It’s entirely true that Walter Leroy Moody sent a series of pipe bombs around, one of which killed someone making him a murderer. But seriously, executing someone who is 83 years of age? Seems like an awfully high cost – yes, executions are vastly expensive – when just leaving him to the tender mercies of the prison hospital system is likely to do the job quickly enough:

On Thursday evening, Alabama is set to execute an 83-year-old serial package bomber named Walter Leroy Moody.

One of the few people who has to be taken into the execution chamber on a stretcher?

Moody is set to die by lethal injection Thursday at 6 p.m. at Holman Correctional Facility. He is the oldest inmate on Alabama’s Death Row, and still maintains he is innocent in the 1989 bombing that killed U.S. 11th Circuit of Appeals Judge Robert Vance Sr. at his Mountain Brook home. The blast also injured Vance’s wife.

Well, killing a senior judge, that’s something a legal system is going to come down pretty hard upon, obviously. Murder plus contempt of court and it’s not entirely obvious that the second isn’t the more serious crime.

Moody, who has spent more than 20 years on death row, has maintained his innocence and his lawyers have not yet used his age in appeals seeking to halt the execution. He has applied for clemency at the state level.

Actually, death row in the US might well be a worse punishment than the execution itself. The rules are entirely different from what they were in the UK when we still hanged people. The rules are stricter and it’s also, pretty much, solitary confinement. Rather than the relaxation of rules that we used to have when death was nigh.

But, you know, it is pretty odd to be executing an 83 year old. After all, he’s only waiting to find out which cancer is going to kill him, isn’t he?

Opinions and views around here on the death penalty itself are pretty mixed. But this case is odd to me at least. But, you know, maybe the stress will give him a heart attack – blackly amusing that would be, as the State would then try to make him well again so they could execute him.

Support Continental Telegraph Donate


  1. That the law means what it says, and that murder leads to undesirable consequences for the murderer, are much more important than whether a given execution is not worth it, superfluous, or tugs at our pity, if it even does.

    Yes, executions are absurdly expensive. Yes, “amusing…the State would then try to make him well again so they could execute him” — and the chemical must be found to be “safe and effective” by the same government. In practice, we use a sequence of chemicals that even mask from the convict the fact that his body is being induced to fail. That the State has tied itself in knots over delivering the penalty specified by law, is the problem, and abandoning the law is not the solution.

    • I’ve never really understood why they use the sequence of chemicals; just hook the condemned up to a nitrogen tank and get him to breathe in 100% pure nitrogen. As they’ll be expelling any CO2 when they exhale their body won’t panic about the lack of oxygen (the reflex isn’t actually about lack of oxygen but an excess of CO2) and they’ll carry on breathing normally until they stop.

      We did this as an experiment at school and it is surprisingly strange falling backwards off your stool as you pass out – without realising at any point that anything is wrong!

  2. There’s the old deterrence argument: “but that horses may not be stolen”. Now, I dunno if this is actually, statistically true or not, but the reasoning isn’t bad.

    I reckon, however, the true purpose of criminal law – the only objective that’s reasonably within the power and competency of the state acting as judge and jailer – is retribution. An eye for an eye, as the Jews and Babylonians believed, though not necessarily literally.

    If we accept the retributive purpose of criminal justice, and if we take murder seriously, then we should kill murderers. Stands to reason, don’t it?

    The Yanks largely believe this, bless their gun-toting hearts. Euros have devolved into the soft tyranny of the feminine therapeutic state where murderers are to be coddled in the hopes the scorpion may be taught not to sting, while people who hurt others’ feelings are jailed and ruined.

    So I say string em up. “While I live, every criminal must die” said Pope Sixtus V. And he was far from being an insensitive brute, he gave us the Sistine Chapel. Not the worst chap to listen to on jurisprudence.

  3. The U.S. Supreme Court has stayed the execution so as to get its own licks in. Perhaps octogenarians will be their next carve-out from the death penalty.

    Steve — The punishment is supposed to “fit” the crime, to be proportional to the crime, not necessarily be identical to the crime as the ancients held; it is awkward when A commits an obviously more heinous act than B but B gets the greater penalty. But the more important thing is that A, B, and bystanders contemplating crime know that crime meets a reaction that makes it not worth it — even after value-signalling judges get their turn. I believe that when a criminal meets one of these judges, he spends no time affirming the judge’s view of himself, and much time celebrating the fact that he got away with it.

  4. The death penalty is probably fading away in the US though it will take some years yet. The opposition to the death penalty is strong enough to result in decades between the initial sentence and the final execution. It is very costly. There is always the risk of error so each case is vetted and re-vetted. It is somewhat inconsistent of conservatives to think that government is largely inept or corrupt except when it comes to this.

    As a conservative, there are a bunch of things I think you could trade for the death penalty. For example, much lower tax rates, or even ending these silly tariffs. Perhaps even clipping a president’s wings so that they couldn’t do so much by executive order. Greater respect for states’ rights. The list goes on.

    Where liberals go wrong in their advocacy of ending the death penalty is that everyone understands that once that is accomplished their next goal will be to greatly reduce prison terms for murder as “life imprisonment is too cruel”.

    • In other words, why don’t “we conservatives” drop our out-of-step support of the death penalty in exchange for measures, such as lower tax rates, that would quickly be re-raised with the same rationale as originally? Trade it for ending tariffs? Odd, given that a “conservative” President is making higher tariffs his stock-in-trade. Embrace a leftie policy “in exchange” for hamstringing our President? No sale.

      Executive Orders properly only extend to the function of the Executive Branch in complying with the law. Read any of Trump’s for examples. Obama’s made excuses to defy the law and created entirely new programs such as work permits for illegals. These were illegal and don’t need a new law to make them so, much less one bought by abandoning conservative positions on real issues.

      No, anyone who has sat through the gay rights shell game knows that leftie demands are not final but are mere way-stations toward more perfectly wrecking the nation.

      • Is being against the death penalty necessarily a liberal position? Certainly it is true of many liberals but not all. Bill Clinton didn’t seem to have a problem with it. There are conservatives who would give it up. But, it still seems to me that overall support for it is waning in the US. If you think, as I do, that it will one day be ended everywhere in the country then why not try to get something for ending it earlier? As for other things, in a country that seems to be about 47% one way and 47% the other, with a small swing vote in between, it’s always going to be some see-sawing.

        • It is primarily a leftie position. But above that, you sound like a leftie. Conservatives adopt position X because understanding of the human condition suggests that X will be effective in favoring civil behavior (for example, starkly clear negative consequences for misconduct). Lefties adopt position X because I see the future and I am ahead of the curve, not that I am a leftie, in fact I am one of you, but we could get such a great deal if we just conceded to the inevitable, me me me.