Man Without Qualities

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Associated Press Botches Execution, Morality, Journalism (So What Else Is New?)

Do reporters and editors have to go to some special school, or have some exotic surgery performed on their brains to remove the moral center, to run an article about a "botched" execution without a single mention of the name of the killer's victim or the circumstances of the murder, and without any mention of any attempt on the reporter's part to obtain the views of the victim's family?

Does it matter that the killer is fully named in the article, described by his named relatives in the most sentimental terms possible ("God chose my uncle to change history!") and that his irrelevant ethnicity is specified, while his victim is dismissed as a nameless "manager of a Miami topless bar 27 years ago?" Does it matter that the article is without any mention of the hideous aggravating circumstances of the victim's murder that warranted imposition of the death penalty?

Here is an entire article from the Associated Press - a very sick place:

Family denounces botched Fla. execution

Fri Dec 22, 11:54 PM ET

A Puerto Rican man whose botched execution in Florida renewed opposition to the death penalty in the United States and this island territory was buried Friday in a ceremony attended by about 100 people.

Angel Nieves Diaz, a career criminal condemned for killing a manager of a Miami topless bar 27 years ago, was given a second dose of deadly chemicals as he took more than half an hour to die on Dec. 13.

At the funeral in suburban Rio Piedras, family members said they hoped the notoriety of Diaz's case would boost the international campaign against capital punishment.

"God chose my uncle to change history," said Jackeline Nieves. "Now the death penalty isn't seen as something normal. It's seen as the worst, most inhumane method."

Medical experts said the 55-year-old convict could have experienced severe pain as needles that were supposed to inject drugs into his veins were instead pushed all the way through the blood vessels into surrounding soft tissue.

The case prompted Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to suspend all executions in the state as a commission examines its lethal injection process.

The U.S. Caribbean territory abolished capital punishment in 1929. However, federal prosecutors can seek the death penalty in some cases because Puerto Rico is subject to U.S. federal law.

The Associated Press doesn't think the victim is worth his name, but I'll publish it here: Joseph Nagy. I never heard of Mr. Nagy before, but I have known some Hungarians by that name - and since the AP saw fit to belabor his killer's ethnicity, I'll mention this groat of evidence concerning his victim's possible heritage. The AP tells us that about 100 people attended the killer's funeral (but no mention as to how many attended for larger political purposes). But neither the AP nor the public court records available online provide a clue as to how many people showed up to see Mr. Nagy off this earth - or what his family had to say at the time or now.

Even in the flush of advancing its political agenda in an article like this, the AP has an obligation to remember that the life of a long-dead manager of a Florida topless bar had value, the man who harbored that extinguished life had a name, and the circumstances of his death have meaning. So here - reproduced from an Eleventh Circuit opinion rejecting one of the killer's appeals - are the aggravating circumstances of the murder on which the death penalty was imposed:

The four ... aggravating circumstances were "Diaz was under sentence of imprisonment, had previously been convicted of another capital felony, ... committed the murder during a kidnapping, and committed the murder for pecuniary gain.
It's also worth noting the Florida Supreme Court's direct-appeal opinion had noted that the killer's "prior record in this instance includes an armed robbery, two escapes, the assault and battering of correctional officers, and a conviction for murdering the director of a drug rehabilitation center by stabbing him nineteen times while he slept."

I wouldn't wish unnecessary pain on anyone, even a killer in the course of his execution. But unnecessary pain sometimes happens. And if it has to happen to someone, it couldn't happen to a more appropriate person that someone like the killer described in this AP article.

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