published Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Justice delayed -- 25 years

No one should take any delight in the execution of a criminal, even if the criminal was duly convicted of a horrible crime. But if a state's laws permit execution for especially vicious crimes, there ought not to be extreme delays in the carrying out of that sentence once it is handed down. Unreasonable delays reduce the deterrent effect of the death penalty and leave victims and their relatives in limbo.

That brings us to a particularly grisly case in Tennessee. Back in 1985, a suburban Memphis woman, Gaile Owens, hired a man to kill her husband. That man carried out the brutal deed, savagely beating Owens' husband, Ron Owens, to death with a tire iron.

Mrs. Owens was convicted a year later. But now, 25 years after the crime, both she and the man she hired are still on death row.

The Tennessee Supreme Court has set a Sept. 28 execution date for Gaile Owens. But with the processing of the case having dragged on for a grueling quarter-century since the crime was committed, does anyone know whether the just sentence will finally be carried out even then? Meanwhile, there is still not even an execution date for the man Owens hired to kill her husband.

We do not oppose reasonable appeals processes for anyone sentenced to die. But justice delayed 25 years is truly justice denied.

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