Dangerous Dan Thoughts and musings on the world

12/15/2005

AP Death Penalty Coverage

Filed under: General,Media,Society — Dangerous Dan @ 3:03 am

When reading articles about the death penalty, I've been repeatedly amazed at the AP's obvious slant. I first noticed it reading this article about the forthcoming "grim milestone"(TM) of the 1,000th execution since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977. You can read it for yourself, but you can get the general idea just from looking at the subheadings:

The race factor
Executing the innocent?
Questions raised

Under each subheading, death penalty proponents get about two or three lines and the rest is against them.

You then got similar treatment for the Stanley Tookie Williams fiasco (I'm not putting 'Tookie' in quotes, because it turns out that it's not a nickname; that was his real middle name. Who knew?). The articles constantly bemoaned his impending execution and how his defenders said he was innocent and/or had been redeemed.1 The fact that he had murdered four innocent people in cold blood during robberies and then laughed and bragged about it afterwards, that he had created a pox on American society generally and black communities especially by founding the Crips, that he never admitted to his crimes, that he always refused to provide any information on the gangs because he wasn't a “snitch”… well, all that got nary a mention or was significantly downplayed. It usually wasn't as important as noting that he wrote a few anti-gang kids books that were probably ghost-written, few were purchased, and nevermind the fact that it's when kids are entering their teens that they're especially vulnerable and a book read to them at 5 probably won't have much impact.

Then I get to this article about Charles V. Thompson, the guy who walked out of a Houston jail last month even though he was on death row. He relates his experience on the lam to the AP:

It was great. I got to smell the trees, feel the wind in my hair, grass under my feet, see the stars at night. It took me straight back to childhood being outside on a summer night. It was short lived, but I think it was worth it.

(Apparently he also drank a lot as a child because he was stinking drunk when he was captured.)

The article even ends with this little quote meant to make us feel sorry for him:

I'm pretty much resolved to my fate. Concrete box 23 hours a day. Just sit in there and think about how they're going to kill you.

Oh, poor boy. Well, you know who won't be smelling trees, feeling the wind in their hair, grass under their feet, or seeing the stars at night? His ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend whom he killed and who receive barely a blip in the article. In fact, their names aren't even mentioned, so I'll say them here: Dennise Hayslip and Darren Keith Cain.

So what about the slain?

Thompson got in an argument with Cain, left, came back with a gun and shot them both. He shot Cain four times before then shooting Hayslip once in the face. Moreover, a psychologist who examined Thompson said that he is "a charming, narcissistic sociopath who turns violent under stress." Being a sociopath means that he lacks the ability to sympathize with others and is essentially an amoral being. Other people have no moral import to him and he can lie, cheat, steal, kill, and do whatever is to his advantage and it's no big deal as far as he's concerned. In fact, it's not a deal at all except that if caught it will inconvenience him. And so he will say whatever and do whatever he thinks will get people on his side. He's scum.

So when CNN.com puts up this friendly-looking picture of Thompson…

murderer

…remember what a heartless, manipulating bastard he is and that these were the friendly-looking people he murdered (from a victim-tribute site the AP apparently couldn't be bothered to visit):

the victims

"I'm pretty much resolved to my fate. Concrete box 23 hours a day. Just sit in there and think about how they're going to kill you." Good. At least he'll get to know when death comes for him. He gave Dennise Hayslip and Darren Cain no such courtesy.

I highly recommend this post from the crime blog The Dark Side with details, links, and newspaper clippings of the case.


  1. I'll comment more on the Tookie circus when I get a chance. [back]

3 Comments »

  1. I could be convinced that the death penalty is wrong, but the glorification of truly evil men like Tookie Williams makes it hard for me to take the arguments of death penalty opponents seriously. There is no doubt in mind my mind that Tookie and most other people sentanced to the death penalty in the US deserve to die, along with many others sentenced to only life terms or less.

    I have some mild reservations about the state premeditatedly killing people, but as long opponents treat these these men as heros and saints, when they are obviously not, it is hard for me to think they are being honest in their other assertions. I can respect an argument such as the state should not use the death penalty because avoidable premeditative killling is always wrong or the death penalty is ineffective in fulfilling its objectives or it is too expensive to do it correctly to make it worth it. I am most receptive to this last line of argument because I am cheap. But people like Thompson and Williams deserve to die. The question is should the state be the one to kill them.

    Comment by Pete The Elder — 12/21/2005 @ 6:24 pm

  2. […] I complained here that when producing articles about death penalty cases, the AP is remarkably biased. Its stories focus almost exclusively on the plight of the person to be executed and almost completely ignore what the person did that got them on death row to begin with. […]

    Pingback by Dangerous Dan » More AP Fuzziness on Executions — 1/14/2006 @ 3:21 pm

  3. […] I’ve complained several times about the AP’s reporting on captial punishment cases, mainly that they’re long on the plight of the condemned and almost wholly omit discussion of the crimes they committed and the people they killed. Well, I need to give credit where it’s due as this article is nearly the exact opposite. It goes into some detail of the murders ordered by Clarence Ray Allen who is to be executed tonight, and makes it clear that he was a bad man. It even includes pictures of three of the people he was responsible for murdering. It’s worth reading. Permalink Trackbacks(0) Comments(0) […]

    Pingback by Dangerous Dan » AP Does Right on Execution Reporting — 1/16/2006 @ 3:49 pm

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