Crazy to Kill

In October 2002, they finally led Aileen Wuornos to where she wanted to go: the death chamber

Wuornos murdered because she could no longer tell the difference between abusers and needy customers willing to pay money for a few moments of physical contact, Tricia Jenkins says: "There was lots of abuse from men picking her up. Her fuse became very short."

After she was convicted in January 1992 of the murder of her first victim, Richard Mallory (Wuornos lashed out at jury members, calling them "scumbags of America"), she pleaded no contest to three other murders and guilty to two more (the seventh victim's body was never found). She then gave up her right to appeal, turning away lawyers who sought to help her.

Tailpipe has heard too many stories of innocent people being executed to support capital punishment. But Wuornos seems to be the exceptional case -- the killer whose crime had been indisputably proved and who, conveniently, really wants to die. "If ever the death penalty was appropriate," Ridgeway insists, "it was appropriate for her."

Fort Lauderdale attorney Raaj Singhal became Wuornos' court-appointed lawyer near the end of her life, when he represented her in a formal complaint about alleged abuses by the corrections officers on death row. "She had a wide range of complaints," Singhal says, "including charges that the guards were verbally abusing her, urinating in her food, sending sonic radio waves at her." At times, Wuornos would talk about how happy she was that she was being executed, he says: "She was almost giddy about it." She even told family members that she would return a few months afterward. (For the record, Wuornos did not "return" on June 9, 2003, as she had promised.) Singhal became convinced that she was mentally ill and, therefore, not "competent to be executed." The state shouldn't accept mentally deranged "volunteers" for the death chamber, Singhal argued.

A through-the-looking-glass argument, if ever this gas-spouting cylinder heard one. Who else but crazy people would "volunteer"? The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it's cruel and unusual punishment to execute the mentally ill. It was a ruling that itself has turned out to be cruel. Psychotic inmates in other states are now being brought back to sanity with drugs so that they can be led, clear-eyed, into the death chamber. This was the case in Arkansas two weeks ago, when 44-year-old Charles Singleton was put to death after psychotropic drugs brought him close enough to sanity to legally execute him. What could be crueler than that?

There's an old joke about a man who's about to be executed by a firing squad, until a doctor steps in, saying, "You can't kill this man. He has a raging fever." Would nursing him back to health first -- or curing Wuornos -- have been more humane?

Despite a short, court-ordered examination by a panel of psychologists, Singhal's efforts to have Wuornos reevaluated failed, and on October 9, 2002, she was led where she desperately wanted to go: to the death chamber. Rest in peace.

As for Charlize Theron -- take it from Tailpipe, she's got the Oscar. From Quasimodo to Rain Man, it's the mental defectives who win every time. You can take that to the bank.

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