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home : opinion : columns May 24, 2016

12/2/2012 6:00:00 AM
Editorial Column: The long wait for justice

Rich Thurlow

Sometime between March 11 and March 14, 1980, Robert Smith, Joe Leonard Lambright and Kathy Foreman picked up Sandra Owen, a young woman with mental problems, who was hitchhiking in the Tucson area.

Smith raped Ms. Owen twice and the group took her to a remote area in the mountains outside Tucson. Lambright and Smith then killed the victim by choking her, stabbing her and hitting her in the head with a large rock. They concealed her body by covering it with rocks and the body was not discovered until one year later.

Lambright and Smith were tried in a joint trial before two separate juries. Ms. Foreman testified against them in exchange for a grant of immunity collectively earned.

From http://crime.about.com/od/deathrow/ig/Arizona-Death-Row-Inmates/index.06.htm, or just Google "arizona death penalty" and you'll find it quickly enough.

The preceding is reprinted just to let you know that both Robert Smith and Joe Leonard Lambright are, 32-plus years after the crime, still drawing air on Arizona's death row.

That's ridiculous.

It's worth mentioning now because the Mohave County Attorney's Office is talking like it won't bargain with murder suspect Darrell Ketchner. There's talk that Ketchner is willing to take life in prison without any chance of ever being released, that he's willing to plead guilty just to avoid the death penalty.

Ketchner went on a savage crime spree on Independence Day, which included stabbing Ariel Allison to death. All of that mayhem is alleged, of course, but the prosecutor's tough stance isn't because of DNA evidence or relying on a smudged fingerprint. There are plenty of witnesses who can place Ketchner at the scene.

But what will we all get out of this once Ketchner is - perhaps - tried, found guilty and sentenced to death? Many of us will feel a brief bit of joyful vengeance, followed by the realization that if Smith and Lambright are still alive 32 years later, it's obvious Darrell Ketchner doesn't even have to worry about his sentence being imposed for years on end. The system in Arizona is designed to play out over the course of decades, not years or months.

Keep in mind the crimes Ketchner allegedly committed took place 40 months ago, in 2009, and he's still awaiting trial.

If he's guilty and Arizona had a reputation for handling executions expeditiously - eight to 10 years sounds about right - the death penalty would merit support.

A future with 32 years of a gloating Darrell Ketchner winning one more small victory after another, and more time, isn't worth it. Put him in prison now with no hope for parole, no hope of ever being free.

Don't make many of the victims die of old age waiting for justice. Lock up Darrell Ketchner now and throw away the key.


Were you taken aback by the Associated Press referring to the death of four Americans, including Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens, as a "public relations disaster" for the White House?

I had to read the lead twice when the story moved Monday. It ran on Page 7 of Tuesday's Miner.

There's no question the AP has the president's back, as the popular phrase goes. There are all sorts of examples you can find by going to news sites online to keep track of the president.

To be clear, a public relations disaster is when the president throws up on the prime minister at an official dinner in Japan, as George H.W. Bush did in 1992. A more current example would be just about any public appearance by Vice President Joe Biden, if the media had the same rules in play for him that they had for Dan Quayle.

The murder of an ambassador in a terror attack is big on the disaster part, especially when there is information pointing to officials in Washington having real time images of what is going on and doing nothing about it. And it was hours before this disaster was done and Stevens was dead.

I suspect it would be a real disaster for the White House if the AP and other news gatherers showed some enthusiasm for finding out what really happened that night.

A good indication that's not going to happen is AP editors letting reporters get away with story leads like that one.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, January 4, 2013
Article comment by: Capt. Nice

Other than Tomchin, where are all the liberals supporting our touchy feely judicial system?
It is kinda hard to support a system as broken as ours and evidently they know it....and you know what, it is going to get worse as liberalism and socialism grows.
And then there is the fellow who only looks for a misspelled word to condemn...what a country! Kinda makes you proud to be an American now days Huh?

Posted: Monday, December 17, 2012
Article comment by: biker randy

The Libyan ambassador raped/killed incident is already being covered by the White House. Mrs. Clinton(in name only) already claimed being responsible for what happened, but recently she passed out and hit her head(concussion) via dehydration. So now her "I don't recall" memory of those times are covered just before she has to testify in front of Congress on the incident.

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012
Article comment by: Not Fair

@ Someone Else

Personally I could careless about the offenders rights, especially in cases where there are multiple witnesses. What bothers me is the constant feet dragging, and postponements that occur here in Mohave County and Kingman Justice systems. It is almost like they forget that there were victims who have rights also and one is of a "Speedy" resolution which means nothing here! In the mean time the offender is out on the street and still a threat!

Posted: Thursday, December 6, 2012
Article comment by: Someone Else

"...guaranteed a speedy trial in America is a joke anymore."

Uhhhh, you have THE RIGHT to a speedy trial, you are not guaranteed a speedy trial if you WAIVE said right. Just like you have the right to remain silent when arrested. You may also waive that right if you so choose and consent to an interview/interrogation. You have the right to be represented by an attorney, you may also waive that right and represent yourself.

Before you go bashing the legal system and try to be the "speedy trial police," you should understand your rights and how they may be invoked/waived at will. You're very good at the knee-jerk reaction, perhaps you should place a book on that knee to hold it down and read up on subjects before putting your ignorance on display.... Just saying.

Posted: Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Article comment by: Nice Chuckle


"A public relations disaster for obama. Oh dear, we sure don't want that, do we? Who cares that four people died, all apparently did so fighting and with much bravery, one Seal even giving up his whereabouts to let a C130 know where to come only to have it not come and his own death.

Let's don't forget, the Ambassador was tortured and sexually abused. . "

Let's not forget, your outrageous claims about the torture and abuse have never been proven, oops, left that part out, didn't you?

As to the whole Benghazi mess, where was your outrage when these happened before?

Posted: Monday, December 3, 2012
Article comment by: Linda Athens

Yes, the AP has obama's back all right.

A public relations disaster for obama. Oh dear, we sure don't want that, do we? Who cares that four people died, all apparently did so fighting and with much bravery, one Seal even giving up his whereabouts to let a C130 know where to come only to have it not come and his own death.

Let's don't forget, the Ambassador was tortured and sexually abused. .

Is this the America we all grew up in? For God's sake, you just cannot get thru the thick skulls of the liberals no matter what this administration does or says.

Jay Leno got it right. Obama will be in a heap of trouble if the press ever starts asking real questions.

And on the other, guaranteed a speedy trial in America is a joke anymore. Our whole country is upside down including the justice system. So the families of the dead wait...and wait.

Posted: Sunday, December 2, 2012
Article comment by: Edward Tomchin

Thurlow, you've obviously never heard of the American justice system and the protections guaranteed to people accused of crimes by the Bill of Rights.

I just hope none of your friends or relatives ever have to suffer the solution you propose for people accused of a crime before being convicted, but I hope you do. You're a real neanderthal.

Posted: Sunday, December 2, 2012
Article comment by: Same Old Thing

Lede, not "lead," Thurlow. I know, I know: Why bother with an education?

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