I was walking past the TV in the living room a few months ago and the local news was broadcasting a segment about a woman who had been knifed repeatedly in her apartment by a robber early Sunday morning who had been seen checking for unlocked doors. As the broadcast went on, introducing more details about the nameless victim, I started to feel a horrible sensation of inevitability: she was somebody I knew. Finally, when the reporter mentioned she had been a Peace Corps volunteer, I went and found my wife to tell her that her friend X had been attacked, but was in stable condition in the hospital.
Just two weeks later, the victim was back at work, speaking through a voice amplifier because she had been stabbed seven times in the neck and face. She told my wife that while doing paperwork on her bed on Saturday night, she had fallen asleep and failed to lock her door. The robber had walked in at dawn and woken her up. When she said, "Take my laptop," he replied, "But you've seen my face" and started stabbing her. Her resistance and screaming brought neighbors out of their apartments, so the would-be killer made a run for it, taking her computer, cell phone, and credit card.
He wasn't exactly a criminal mastermind. He called all his fellow members in his Latino street gang on her cell phone, and used her credit card at his local Jack-in-the-Box. When the cops came to call on his gang friends that he had dialed, they rolled over on him and said he always went to Jack's for breakfast, where the police nabbed him the next day.The death penalty is debated frequently, but seldom do you hear the best justification for it -- as a way to prevent witness-killing, as this bastard attempted. This guy is an idiot, but he was still logical enough to understand what so many pundits fail to grasp -- that in this era of long prison terms for crimes like robbery (which have successfully lowered the crime rate), murdering a witness can be rational unless there's the deterrent of the death penalty. California has a "three strikes" law mandating life imprisonment for a third felony, so without a death penalty, it makes perfect sense for a two time loser to kill witnesses to what would be his third strike.