Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

May 18-24, 2006

City Beat : Philly Blunt

Lethal Rejection

Some people deserve to die. Officer Gary Skerski wasn't one of them, but the soulless scumbag who blasted the 46-year-old father of two with a sawed-off shotgun is. And the sooner he's put down, the better off we'll all be.

For the proper justice to be doled out, this unnamed cop killer can't be taken into custody. Otherwise, an animal's life will be spared while Skerski's wife and young children forever relive the day they buried their hero.

One needn't have personally known Skerski to have gotten the chills outside St. Adalbert Roman Catholic Church in Port Richmond last Friday; cop funerals stick with anybody who sees one. The wailing bagpipes. Thousands of officers waiting in a four-block line to honor their fallen brother. The tinge of vulnerability creeping into their stone-faced mugs when they realize they easily could have been in that flag-draped coffin. The anger being repressed.

What made last week's scene all the more tragic was that the cops weren't close to locking anybody up for the city's first police-officer homicide in a decade. While the department brass can't say as much, what the fugitive gunman did inside Pat's Cafe on May 8 warrants a shoot-first, don't-even-bother-with-questions-later response. Chances are, of course, whoever finds him first—and he will be found—will decide its not worth the repercussions to fire away. Instead, a yellow-eyed cop killer will be cuffed, knocked around a bit, put on trial and found guilty of first-degree murder. Then he'll be sentenced to death by lethal injection.

At that point, the justice system will break down. Like it always does.

Officer Gary Skerski

After Gov. Ed Rendell signs his death warrant—as he did for two Philly murderers last week—the cop killer won't pay the price Skerski paid for merely doing his job; he'll sit in a cell until natural causes take him away. So goes life in an era where people are deceived into thinking that nobody should be executed because capital punishment is savage and unfair. Well, Skerski's murder reminds us that it should be savage, and that what's unfair is caring more about a thug's rights than those of the survivors of murder victims.

Here's the problem: While there's no moratorium here, our capital-punishment process is so rife with potential grounds for appeals that every death sentence is inherently reversible. (All it would take at a Skerski trial, for instance, would be uniformed cops showing up in the courtroom, one attorney told me.) As a result, while 225 people had death sentences as of May 1, none has completed the appeals process in the years since Gary Heidnik was offed in 1999. So much for speedy justice.

Take the case of Jose "Little Bert" DeJesus. Last Wednesday, Rendell signed DeJesus' death warrant, a formality that comes after anybody is sentenced to die. The execution is scheduled for June 27, but DeJesus has at least a dozen years left even though he killed a pregnant woman and wounded a 2-year-old while carrying out a $5,000 hit near an ice-cream truck on a hot summer afternoon. (Eighteen-year-old Lisa Carrasquillo's child would miraculously be born after her slaying.) "A monster," assistant district attorney Carlos Vega said when asked about the man he prosecuted, a felon who snuck a knife into court with plans to stab him. "That does capture his essence."

Not only will the system protect him, but people will throw themselves on his arm to block the needle, claiming capital punishment is wrong because more blacks are sentenced to die than whites, and more from Philadelphia than the rest of the state combined. At least that's what Andy Hoover of Pennsylvania Abolitionists United Against the Death Penalty said first when asked why DeJesus should be spared, points reiterated in a study his group released Monday afternoon. He also noted that DeJesus has an IQ in the 50s, which qualifies him as mentally impaired. Well, boo hoo. He was with-it enough to function as a drug gang's hitman, so he's sharp enough to pay for his crimes. Want him living on your block?

Enough's enough. It's time to hold the abolitionists responsible for negating anybody who thinks an eye should be given for an eye. It's time to demand that lawmakers forget trying to please both sides of the issue and make it a priority to fix a broken system that protects vicious and unrepentant murderers. This should be done in Skerski's name.

If law enforcement officers bring his killer in alive, stand up and declare that some people, especially a cop-killing maggot, should go straight to hell. And don't stop yelling until he gets sent there.

Photo of decommissioned electric chair courtesy of Historical and Museum Commission

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