mikowice over a plastic bucket worth about $4.50. One had sued, accusing the other of ruining the bucket by kicking it. The respondent had elaborately offered proof of innocence by submitting video of the neighbor continuing to use the bucket as before, but the neighbor had countered by calling an “expert” witness, who examined the bucket and concluded that it was probably damaged.

Least Competent CriminalsThree men and a woman from Atlantic City, N.J., were arrested in August and charged with robbing the Artisans Bank in Bear, Del. Their escape after the robbery had been delayed when they accidentally left the keys to the getaway car in the bank.