Murder by We, the People

As we have been considering murder here I received word that a close friend of mine, Dana Cole, a fine man, lawyer and a law school professor, has recently witnessed the murder of his client.

I have argued that the seeds of murder abide in all of us. But what about the love of murder that flourishes in the belly of the law? The law purports to represent right conduct on the part of we, its subjects. But the law itself is a killer. And we, though those who represent us, author the law. As a trial lawyer for now more than fifty-six years I have acted on both sides of this question. But rarely do we discuss who actually endures the punishment of death.

Lawyers who take on a death penalty case are among our greatest heroes. They are few and unsung and often despised. Their pay is piteous. And some work without fee. But they protect the soul of the law. In America the promise is that every citizen, no matter how vicious and brutal, is entitled to a fair trial. Only a lawyer who loves the law and has a deep sense of the human condition would take on such an assignment. For most lawyers, such cases are too ugly, too bloody, too horrifying and too painful.

Here, in part, is what Dana wrote me concerning the execution of his client, Rick.

As the shock of witnessing my friend die begins to wear off, the horror only increases.  I have never had trouble sleeping until now.  I sleep only a few hours at a time and even then I have nightmares — bizarre dreams involving dogs that strain against their leashes and break their restraints but simultaneously break their necks.  I cry in restaurants without warning and without even consciously thinking about Rick.  If things don’t improve soon I’ll go see someone about it.
I have received unbelievably hateful voice and email messages.  More than one person has expressed their wish that my daughters suffer the same fate as the victims in Rick’s case.  I have also received very loving and supportive messages.

I feel compelled to defend Rick even in death.  I made the following statement to the press immediately after Rick was killed:

“I am Rick Cooey’s lawyer and friend.  The crimes that Rick committed he committed as an immature 19 year old influenced by drugs and alcohol.  We try to pretend we are somehow better than Rick. But what we witnessed here today was a killing that was planned and funded for more than 22 years.  The man we killed is not the same man who committed the crimes.  He had grown and evolved and matured and was today a 41 year old man who bore no resemblance to the teenager he once was.  He was good and decent, bright and articulate, creative and witty, and very kind.  He was loved by his family and his friends and even his lawyers and we will miss him.  Rick is now beyond pain — beyond sorrow — beyond the call for his blood.

We refused to show Rick mercy by arguing that he showed his victims no mercy. When we are asked to account to God for having killed Rick, what will we say? — that it was the law?  In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “Criminals do not die at the hands of the law; they die by the hands of other men.”  The mercy we refused Rick, we will surely someday need and may God have mercy on us all.”

They will send me Rick’s ashes and I will take him to Ireland to a spot he and I picked out together…Despite the pain of all this, I know I was right where I needed to be — with Rick until the end and beyond.

Meaningful words are hard to find. Here is some of what I wrote Dana:

Once more I ask, who is being punished here? Rick is at peace. His death will not erase the pain of his crime. You will bear the scars of this case for the rest of your life — and it has nothing to do with any failure on your part. It has to do with the injury that is imposed on decent, dedicated lawyers in cases in which this illegitimate penalty is imposed — for how can death be a just punishment in a system that makes intentional killing a crime?

We kill the killers and become killers, and wonder why we cannot stop the killing. Yes, we are killers. I, too, would kill with a certain glee if the Death Penalty were humanized and I could drive a knife through its heart once and for all.

In the end, Dana, you can see this as your gift, and Rick’s, toward the demise of the Death Penalty. As in any war, we have to invest so many lives in the battle before it can be won.

Indeed, if we executed the legislators who gave birth to this law; the judges and jurors who embraced it — who joined in this conspiracy to kill; if we applied the law of murder to the mob of citizens who clamored and yowled for Rick’s blood, and to the prison personnel who for twenty-two years planned and finally committed this public killing – if all were punished similarly for this premeditated murder, this uncivilized idea of the death penalty would soon vanish.

In the name of humanity we must stop the killing – all killing, or in the alternative we must stop claiming there is something noble, something heroic about the species that separates us from the beasts.


25 responses to “Murder by We, the People

  1. I fear you will never see this. Uniquely amongst most nations, it is the public, not the leaders of the USA, who drive the death penalty. When the SCOTUS prevented states from executing their citizens the legislatures went into a paroxysm of activity in order to satisfy the public lust for judicial murder. Although the changes were arguably cosmetic the SCOTUS held its nose and looked the other way, letting the death entertainment industry proceed.

    When the first person left death row as a result of DNA or of the activities of journalists or of students the process should have been stopped dead in its tracks. Something outside of the ‘system’ had shown it to be fatally flawed. However willful blindness became the order of the day and everyone pretended that all was as it should be. The public lust must be satisfied – the electorate will severely punish those who prefer justice to revenge.

    Be happy, condemned, as you go to your deaths. You are helping to elect another coward to rule those you offended.

  2. Thanks for a great post. Prof. Cole is teaching me Evidence this semester. And, much more.

    I’ve told Prof. Cole that despite the tragedy of the whole situation, and the horror of the practice, it has at least reaffirmed for me my commitment to non-violence, justice, and equality. I want my goal to be ending the death penalty in this country. However, it seems presumptuous and arrogant to take up such a large task. Lawyers like Prof. Cole give me the strength and hope to begin the long, long journey.


  3. In the name of humanity we must stop the killing – all killing, or in the alternative we must stop claiming there is something noble, something heroic about the species that separates us from the beasts.

    I would add in the name of humanity we must stop the “covert” killing of any person or person’s by The United States government using organized Harassment and Torture perpetrated by the National Security Agency [NSA], Science Application International Corporation [SAIC] and other agency’s using Military grade Psychological Operations and Direct Energy Weapons against United States, and other countries citizens form around the world.

    “Stop claiming there is something noble, something heroic about the species that separates us from the beasts.

    Nice blog Mr. Spence 🙂

    Please don’t stop using your special gifts.

    Love “Light” and Energy

    /s/Donald F. Truax (Still fighting the bad guys “WITH NO HELP”) 😦

    PS: Please say hi to Mrs. Mave.

  4. I wish I could say something and add to this. But I can not.

    You, Mister Spence and your friend, Dana, have said it so eloquently what needed to be said.

    I suppose that is why I have always admired you and wished everyone could have an attorney like you on his or her side.

    Having no less sorrow for Rick’s victims, than I do for Rick, we are seeing a barbaric world unfold more rapidly around us.

    The age of killers are getting younger. The revenge sought upon them is getting stronger. The deterioration of our traditional values greater and our core human strength is growing weaker.

    Many innocent people on death row have in recent years been released due to the “discovery” of their innocence primarily from DNA evidence.

    We must wonder how many innocent people have died at the hands of the lynch mobs of our society.

    And how do you pay back a man who spent 20-years or more on death row when in fact, he was an innocent man? And worst, what if we took his life and then we found out he was innocent?

    Two wrongs don’t make a right, and killing is wrong. Period. No exceptions, no excuses.

    A human life is such a terrible thing to waste. The world will never know what great minds were lost to such disposal in the name of revenge… and hate.

    You may not always see or hear from your readership, but you can bet many of us are silently seeing and listening to your articulate words.

    As always, continue your eloquent writing, Mr. Spence.

    I had better go now; this is your blog, not mine.

    Thank you for your time and effort.

  5. Thanks also to Donald Traux. Gerry

  6. Thanks, Jess. Such a fight would make your life tough, painful and worthwhile.


  7. To:
    A voice of sanity.

    Thanks for your voice. We are a very angry and punitive people. It is the other fearsome side of our beauty.


  8. Americans Murdering Their Judges; US Crisis of Judicial Corruption

    by Dr Leslie Sachs
    (Banned in America)

    [Thanks to progressive national radio host Thom Hartmann of the USA, for calling this article “brilliant”, and to the reform group JAIL 4 Judges for saying this article was “the best and most inclusive article we have found written on the subject of the cover-up of judicial corruption.”]

    In the headlines are the appalling news stories of Americans carrying out murderous attacks on judges and their families. In a matter of days, one judge was shot and killed in his own courtroom, while another judge had family members brutally murdered in their home.

    These news stories are, however, related to another news story, which is the most taboo subject of the American media – the expanding crisis of corruption among American judges and lawyers. At question is whether the deepening despair of Americans about their own legal system, is fueling some of these violent attacks on judges.

    Mr. Spence….thought you might find this of interest.

    Love “Light” and Energy


  9. I was not familiar with this case before I read the blog. After reading it, I went looking for the other side of the story. Here is a version of it:

    Early on the morning of September 1, 1986, Cooey, Dickens and Kenneth Horonetz, Jr. were throwing chunks of concrete off the Stoner Street Bridge onto U.S. Interstate 77 in Akron. One of the objects dropped by Dickens struck the car of a University of Akron student, Wendy Offredo, age 21. Also in the car was another student, Dawn McCreery, age 20. Pretending to rescue the two students, the three men kidnapped them. Cooey, then age 19, and Dickens, age 17, took the women to a field where they beat, stabbed, tortured and raped them for three and a half hours, eventually beating them to death and abandoning the bodies.”

    A bloody knife was found in Cooey’s pocket. A bloody nightstick was found in Cooey’s bedroom. When arrested, Cooey was wearing one victim’s watch.

    Not a crime of passion. Not a crime of opportunity. Not stealing bread to feed a starving family. Not one where there is any real doubt about who committed the crime. Just three and a half hours for two young girls of beating, stabbing, and raping before their skulls were crushed in with a nightstick.

    The criminal defense bar naturally is partial to the rights of the defendant, and sees the case through that prism. We the People, who sit in judgment, must take into consideration the rights of the victims, their loved ones, and the interests of society in trying to deter crimes like this, and punish crimes like this. The crime beyond the crime here is not the death of the murderer; it is that he was raised to believe at age 19 that he could with impunity beat, stab, torture and rape two young women, for three and a half hours, beating them to death, stripping a watch off at least one of them, and abandoning the bodies in a field.

    So lawyers and law students, what system do you propose in place of the one we have, which takes into account not just the what is right for the defendant, but what is right for the victims, their loved ones, and society at large? And whose rights have priority in your new scheme? And why?

    The death of any person is always a tragedy. A life cut short. A life wasted. There are no easy answers. But the view of this case from the purely analytical perspective of the criminal bar does not, for me, do full justice.

  10. I would like to respond to Doug Humes’ comments.

    I would submit that a sentence of life imprisonment without parole adequately punishes the offender while also protecting society. From that standpoint, whether Dana’s client may have been guilty is simply irrelevant, the argument being that the death penalty is simply barbaric and has no place in the 21st century. Indeed, the rest of the free world abolished it long ago.

    I am a lawyer. And while I do not practice in the field of criminal law, I have tried a substantial number of civil cases. I can therefore unequivocally state the following: trials do not always turn out the way that they should. Much turns upon the dedication and skill of the lawyers as well as the ability of the client (or lawyer) to locate and pay for the appropriate expert witnesses.

    Stated another way, the machinery of the courtroom is frail and imprecise. Thus even assuming that justification can be made for the death penalty in some general or academic sense, what argument can validate the execution of the innocent – which is the inevitable consequence of a flawed system?

    I live in Illinois where we theoretically have the death penalty. But not long ago we went through a period during which a dozen or more death row inmates were exonerated. This resulted in our governor commuting all of the death sentences and imposing a moratorium upon fuure executions.

    That moratorium has been in effect for seven or eight years now and it seems to have created a comfortable middle ground for politicians who want to appear tough on crime by supporting the death penalty – as long as nobody actually dies. This worked for a while. But now we have some politicians who are want to appear even more tough and who therefore run for office on a platform of lifting the moratorium. I doubt these politicians will be getting much support from former death row inmates who have been vindicated, but the former should at least talk to the latter.

  11. What does the death penalty do except act as a method of revenge and fulfill a blood lust? Does publicizing executions promote compassion and justice? Does an execution help cure society of murders or reduce the murder rate? Is a civilized society more civilized by executing its citizens? Does an execution protect society from murder greater than a life sentence without parole? Is an execution reversible when new evidence proves innocence? Do I want to teach my son that the answer to anything is murder? I don’t think so.

    There are some emotions that are harmful as well as useless. Revenge is one of them. When I am angry, I try to channel this anger into something productive. Even in murderers, I see something useful. I would like to channel the consequence of their despicable act into something good in society. Yes we must protect society from them and many could never be rehabilitated. BUT – are we forgetting that all human beings, no matter how loathsome have unique qualities and even the ability to contribute to society – evil from behind prison walls

    Could not the convicted murderer help design programs to address the problems that lead them to murder? Are they incapable of contributing anything to society from even behind secure prison walls? Do people not change? Do people not grow in understanding? Perhaps America is wrong about the death penalty and the rest of the civilized world that abolished it is right.

    I hope I see some day the death penalty in the United States goes the way of being drawn and quartered in England. I would like it talked about as a barbaric ancient method of punishment not fit for the civilized world, which promoted violence instead of preventing it. I don’t want anger and revenge misused in this manner any more.

  12. Mr. Humes,

    I do not believe anyone on either side of the “story” would ever suggest that what happened to those two women was anything less than a tragedy. I also think that no one on Rick’s “side” would argue that his life was worth any more or less than those of the lives he was convicted of taking. And, it seems a little, well, rude of you to think that Rick was “raised to think” he could commit crimes like this. He has a mother and a grandmother who loved him. Not that this is an excuse, but he and the accomplice were both under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time–they were probably barely thinking.

    You said yourself that the death of anyone is a tragedy. Part of my disgust with the death penalty is that it commits a tragedy and doesn’t make anything any better. If you believe it does, talk to some lawyers whose clients have died on death row. When the object of the victim’s family’s hate is put to death, to whom do you think they address their vengeance now?

    Furthermore, I think our system is a good one, that offers reasonable safeguards for the rights of both sides. I think, in practice, however, we often only play lip service to the rights of the accused. The rights of one individual defendant can be violated, and never redressed. What you did not find in either side of the story is that many issues were never heard on the merits–because of bad lawyering in the early stages, and bad timing (election year) in the later stages, not everything was addressed substantively. That, I believe is a crime.

    Your post raises a good point, though. All sides must be fairly assessed and all those harmed need some voice and protection before final judgment.

    Even if you think the exercise of the death penalty was justified in this particular case, can you still sign off on its use in all cases? Until a perfect system is created, those in favor of the Ultimate Punishment must be willing to accept however slight a margin of error–say 1 of every 100 executed are actually innocent. Though you may feel the execution of Rick was justified (because you believe he was guilty), that now leaves the next person with a 1 in 99 chance of being the innocent. Just because the system got it right this time does not mean it should be perpetuated.

    Unfortunately for Rick and those who supported him, he makes a perfect example for people who want the death penalty to remain in use. There is no doubt he was present at the scene, one cannot argue that his sentence was the result of racism, and he had 22 years on death row to try to prove his innocence. It would be much easier for opponents of the death penalty to instead discuss and publicize the obscene injustices that we can prove–the death of innocents at the hand of We the People. I take quiet comfort in the idea that if there are those who can defend Rick (or “worse”), if there are those among us who will outlaw the death penalty *despite* these types of cases then there must be millions of people who will concede the argument for the “easier” cases.

    Lastly, in the effort of full disclosure, I will add that my views are tainted not by being of the criminal defense bar, but because I am a pacifist. I do not commit acts of violence nor will I tolerate them done in my name.

    No one tragedy can make up for another. The system I envision for the future of the law is the system that recognizes that fact and embraces it fully. The purpose of the law is redress, corrections of wrongs, to make some person whole again. I am so terribly sorry that in the case of the taking of one life, there is simply no remedy available at law or on earth to accomplish that goal. I would hold no one’s rights over anyone else’s–the victims have a right to seek punishment for those guilty; they have, however, no more a right to seek a tragedy than the guilty had a right to commit one in the first place. The victims’ families’ salvation will only come through other means–hope, love, peace, and compassion.


  13. Dana Cole has done a real disservice to the Profession. I wouldn’t be able to sleep either if during a representation I became friends with a client who with impunity beat, stabbed, tortured and raped two young women, for three and a half hours, beating them to death, stripping a watch off at least one of them, and abandoning the bodies in a field.

    The first sign of emotional intelligence, the key driver in being able to fulfill one’s duty as a lawyer to a client like Richard Cooey, is detachment. Cole violated this first rule. Only by being disengaged does one have any chance for seeing matters as they really are.

    Had Cole not become a friend of Cooey, perhaps he would have done and better job of counseling Cooey and getting him to be honest and truthful about his full and complete role in the crimes.

    Cole’s friendship created a conflict of interest. How many friends lead their “friend” to confess to the horrors commited by Cooey. Cooey’s refusal to allocuate and admit fully and completely his guilt appears to be the principal reason he was executed.

    John Boyd has a great deal to say about the psychology of conflict, which Cole needs to learn. Conflict drives at the moral structure of the opponent. That Cole suffers as he does shows that he knows, morally, it was wrong for him to become a friend of someone as evil as Richard Cooey.

  14. For Moe Levine:

    Moe: One can never ask a juror to do what I, the lawyer, cannot do –namely, to care for the accused.

    Those of us who have defended death penalty cases struggle at times to find something worth saving in the accused. I proceed in the belief that no matter how vicious and degenerate the accused is, there indeed exists something worth saving — in every person. It is often a very hard search.

    In Dana’s case, the state killed a different man — one who had grown and become a valuable human being. In doing so the state tells us that redemption is an empty promise, an unacceptable ideal. We cannot be redeemed — ever.

    I do not believe that. Otherwise none of us could exist except in the dark world of hypocrisy and bigotry. We would say it is impossible for a vicious murderer to become a worthy human being. I would not want to live in a world where growth, forgiveness and love are impossible. Not to care about one’s client is to abandon him.


  15. Linda:

    Your questions, if answered honestly, would eliminate the death penalty. Thank you. Gerry

  16. For Doug:

    Thanks from Illinois. Ideas such as those we encounter in favor of the death penalty take on a religious character — which is to say that your comments, as true as they are, become irrelevant to proponents of the death penalty because their BELIEF in the death penalty cannot be overcome by reason, logic or truth.

  17. Moe:

    I just wanted to say that you maybe should refrain from choosing the label of “evil” for a person that you never met. For a person who, in fact, had you represented, you never would have gotten to know. If a lawyer should not befriend a client, nor should he seek so quickly such a harsh label.

    For me, your vision of the law is a cold and calloused one. It’s one that no doubt operates everyday. I do not intend to practice that way. If it results in my suffering because I dared to care for someone– so be it. I, unlike too many, am willing to make that sacrafice.

    Also, note–Professor Cole does not complain of his suffering. He says he would do nothing differently. In the last five years of Rick’s life, he had few people near him. For you to suggest that the only care he ever knew be withheld for him because Professor Cole was his lawyer is just cruel.

    When I am admitted to the Bar, I will swear to uphold the rights of my client and to represent him or her zealously. No part of that promises not to care for my client, or his soul.

    Before Professor Cole came onto the case, the lawyers didn’t even call Rick by his name. (They used Richard.) How or why would anyone trust people who don’t even bother to learn their name?


  18. All

    Thought you might find this of interest:

    “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it ultiplies it… Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate… Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out hate; only love can do
    that.” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – (1929-1968),
    US civil rights leader

    Love “Light” and Energy


  19. Jess,

    Its not a sacrifice–its bad lawyering and it its certain to lead to defeat for your clients.

    As Herb Cohen says, “I care . . . but not that much.”

    I have alsolutely no problem knowing that a person is evil, without ever meeting them. You need to develop that judgment, fast, if you want to survive in the criminal law business. Become friends with an evil client and you can wind up broke, in jail, or worse. If you think not, read the 7th Circuit Opinion in US v. Cueto sometime.

    The first rule in life, and any court room, is that actions speak louder than words. I have absolutely no trouble saying that Cooey was evil, based entirely on his actions. Anyone who doesn’t recognize Cooey as evil is wholly lacking in judgment.

    Here is what the Cooey did:

    On the night of August 31, 1986, Wendy Offredo, twenty-one, and Dawn McCreery, twenty, finished their shift at the Brown Derby Restaurant in Montrose, Ohio. Sometime after midnight on September 1, they left for the Harbor Inn, located in Portage Lakes. They never arrived.

    Their course of travel along Interstate Route 77 took them underneath the Stoner Street Bridge in Akron. Appellant, Richard Wade Cooey II, on leave from the United States Army, was standing on the bridge with two friends, Clint Dickens and Kenneth Horonetz. They were amusing themselves by throwing things off the bridge. Just as Wendy and Dawn passed below, Dickens threw a large chunk of concrete over the side. The concrete hit Wendy’s car, forcing her to pull over.

    Cooey and his two friends went to offer assistance to Wendy and Dawn. All five of them got into Cooey’s car, and Cooey drove to a shopping mall, where they found a pay telephone on which Wendy called her mother.

    While Wendy was talking to her mother, Dickens saw money in her purse. He suggested to Cooey and Horonetz that the three of them rob Wendy and Dawn. Cooey replied, “I’m game if you’re game.”

    Everyone got back into the car, and the group left the mall. When they realized Cooey was not returning to the site of the “accident,” the women asked Cooey where he was going. He pulled out a knife and ordered them to “shut up.” He then gave the knife to Dickens, who opened it and held it on the women. Dawn gave up her purse, while she and Wendy asked their assailants not to hurt them. Cooey told Horonetz to tie Dawn’s hands, whereupon Horonetz demanded to be let out of the car, and Cooey let him out.

    After letting Horonetz out, Cooey drove to an isolated wooded area in Norton, Ohio, where Dickens raped Wendy. Cooey later admitted to police that he tried to have sex with Dawn, but claimed that he stopped. However, the coroner’s examination indicated that Dawn had oral and vaginal intercourse before death.

    After he was finished with Dawn, Cooey had oral and vaginal sex with Wendy. While he was with Wendy, Cooey said, “Hey, Clint, put on the Bad Company tape.” After Cooey was finished with Wendy, he and Dickens put the women back into the car. Dickens then told Cooey that he had not been “really worried,” although the women knew what he and Cooey looked like; however, now that they knew Dickens’ first name, they would have to be killed.

    Dickens and Cooey brought the women back outside. Dickens began to beat Dawn with a nightstick belonging to Cooey. Meanwhile, Cooey grabbed Wendy in a choke hold, rendering her unconscious. He tied his bandanna around her ankles to keep her from kicking him. Dickens then tossed Cooey a shoelace, and Cooey strangled Wendy with it while Dickens strangled Dawn with his other shoelace. Cooey also beat both women with the nightstick.

    Cooey and Dickens then stole Wendy’s jewelry, dragged the bodies away from the road, and hid them in the weeds. After brushing away their tire tracks with branches, they went to a car wash to get rid of the bloodstains on themselves and the car. Finally, they discarded the purses.

    Thus, the proposition is how to effectively represent an evil person. One doesn’t do that by becoming friends with one who is evil. Ones does such with emotional intelligence and social perception, both of which compel detachment.

    Detachment, by the way, does not mean that one doesn’t learn the client’s name. Social perception means the opposite; one professionally measures how to effectively communicate. That is our business—we are professional communicators, whether we are good, bad, or indifferent.

    To the point, the proposition not disputed was my basic thesis—that friendship actually creates a conflict of interest in the relationship, for it leads to misjudgments, such as what may have happened in this case. The reporting of Cooey’s pardon application strongly implies or suggests that Cooey might have been pardoned, had he confessed to his proved crimes. The proposition was demonstrated that the friendship could have interfered with getting Cooey to admit his guilt. No one disputes the point.

    Last, it bothers me greatly that you and the others who post here are so lacking in the fundamental psychological propositions of Winning and Losing. Again, I would suggest you read John Boyd with care. Here is a link. At page 36 in his seminal presentation, The Strategic Game of ? and ?, he describes mental or moral isolation and thereafter its central role in Patterns of Conflict.

    A simple, but effective, example of mental or moral isolation are the statements of fact in many criminal opinions written by conservative supreme court justices

    John Boyd would likely say that everything Mr. Spence teaches about trial technique is directed toward combating the mental or moral isolation of the defendant from the jury. On the other hand, one who takes on evil as a friend is going to suffer mental and moral isolation, as Boyd explains.


  20. Moe,

    Thanks for your response. I don’t think you and I will get much further in discussions. We have a fundamental disagreement about life and philosophy, really.

    I think some actions are evil, not people. There are very, very, very rare circumstance where I think “evilness” resides in the fundamental fiber of a person. Cooey is not one of those cases. Such a case would be much closer to a Dahmer–and even there I would probably say such a person is really too sick to be “evil.” There actions, no doubt, are among the worst and most vile, but their souls, if they exist…well, maybe that’s not for me to say.

    For me, to view any person as evil forecloses the chance that that person could ever change or grow. I would argue that our entire criminal justice system does not even view the accussed or convicted as evil, themselves. Our system is (purportedly) based on the concept of rehabilitation. If people are “evil” they cannot be rehabilitated. Our punishments and systems do not really support your idea that Rick was, as a person, evil.

    Maybe you do believe that people who carry out evil actions are evil people. Maybe you think people who are “evil” should be punished differently than people who are not evil, but just sometimes do bad acts. If that is the case-maybe you should review the rules of character evidence. Even IF Rick or anyone else is an “evil person” that is not justification for state sponsored murder.

    On a side note–I wouldn’t usually use the word “evil” anyways. The religious connotations go far beyond what we are really trying to talk about. I think you mean you view some people as “perverse” or beyond help or “fundamentally flawed.”

    I am not going to argue the facts with you. The shoelace Rick used on Wendy did not cause her death nor was it used tightly enough to do so. Rick admitted to strangling Wendy to keep her from screaming. He also moved the car in an attempt to leave, but was blocked by Dickens who was moving Dawn’s body. [Dawn was also dead by the time the shoelace came into use–Dickens left deep marks on her neck that suggested the lace would have killed her.]

    Even if Rick’s actions were evil, I don’t think they justify the state’s commission of another evil act (killing Rick). Dickens’s actions were just as evil and he was not punished similarly (because of his age). Should some evil people be spared? If they are evil and cannot be fixed, what’s the point? If some actions show that a person IS evil, then we best kill all people who do those actions, right?

    The record reflecting Cooey’s supposed unyielding coldness is absolutely wrong. The Summit County Prosecutor knows as well as I do that Cooey’s apology letters to the family were submitted to the Court five years ago. She was present when it was read into record. Rick apologized to the families but did not ask for their forgiveness because he recognized that it was “too much to ask.”

    In any case, I simply disagree that befriending a client is the road to their demise. Some clients will be convicted and incarcerated or killed no matter what. At least they can have a friend. I am not saying I will become best friends will all clients I have. Of course not. But, I am not going to label someone as evil BEFORE meeting them, BEFORE OR WITHOUT reviewing the evidence. I just don’t think that’s right.

    I do not think I will be any more or less mentally or morally isolated than anyone else. I will choose to view all my clients first and foremost as humans, and the other side will choose to view my clients as heathens, monsters, and evil beings. We will each have our blind spots in our approach. Mine will likely cause me hurt and pain when no matter my efforts, I cannot save someone I feel deserves mercy. My opponents’ are more likely to incriminate innocents and feel justified in doing so because they are convinced they incriminated deserving monsters.

    Being a friend to someone does not mean you convince them to act against their interests. It’s not bad lawyering on my part. It is a choice. It will have consequences, and I will own them.

  21. in seeking justice in the death of my son i would be glad to see the people responsible put to death but that will not bring me the satisfaction of haveing these killings go uninvestigated. here in lincoln county new mexico the law does not do investigations if they feel it is unwarranted or if they just plain dont want to. the minorities here are being targeted by the police and nothing is being done, the native indians here are being targeted and nothing is being done and the legal system is in place to get us lockedup.

  22. Dear Dana: I’m sorry.

  23. Dear David: I’m sorry your son was killed. How awful. How dare they. And no investigation? How pitiful. I am a lawyer and I am also the victim of a crime. I’ve been shocked to learn that no one cares for the victims. The accused is cared for by the defense lawyers. The police and prosecutors don’t give a flying hoot about the victim. Their words to the jury say they do. Their actions toward the victims say they don’t. Let’s face it you will learn some things about your precious son’s death in the morning paper with the rest of the world and the wound bleeds anew. I hear what you are saying, David. Loud and clear. May justice rain down on you, your son and his murderers and on us all. Peace.

  24. Dear Moe: What a terrrible crime. How awful to die like that. It’s truly horrendous. How horrible for these awesome young women and their families. As a mother, I can visualize Wendy’s mom’s anxiety as the hours drug on that horrible night and Wendy never returned home.

    I cannot agree that Mr. Cole did any disservice to ultimately befriend Rick after all hope was gone and the death clock tolled. Mr. Cole is my friend and in my opinion he could not and would not disserve his profession. Nor would he disagree with anything you or I say about how horrific this crime was.

    But I admire him for stepping in to befriend the friendless to the end and beyond. Because I wonder where we will find the answer to stopping these crimes if we do not get to know and embrace the ugly part of our humanity from which this evil you speak of springs. Where is the seed fertilized, how does it germinate and bring utter destruction if it’s host and the victims of its host. How arrogant are we to pronounce judgments so right, so incapable of human error, so untainted by the corruption that otherwise pervades our government that we dare do what Rick Cooey did and pronounce a sentence of death? If absolute power corrupts absolutelyas Mr. Jefferson and others said, then doesn’t the absolute power exercised in the death penalty, the absolute power to extinguish a life, absolutely corrupt us all? And isn’t the antidote to the absolute power to defend and befriend the accused? For the accused there is NO friend other than the defender. And when we truly defend and not just show up at yrial but truly defend, we DO befriend, whether we acknowledge the truth of the befriendment as Mr. Cole has done or deny it by wrapping it up in technical terms.

  25. Someday soon would you consider putting this blog up on the board again?

    Have a unique perspective myself that I’ve never seen discussed before. Thanks

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