Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Some thoughts about Rowan Ford murder and capital punishment
(The following is my column for this week's Newton County News.)
The jockeying has begun.
Eight months remain before David Wesley Spears and Chris Collings go to trial for the brutal rape and murder of nine-year-old Rowan Ford of Stella, and public defenders are doing anything they can to keep their clients from being put to death.
Since both men have confessed to the crime, according to media reports, whether they live or die seems to be the only thing left to decide, though nothing is ever certain when it comes to the law.
The next hearing for Spears, Rowan Ford’s stepfather, is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12, in Pulaski County, where the trial is scheduled to be held on a change of venue from Barry County, where Rowan Ford’s body was discovered Nov. 2, 2007.
Online court records indicate Spears’ attorney has filed a motion asking that the aggravators, the reasons for seeking the death penalty, be tossed out.
In documents filed shortly after the arrest of Spears and Collings, Barry County Prosecuting Attorney Johnnie Cox listed three aggravating circumstances that led him to seek the death penalty:
-- "The murder in the first degree was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved torture, or depravity of mind;"
--"The murder in the first degree was committed while the defendant was engaged in the perpetration or was aiding or encouraging another person to perpetrate or attempt to perpetrate a felony of any degree of rape . . . "
-- "The murdered individual was a witness or potential witness in any past or pending investigation or past or pending prosecution, and was killed as a result of his status as a witness or potential witness."
A hearing in Collings’ case was scheduled for last week, but was postponed until Feb. 23, 2010, according to court records. Collings’ trial will be held in Phelps County.
Collings, a friend of Spears, you may recall, was the one with the MySpace site, which was filled with graphic, violent pictures of demons and included the note that his mood was “horny.” The date of his last sign-in, when that mood was recorded, was the day Rowan Ford, a fourth grader at Triway Elementary School, was murdered. The company took down the MySpace site following action by Gov. Jay Nixon, who at that time was the state’s attorney general. Nixon requested the removal after reading about the page on The Turner Report blog.
During the next few months, state public defenders are likely to try to make a deal in which their clients’ lives are spared in exchange for guilty pleas and life in prison without possibility of parole.
Odds are it is going to be a tough sell. Even opponents of the death penalty have to admit that if any crime calls for the ultimate punishment, it is this one.
As I wrote in my May 8, 2008 column:
Anyone who doubted the concept of evil had ample evidence to cause them to change their minds when the horrifying details of the death of Rowan Ford were revealed to the public late last year.
How could anyone do such barbaric things to an innocent nine-year-old child? And how can anyone argue that the world would be a better place by allowing these two (both of whom have given statements to authorities saying they were involved in the murder) to continue living?
After taking all of this into consideration, I am still not sure I can agree with capital punishment as public policy, but if you have to execute someone, I can’t think of two people who deserve it more.
(Previous posts about Rowan Ford can be found at this link.)