Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Bubba's Missing Pages - Executing the Insane

President Clinton forgot to discuss at least one interesting story in his tome, "My Life." It involves the issue of capital punishment and the legally insane.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, March 24th, 1981, nine-year veteran Conway (AR) police officer Robert Wesley "Bob" Martin was called to the home of Clyde Lee Rector at 1313 Harkrider Street (now Sutton Street). This was also the home of Ricky Ray Rector, age 28. Ricky was Clyde's son.

Ricky was a suspect in a triple shooting early the previous Sunday morning (March 22nd) at Tommy's Old Fashioned Restaurant, at the intersection of US Highways 64 and 65 in the north of town. The triple shooting left Arthur Criswell, aged 33, dead.

Patrolman Martin had been called to the residence by Mrs. Rector, who told him that she wanted to talk him. It was presumed that Martin anticipated that Ricky would give himself up at that time. Martin enjoyed a long-established, much cultivated relationship with the African-American community and saw himself as someone Ricky would trust.

After Martin's arrival at the home, he sat next to Mrs. Rector in the living room. One of Ricky's cousins was also present. Ricky walked into the room. After exchanging hellos with Patrolman Martin, Ricky pulled out a 38-caliber Taurus revolver from his back waistband and shot Martin twice, at a short distance - once in the jaw and once in the neck. Ricky immediately left the home.

While still in the yard, Ricky suffered a gunshot wound to the forehead from his own gun. It was never determined if the wound was inflicted by intention or accident.

Patrolman Bob Martin died a short time after being transported to the Conway Memorial Hospital. He left behind a wife and three young children.

Before the shooting, it was known that Ricky had profound mental challenges. The accidental or intentional shooting of Ricky resulted in a single bullet traveling through his frontal lobe, desensitizing him from normal life even more than his underlying mental difficulties already had. He was then, from a clinical sense, profoundly retarded.

Regardless of his inability to assist in his defense, Ricky was found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to death.

As the execution date came closer, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was running for president. All requests to his office for clemency in any measure for Ricky were denied. On January 23, 1992, Clinton left the campaign trail in New Hampshire and traveled to Arkansas to be present in the state for the execution.

Late in the evening on January 23, Ricky was given his last meal. He knew he had an important appointment soon - his "execution." He finished eating his meal, but saved his dessert (a slice of pecan pie) for a midnight snack after his "execution."

Just after midnight, on January 24, 1992, Ricky Ray Rector died from lethal injection.

Bill Clinton flew back to New Hampshire later in the morning, resuming his campaign with less than 24 hours lost.

The Associated Press commented on the sojourn: "The execution could help Democratic presidential candidate Clinton distance himself from his party's soft-on-crime liberal image, said some political observers in New Hampshire . . . ."

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