Providing pubilc forum for convicted murderers

I attempted to raise an issue in somewhat of a hijack to this thread, but as it has gone unnoticed by all but one astoundingly astute (and oh-so-goodlooking) poster, I figured I’d give it a home of its own.

This concerns Paul Hill, who was convicted of murder in the killing of an abortion provider and clinic escort. This morning’s paper reported that in a 2-hour press conference, he held forth on his views, including a hope that similarly minded folk would follow his example and kill in the name of God. The following is a reprint of my post in that forum:

*What are the mechanics by which this happens?

Let me acknowledge that I am opposed to capital punishment, and to the extent I am a bright-liner on anything, it would have to be free speech. And I need look no further than Illinois’ recent commutation of all death sentences to see the merits of prisoners having some access to the press. But a 2-hour press conference for an admittedly guilty man?

It seems as though the press is gleefully allowing itself to be a vehicle for this despicable creature to spew his venom. Should his execution cause him to be martyred and emulated, I might consider that yet another count against state execution.

Any thoughts as to the relative costs/benefits/desirability of affording such a forum to this or similarly situated persons?
Is this a feather in the press’ cap, or a black mark?
Is this good or bad for our society?
Why does the press pursue and publish this?
Simply because it will sell?
In order to “warn” the public that such sick individuals exist?
To spread what the press considers a legitimate message?
In order to allow even the likes of this man some access to a public forum?
Does our prison system have to allow such “grandstanding” by any class of inmates?
Should they have to, or whould it be preferable/constitutional if they imposed some sort of limits?

From what I understand, the prison system is under no obligation to allow the press – or any other person – ANY access to a convicted felon/inmate.

As a rule, they allow access to persons the prisoner might want to see as a PRIVELIGE. The idea is that if you behave, you will be permitted to have your relatives visit, and some places even allow conjugal visits. Other priveliges may be earned, as well.

And revoked. For any reason, or no reason. Most prisons are fairly reasonable about this, but they are under no obligation as far as the prisoners are concerned, aside from state and federal laws and basic human rights.

The best case I can think of was John Wayne Gacy, who, after his conviction on about a zillion counts of murder, actually managed to earn the privelige of having a telephone in his cell. The idea was to allow him regular contact with his lawyers (who were appealing the hell out of his death sentence) without bugging the guards. He was also selling quite a few clown paintings, so he was able to pay for it all himself.

Mr. Gacy lost this privelige when word got out that he’d set up his own “1-900” service, for anyone who wanted to chat with a nationally known murderer and child molester.

After the story aired on some news show, the prison pulled the plug on the John Wayne Gacy chat line, and his phone priveliges went back to being like those of any other inmate: at the guards’ convenience, as per prison policy for an inmate at Gacy’s privelige level.

I understand sales of his clown paintings fell off after that.

However, there are ways around the prison officials. Any inmate may write letters, and mail them, so long as he is not in violation of any laws (bomb threats, etc.) He does have to pay for his own postage, but there are legitimate ways of earning money in prison to do this.

Consequently, the ball is more in the media’s court than in the prison’s. Any inmate may freely express any opinion or worldview he likes; that’s part and parcel of free speech. They don’t have to allow a camera crew in to film it, and I cannot help but wonder why they chose to allow a friggin PRESS CONFERENCE, but if he has some axe to grind, and he can get in touch with the media, and the media is willing to give air time or column space to his weirdy-assed ideas…

…well, that’s constitutionally protected freedom of speech, there. No way around that, felon or no.

Personally, I thought of it as a freak show. The guy has absolutely nothing to lose, and is scheduled to die, so why NOT spout off anything that comes into his head?

And if it’s a slow news day, well, why NOT show it? Well, actually, I can think of lots of reasons… but I’m not a program director for a news outfit, whose job it is to draw the geeks and provide the numbers, so Marketing will have an easy sell to the advertisers…

So much for socially responsible journalism.