A few weeks back, after Judge James Brady vacated the death sentence of Todd Wessinger, murderer of Stephanie Guzzardo and David Breakwell, I wrote a letter to this paper in protest. Everything I said in that letter I believe to be true, but I suspect the raw emotion may have come through a bit too stridently for the editor’s tastes, so I am trying again.
The facts of this crime are not in dispute: Wessinger walked into Calendar’s on Perkins Road, shot the bartender in the back, shot Guzzardo as she pleaded for her life, on the phone with 911, then shot Breakwell as he begged for his life near the back door. The jury convicted him and recommended the death sentence, and the judge concurred.
During the penalty phase, witnesses were brought forward to testify, basically, that Wessinger was a good kid from a good family, got caught up in drugs and made a terrible mistake. That didn’t work with the jury. Various appeals ensued. Different tactics were employed. Now, he is supposedly mildly retarded, from a horrible home background, etc. In one of the more recent hearings in Brady’s courtroom, we were subjected to the spectacle of some of the attorneys from an earlier appeal testifying that they were incompetent on that one. Kind of a “heads I win, tails you lose” sort of a thing. If you fail in an appeal, just get another set of lawyers to question you on the stand and say you didn’t know what you were doing. Neat.
Brady was appointed by Bill Clinton. I’m sure it was just a coincidence that Brady had been chairman of the Louisiana Democrats during both of Clinton’s successful presidential runs. So far, Brady has essentially pardoned Albert Woodfox (something I didn’t know a judge could do) and vacated the death sentences for Christopher Sepulvado (child killer), Kevan Brumfield (cop/single-mom killer) and Wessinger.
I have a question and a suggestion:
Question: Why should citizens bother with jury duty if some judge can overrule the whole deal? Why go through all that? Why bother with judges in the lower courts if it’s going to wind up on someone like Brady’s docket?
Suggestion: Term limits for federal judges. These people are appointed, sometimes for blatantly political reasons. Why should the citizens of Baton Rouge, for instance, be subjected to the political leanings of a guy appointed by Clinton or anyone else? And for as long as he lives. The victims, their families, friends and simple law-abiding strangers deserve better. Don’t like the death penalty? Change the law. Until then, obey it. If a judge doesn’t respect the law, who will?
THOMAS HAWK claims adjuster