I read the other day that Susan Atkins, one of the idiots who followed Charles Manson and killed at his behest, is dying of brain cancer and has asked to be released to spend her last days in freedom as an "act of mercy." I am astonished at her chutzpah
This is the woman who entered the home of director Roman Polanski (who was not home at the time) and actress Sharon Tate and helped murder Tate and four other people. Tate, who was eight and a half months pregnant, begged for her life, asking Atkins to spare her life so that she could have her baby. Atkins told Tate she had no mercy for her and then stabbed Tate to death, tasted Tate's blood and used Tate's blood to write "PIG" on the front door of the house. In her trial she showed no remorse for killing Tate or for killing Gary Hinman, a young musician, two weeks before.
I have long opposed the death penalty, and am still opposed to it-- even for Ms. Atkins or even for the sociopath who murdered one of my closest friends two years ago. By not executing Ms. Atkins, we as a society have shown the unrepentant Atkins more mercy than she showed her victims. Atkins was sentenced originally to death, but her sentence was commuted to life in prison. Whether she died at 90 of a heart attack or at her current age, 59, of brain cancer doesn't matter-- she was sentenced to be in prison to the end of her life. She forfeited any claim to mercy when she murdered those people. She can spend her final days pondering, to paraphrase Shakespeare, the quality of mercy.