Cruel and Unusual?

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As you may have noted, sometime after our show Monday night the man accused of being the escaped Miami serial rapist — Reynaldo Rapalo — was caught. I am sure there is a huge sigh of relief in south Florida. He had escaped custody in Miami last week and there was a huge manhunt to find him. This is obviously very good news, so I thought I would note it for those of you who follow our show closely.

Here is a short Associated Press story about it:

MIAMI (AP) — Reynaldo Rapalo is back in custody.

Nearly one week after escaping a Miami jail, the man accused of sexually assaulting seven girls has been captured.

Detectives caught Rapalo last night after a tipster spotted him in southwest Miami and called authorities. Police say the 34-year-old initially ran from them, but he was quickly apprehended.

Authorities say the Honduran tried to mislead them into thinking he was from Nicaragua. Rapalo escaped last week by tying bed sheets together and rappelling down the jail. Police suspect he had help in the escape.

Rapalo is accused of raping girls and women in Miami's Little Havana and Shenandoah neighborhoods in 2002 and 2003. He was awaiting a February trial that could have sent him to prison for life.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Note that Rapalo was caught the old fashion way (and the very common way) — a tip. People on the run often start talking and often that talking leads to a call to the police.

You might wonder about the reward — here is another story:

MIAMI (AP) — An aware citizen will get a $36,000 reward for giving police information that led to the arrest of a serial rape suspect.

The tipster spotted 34-year-old Reynaldo Rapalo in southwest Miami last night and called authorities. It was one of more than 280 tips police got regarding Rapalo.

Authorities have been looking for Rapalo since he escaped a Miami jail last week. Police say he climbed through a vent in his cell onto the roof of a jail.

Rapalo is suspected of raping several girls and women in Miami's Little Havana and Shenandoah neighborhoods in 2002 and 2003. He was awaiting a February trial.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

I am pretty sure this time he will be held in a more secure area of the jail. He is pending trial in February and will no doubt be charged with escape now.

Now for some e-mails about a story we did last night — and discussed in Monday's blog. It is about the 76-year-old legally blind man in a wheelchair who is scheduled to be executed on January 17 in California:

E-mail No. 1

I do have a thought on the scheduled execution of a blind man in a wheelchair next month in California. Why is he still alive if he was convicted 25 years ago for a brutal crime? The execution is a punishment for the crime committed so I don’t buy off any sympathetic clemency line for someone who may claim to be "changed" or "rehabilitated." Even if the man is "rehabilitated" he must pay the consequences for his actions and the legal and just penalty assigned to him was death.
St. Helens, OR

E-mail No. 2

Let him live his days in prison that he has left. Even thought he did a crime, prison is worst living day after day. He's in wheelchair also so let him be... God will judge, not us. Have a good day Greta!

E-mail No. 3

I am very passionate about some things but there is only so much time for so many causes. I will respond on your question of the death penalty, however, it is not one of my causes. I suppose it is necessary but I don't care to read about it or watch it — they should just do it. The problem with it is that it takes too long to carry it out. We all get to know the criminal then emotions come into play. About this man in the wheelchair, had we executed him years ago, as we should have if he was guilty we wouldn't care now about his physical state and just get it over with. Inasmuch as I realize sometimes they can convict an innocent person, what do you suggest as an alternative? I have none at the moment.

E-mail No. 4

This now blind and wheelchair bound 75-year-old man was only 50 (and apparently quite capable) when he committed the crime. The sad part is that he has been allowed to live so long. What he has become cannot mitigate what he did.
Karen Welker

E-mail No. 5

His age and health status does not lessen the murder he committed in 1980. The victim's family did not get to see their family member age and enjoy life as he could have. This prisoner's state of health is his natural age progression health, nothing more.
San Antonio, TX

E-mail No. 6

Convicted of a brutal crime. Legally blind. In a wheelchair. 76 years old. Maybe somebody should ask him how he feels about death by lethal injection. For him, it might come as a release from a pretty lousy life and situation. Sort of an assisted suicide.
Bob H.
Princeton, MA

E-mail No. 7

I think that they are going overboard on this guy. What can he hurt now? In a wheelchair, blind, 76 years old — I think he has suffered enough for what he done 26 years ago, just because he in the same prison as those other guys, so be it. Scott Peterson should be taking the old guys place. Thank you, have a great 2006.
Conyers, GA

E-mail No. 8

Dear Greta,
It is easy to focus on, and "feel" for an aging and blind death row inmate. However, this man is no angel. I used to be anti-death penalty. But after working with sexually abused children and families of murder victims for many years, I see no reason to keep such evil people alive. Nor do I want tax dollars spent on their health and wellbeing. Monies spent on "room and board" and medical expenses for such brutal offenders is much better utilized for victim's "rehabilitation" and mental health. Its true, many, if not most of such offenders come from abused backgrounds. I truly wish that these awful things did not happen to them. But they must pay the ultimate price for their crimes. Also, we need to be spending monies on effective (and empirically proven) programs to eradicate child and spousal abuse, so that we stop producing so many of these types of offenders.
I live in California, and one of the main problems here is that the appeals process goes on so long, that the public (except for the victim's families) often forgets about the brutality and sadistic nature of the murders these people committed. So, by the time the execution is really going to be carried out, things such as aging and ill health draw sympathy from the public. The victim's families remain unheard as in the case of the Tookie Williams, those families remained out if the media spot light by and large, due to fear (that has been with them for over 25 years) of retribution from thugs in gangs! The system favors the offender! We cannot forget the victims!
I in no way want an innocent person executed, or even held in prison. If legal representation was faulty, an appeal is necessary to make certain a person was tried fairly. But appeals should not go on as long as they do in California. But I do not feel sympathy for brutal murderers and rapists, child molesters, that are absolutely; guilty. Fortunately, today with advances in DNA and other forensic tools, we can determine guilt or innocence much more effectively.
Susan Marchini

E-mail No. 9

Merry Christmas!
Re: Executing handicapped
Handicaps do not absolve anyone from their responsibility to society. I am not for or against the death penalty but if he had his sentence carried out in a timely manner maybe he wouldn't be in this shape today. No matter how your circumstance's change you are still responsible to pay the penalty for your crime.
Patricia W.
Port St. John, FL

E-mail No. 10

The inmate who is scheduled to be executed on January 17 has been on death row for well over twenty years pending appeal after appeal. In the meantime he has suffered several medical ailments such as a heart attack. Now he is appealing his sentence because he is elderly and infirm. Not to carry out his sentence is sending the message that if a death row inmate can effectively use the system and file enough appeals in order to delay the already long California appeals process, then the state should commute his sentence.
I view this situation similar to the old story of a person who kills his parents, then pleads for mercy because he is an orphan. It makes no sense. The man was convicted, found guilty and his crime was sufficiently egregious to warrant the death penalty. His sentence should and must be carried out.
Toni M. Duldulao, J.D.
Anaheim, CA

E-mail No. 11

Concerning the elderly man in California on death row. Was he found guilty? Have the multiple appeals upheld the conviction?
If the answer to both is yes, then the execution should be held. Age or health is not a reason for someone to suffer the consequences of their actions!
I guess I am just heartless! My thoughts about the death penalty is that it puts the convicted "out of our misery" and also that it is not the severity of punishment is a deterrent to crime, but the surety of punishment.
Thanks, God bless and have a great 2006!
Ron Pass
Prattville, AL

E-mail No. 12

Hi Greta,
My thoughts regarding executing a man who is obviously no longer a menace to society correspond with my opinion regarding the death penalty in general. In my younger days I was an advocate of the death penalty, but changed my mind when I considered the potentially fatal mistake of executing an innocent person. That aside, I ask you what sense does it make for a society to claim that murder is wrong, then demonstrate just how wrong it is by killing the offender? As a relative of a murder victim, I am quite content knowing that her killers have each received a life sentence, without the possibility of parole. Remaining in prison for decades seems to me like a far greater punishment than losing one's life in a matter of seconds.
Love your show, Greta — just wish it were on earlier!
Milton, VT

E-mail No. 13

Hi Greta,
You asked for thoughts on the 76-year-old man in San Quentin that is on death row for a brutal crime he committed in 1980 that is scheduled for execution January 17, 2006. My thoughts are: what took so long? Twenty-Six years for the family to have justice? There is something wrong with this picture. Why wait until a day after his birthday? Execute on his birthday! We the taxpayers are tired of housing these people, with food, medical care and etc. Money wasted!
Houston, TX

E-mail No. 14

I am an avid watcher of your show. Last night I was very disturbed regarding a comment you made on your show. I live in Fresno, California. I was in high school when three people were murdered at our local country market. Two of those people were high school friends. I will never, ever forget that night... driving by and seeing my friends bodies covered with a yellow tarp. I have kept tabs on Billy Ray Hamilton and Clarence Ray Allen. They both deserve what they are getting. You made the comment, "These are very old murders." It does not matter how old these murders are, or the condition of the men who planned and committed them. My friends were shot with a sawed-off shotgun, and never will I forget that Josephine Rocha who was 16 at the time had a hole blown in her chest the size of a tire rim — I do not feel sorry for that man for a minute! He should pay just like anyone else.
Shanda Pierce
Fresno, CA

ANSWER: I am not sure what comment I made disturbed you. I did not state any position about the execution — whether for or against it — and I have nothing but contempt for murderers.

E-mail No. 15

It is difficult for me to understand the extent a state will go to in order to keep someone alive so that they can be put to death by that state! I also think it is cruel to take such extreme measures to keep the convicted person alive when they are so ill if the plan is to execute them anyway. I am not a supporter of the death penalty as I don't believe it is a deterrent, otherwise we would not have so many sitting on death rows across the United States. If we are so convinced that our system works well, and without error, why do we have in place a process that allows appeal after appeal going on for decades in some cases! That is also cruel to the victim(s) families. We are in the process of bringing democracy and humane treatment to the countries of Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe we'd better take a closer look at our own justice system. I don't pretend to have the answers, but I do have many questions!
Tempe Berggren
Gold Beach, OR

E-mail No. 16 — The next few e-mails answer the question how the e-mailer is going to spend New Year's Eve:

Hi Greta,
Chinese take-out and Scrabble!

E-mail No. 17

Happy Holidays, Greta!
I plan to spend my New Years, watching the Regis Philbin New Years Eve Special. I think you should have Jug Twitty more often on your TV show.

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