Volume 1, Number 3 -- October, 1996
Richard Allen Davis
By: Dave Lind
Richard Allen Davis may have done us all a very big favor. His deplorable behavior during and after the trial, culminating last week with his shocking intimation that Polly Klaas had been molested by her own father, has galvanized our nation as never before on the issue of capital punishment.
Across the nation phone lines to radio call-in shows are jammed with enraged callers screaming for the head of Richard Allen Davis and demanding it soon. For the first time since the death penalty was reinstated the debate is centered not on whether he should be put to death, but how soon. Any persons who might still be opposed to capital punishment seem to be at a loss, either for words or the desire, to argue in favor of this man's life. We are all, it would seem, agreed that Richard Allen Davis should die for his crimes. Likewise, we are all resigned to the fact that the process will take years to play itself out.
But why does it have to be like this? Why do we allow a confessed murderer/child rapist appeal after appeal even though he confessed to the crime? Similarly, why do we even insist on inflicting a lengthy trial on the family of the victim (all at tremendous taxpayer cost) when we have a confession signed by the killer? And in the case of the appeals, why do we bother appealing to the lower court at all when the law dictates the case be appealed on up the chain anyway? Why not simply appeal the case once, to the highest court, and then be done with it?
The Richard Allen Davis case has not so much pointed out deficiencies in our justice system as it has restated them. We've always been aware that the process was too lengthy, too burdensome, too costly. Both pro and anti-death penalty advocates agree on this. The problem has always been how to fix it.
Then along comes Richard Allen Davis. The confused tangle of moral uncertainty that at one time ensnarled the issue has vaporized, to be replaced by an overriding sentiment of indignation bordering on repulsion, culminating in a deep and abiding desire to remove this unspeakable piece of vermin from our plane of existence. Finally there is a realization that by ridding our world of a cancer such as this we are not, as a society, lowering ourselves to his level, but on the contrary are cleansing ourselves, purifying a festering wound so that one day we might heal and be well again.
And all this with just the flip of a finger, a blown kiss, and a hateful remark.
The pain that has been inflicted upon the Klaas family transcends any description that my feeble words could hang upon it. Thankfully, most of us have never known the pain that his poor, heroic family has endured. Hopefully, none of us ever will. Regretfully, with monsters like Richard Allen Davis lurking in the dark, a few of us likely will. I'm certain I speak for all who read this when I say that, were it possible, there is nothing I would not do to spare the Klaas family their horror of the past three years, no price I would not pay, no deed I would not dare.
But just as there is nothing that can be done to spare the Klaas family the torment they've already endured, there is something we can do to ease, or possibly even prevent altogether, the suffering of the families of future victims.
We can, we MUST, lobby our Congressmen and Senators to pass and enact laws that streamline the whole judicial process. Laws that limit the number of appeals in capital cases. Laws that allow confessed murderers to be sentenced without subjecting the victim's family to lengthy, painful trials. Laws that protect the family and society from being victimized again and again at the hands of heartless, soulless creatures such as Richard Allen Davis.
We owe this much to the family of Polly Klaas, whose bravery and nobility have enabled them to rise above even the most heinous machinations of the very spawn of Satan himself. If we can do this, if we can take advantage of the fire that Richard Allen Davis sparked in all of us with his words and his actions and somehow draw some good from all this evil that life has wrought upon us, then perhaps the Klaas family, and ourselves, can finally put this entire horrid episode behind us and begin the healing process.
And ironically, we would all have Richard Allen Davis to thank for it.