Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Rapist-killer is poster boy for death penalty


Real doubts gnaw away at our rationale for the death penalty.
Irrefutable DNA evidence has undone too many cases based on faulty eyewitness testimony or lying jailhouse snitches or false confessions bullied out of suspects after hours of interrogation.

Extrapolate those finding against the majority of cases without DNA evidence and it's hard not to conclude that innocents reside among the 375 men on Florida's Death Row.

Mark Dean Schwab is not among them.

Death-penalty opponents have suffered a heinous draw. The next killer up for lethal injection, 16 years after his crime shocked Florida, remains among the state's most despised, least sympathetic criminals.

No doubts ever clouded this conviction. Six weeks after the convicted child-rapist was released from prison, Schwab kidnapped, raped and strangled an 11-year-old boy.

The public outrage spawned state laws that lengthened prison terms for child-predators, tightened early-release programs and invoke ever more severe residential limitations for sex criminals.

Sex offenders forced to live in their cars or under the Julia Tuttle Causeway can thank Mark Dean Schwab, in part, for their predicament.


His death-penalty challenge has nothing to do with questions of guilt or innocence.

Last week, the Florida Supreme Court rejected Schwab's argument that lethal injections violate constitutional prohibitions against cruel or usual punishment. But the U.S. Supreme Court has taken on a similar case out of Kentucky and other states that employ lethal injection (even Texas) have suspended executions until that's decided. Not Florida, which could have avoided unnecessary dramatics next week, but went ahead and set an unlikely Nov. 15 execution date for Schwab.

The Florida Department of Correction has been notoriously sloppy with its execution protocols, setting a couple of convicts' heads on fire back in the days of the electric chair. Then, last December, botching the lethal injection of Miami's own Angel Diaz, and prolonging his death into a 34-minute fiasco.

But, eventually, even a state like Florida will figure out a way to humanely dispatch condemned prisoners. Schwab's challenge amounts to no more than a temporary diversion from the real issues.


Meanwhile, any argument against the death penalty that invokes Mark Dean Schwab will only rile Floridians, particularly around Cocoa Beach, into a lynch-mob mentality.

In 1991, Schwab befriended the family of 11-year-old Junny Rios-Martinez in Cocoa, pretending he was a newspaper reporter interested in Junny's surfing exploits. He kidnapped, raped and strangled the child. Schwab later led police to the boy's body, stuffed in a locker, dumped in the woods and concocted a story of a mysterious stranger, the real killer, who forced him at gunpoint to abduct and rape the child. He estimated Junny's pain, on a 10-point scale, at five.

Later, awaiting trial, he enhanced his notoriety with a letter sent to Junny's parents threatening their surviving child.

The evidence was so overwhelming, so horrifying, his lawyer waived a jury trial. ''Any jury anywhere in Florida, in our estimation, was going to recommend death,'' his attorney told an appeals court.

Sixteen years later, death-penalty abolitionists can cite intriguing arguments against capital punishment.

None of them include Mark Dean Schwab.


Anonymous said...

There is nothing more to say. This killer will get what's coming. I am so sorry the young victim's family had to go through this.

Anonymous said...

Lethal injection, firing squad, doesn't matter this person needs to be put to death for this crime. He needs to feel the pain of his crime. Thats what punishment is all about.