Don't Kill Off the Death Penalty

Call me cold-blooded, but my reasons for wanting the death penalty remaining on the books are purely mercenary. It’s not that I want to see people executed; in fact, my point is that nobody has to be executed. But when I see articles like this one in Time magazine, I just wonder, where are these peoples heads? All the usual arguments are presented; there have been fewer executions, DNA evidence, ineffectiveness, racism, blah, blah, blah. State governments present politically manipulated reports as evidence that it isn’t needed, and so on. Maryland’s Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley is quoted:

In his state of the state address last week O’Malley called capital punishment “outdated, expensive and utterly ineffective.”

Of course, many of the same types of people have no problem putting aside the 2nd Amendment, leaving residents more at risk of being killed by criminals than the criminals being executed for their crimes.

The article doesn’t name any death penalty supporter, let alone quote any, leaving one to assume that everybody in America is against the death penalty. And because there aren’t any pro-death penalty advocates as part of the piece, there’s no way for anyone to know at least one good reason to keep it.

Here’s where I’m going with this.

The Mafia is made up of some really bad people, just about everyone of them a murderer. Yet with all the crimes they’ve committed, whether its murder or the corruption that has cost this country billions upon billions upon billions of dollars over the last 8 decades, not a single Mafia boss has been executed. In fact, the only organized crime boss executed for murder wasn’t even a member of the Mafia, but was Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, electrocuted in 1944 (Jewish organized crime figures worked with the Mafia for much of the first few decades; but, the Italians have pretty much had the run of big time organized crime for the last 45 – 50 years).

For anyone who watched the excellent gangster movie Donnie Brasco, it was a stirring, and fairly true, story of how the FBI infiltrated the Bonanno Family of New York. However, one notorious character was notably absent, Joe Massino. During the “Donnie Brasco” period (late 1970’s – early 1980’s), Massino was high-ranking member in the Family. The film showed the murders of a character named Sonny Red (Alphonse “Sonny Red” Indelicato) and two others, Dominick Trinchera and Phil Giaccone, by Sonny Black (Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano) and his crew. In real life, Massino was involved in those murders as well (he ordered the hit). Massino also had Napolitano whacked after the Family found out “Donnie Brasco” was FBI agent Joe Pistone. While many mobsters went down, Massino didn’t, at least not due to Pistone; he was found guilty on RICO charges in 1987, and was in prison until 1992.

While in prison, Massino was named boss of the Bonannos after the previous leader, Phil Rastelli, had died of natural causes. After getting released, he spent nearly 12 years rebuilding the Family to be more powerful than it had been in a long time. As with any other major mob figure, the federal government wanted to take Massino down. Sure enough, it happened; in 2003, Massino was arrested on a slew of charges, including the murders of Indelicato, Trinchera, Giaccone, and Napolitano. The fed told Massino either he talked, or they would prosecute him for capital murder. For years, mob turncoats have wrecked the Mafia in many cities, including New York. The highest ranking New York Mafia figure to flip had been Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, underboss to Gambino chief John Gotti. What the fed did worked; because he didn’t want to face the possibility of being executed, Massino became the first New York Five Families boss to talk. The federal government didn’t have to put anybody to death, but the death penalty allowed crime fighters to go after some of the worst criminals (albeit not as powerful as the Mafia once was) still walking the streets.

The fed took a lot of heat for letting Gravano get off lightly after turning on Gotti; I think he served just a couple years in prison after admitting to 19 murders (Gravano managed to screw that up by starting an ecstasy ring, and is currently doing time for that). They don’t have that problem with Massino; the “Last Don”, as Massino is sometimes referred to since he was the last of the New York Mafia bosses who hadn’t been in prison (all the others were, and now are), was sentenced to life behind bars where he sits today.

Massino didn’t die. He didn’t have to. The death penalty worked. It might have been nice for Time magazine to mention it. But of course, they long ago gave up on being a news source.