After decades in this business, after writing or editing story after story about the atrocities human beings can inflict on each other, you can get jaded. You joke about murder: “Heard about Detroit-style chicken? Served faced down in a pool of gravy.”
You start to believe your feelings are immune to the horrors happening outside the news room.
Then you get a call like the one I got from my police reporter at the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal on Monday, January 18, 1993.
Three-year-old, brown-haired, blue-eyed Sheila Marie Evans was dead.
That morning, Akron Police Captain Paul Callahan said, the live-in boyfriend of Sheila Marie’s mother, 6-foot-1, 180-pound Ronald Phillips, “beat her and beat her and beat her.”
And that wasn’t enough.
According to police sources, later confirmed in court, the 19-year-old man became aroused when he saw that Sheila Marie was naked from the waist down.
Yes, he then raped the already bloodied and battered child … as he had done before. Her insides burst. He literally screwed this little girl to death.
So why am I telling you this?
Phillips was executed last week, almost a quarter of a century after he brutalized and killed Sheila Marie Evans.
I suppose I should be happy about that. Maybe part of me is.
But while Phillips was waiting on death row in Lucasville, Ohio, he became a central figure in an ongoing national debate — Arizona, of course, is right in the middle of it — about how we kill our killers. Whether we must do it humanely … and lawfully.
The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, says we must.
In Arizona, so does a settlement between the state’s Department of…
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