Attorney general is disappointed

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Mark Duke, 16 years old at the time, was angry at not being allowed to borrow his father’s truck.

After his father’s refusal, Duke told three friends who were with him at the time that he was going to kill his father.

After a short period of time, Duke, along with one of his friends, Brandon Samra, entered his father’s house.

Unfortunately, Duke’s father’s fiancee, Dedra Hunt, along with her two children, Chelsea and Chelisa, were also at the house.

After entering his father’s house, Duke told Samra they could not leave any witnesses alive. Duke began by shooting his father with a .45 caliber pistol.

Ignoring his father’s pleas for mercy, he said he would see his father in hell and shot him once again at point blank range.

At the same time, Samra shot Dedra Hunt in the face but failed to kill her.

Samra, and then Duke after he killed his father, pursued Hunt as she fled upstairs with her two young children.

Duke kicked in the bathroom door where Hunt was hiding with one of her children and shot her between the eyes.

Duke then took 6-year-old Chelisa out of the shower, where she was hiding, slit her throat and left her to die.

Seven-year-old Chelsea was hiding in a bedroom beneath a bed.

Samra pulled her out from under the bed and slit her throat while Duke held her down.

On March 1, 2005, just shy of the seventh anniversary of this killing spree, a sharply divided United States Supreme Court concluded that the U.S. Constitution forbids the execution of those who committed capital crimes before they turned 18 and in so doing, decided that Mark Duke’s crime did not justify the death sentence he had been given.

Their decision rested, not on new DNA evidence indicating his innocence but instead on an arbitrary standard created on this Black Tuesday that held that no one under 18 is capable of committing a crime that justifies the death penalty.

The court’s decision was not based on the text of the Constitution nor did it look primarily to American legal precedent but to the laws of other nations and to sociological studies.

It is clear to me, however, that a murder planned, committed and covered up like an adult, should be dealt with in like manner.

Since this ruling, I have been outspoken in my disagreement and disappointment.

I have been asked over and over about &uot;those 13 death row inmates affected by this decision.&uot;

My focus today is, not on those barbarians who have killed with vicious savagery, but on the thousands of others affected by this decision – those who loved one of those murdered.

They are the ones who have seen justice snatched from them. It is their thirst for justice that will now never be quenched.

I fear that the removal of this tool of deterrence from prosecutors will lead to more tragedy, to more brutality and to more victims.

I hope not. I pray not.

Troy King serves as Alabama’s attorney general. He was appointed to that position following the appointment of former Attorney General Bill Pryor to a federal judgeship