Arguments Worth Having

Art = Absurdity = Provocation = Contemplation = Wisdom = Love

Arthur Longworth and the Woman He Murdered

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On April 16th the Seattle Times published Writer’s World: Life Behind Bars, about Arthur Longworth, a man serving life for the murder of Cynthia Nelson.  A week earlier a board denied parole to Charles Manson. Manson’s crime notorious, Mr. Longworth’s, not as much.

The facts:  In 1985 Longworth murdered Cynthia and confessed. Behind bars he has become a writer, and the Seattle Times romanticized and glorified Longworth and his stories, now studied by various writing classes, as well as promoted by Junot Diaz. Longworth found a prison groupie (women who love convicts, now that’s a topic) and has married.

The Opinion:  The article had little to do with punishment, deterrence, justice, and recidivism. And even less about the victim.

Death or Life or Parole?  Those against the death penalty must stop using “he reformed” or “it’s about revenge” or any nonsense about “religious conversion” and “forgiveness” to try to secure the release of prisoners.

For Death:  Even anti-death penalty adherents must acknowledge positives in execution, chief being closure, no chance of recidivism, greater deterrence, the end of the financial drain to sustain a prisoner, not to mention the risk prisoners pose to jailers and fellow inmates. Victims and society take priority over prisoners.  To argue against the death penalty you must not be absolutist.

For Life:  I am against the death penalty because I believe killing is wrong except to protect life, and there is a chance of executing the innocent (See The Thin Blue Line, or 60 Minutes on Michael Morton’s wrongful conviction). But society must keep felons convicted of brutal crimes locked up until there’s a zero chance of recidivism. Namely, for life.

VICTIMS: Voytek Frykowski, Sharon Tate, Steven Parent, Jay Sebring, and Sharon Folger

Victims:  Cynthia Nelson and her parents are dead. Cynthia was 25 when murdered; she would be 57 today. Her sister wants to keep this a private matter, and had nothing to say as Seattle Times reporter Jonathan Martin praised the murderer. Nothing about Cynthia on Google, nothing anywhere, just a dead woman.

Debt to society:  After murder it’s impossible to make it even. Longworth can’t repay his debt.

Parole:  Back to Manson. Why should Sharon Tate’s family have to appear at parole hearings for Charles Manson? Why should Cynthia Nelson’s sister hear, from KUOW reporter Liz Jones, Longworth posit: “All’s I’d asked for is, look, this is what I was. This is who I was. This is who I am now. This is what you sentenced me to. Do you still believe in that?” The Answer: “Now more than ever.”

Memorial to Victims in Norway

Anders Breivik killed over 70 in Norway and faces a maximum of 21 years. To repeat, we abolish the death penalty by never compromising life in prison. And what applies to Breivik and Manson also must apply to warm, fuzzy lovable murderers like Mr. Longworth.

Remember Jack Abbott:  Norman Mailer, thirty years ago, petitioned for the release of Abbott, even though Abbott had killed another inmate while in prison. Why did Mailer (and Jerzy Kosinski and Susan Sarandon) support Abbott? Because he could write. After six weeks free Abbott killed again. Even if you write like Jean Genet (a petty thief and not a murderer), you do the time.

To revisit: That Charles Manson’s victims’ relatives appear at parole hearings, that Cynthia Nelson’s sister fields questions from reporters who praise and seek to pardon Cythia’s murderer, is obscene. Longworth supposedly “became a Buddhist and learned Mandarin and Spanish” in prison. Fucking great. Prisoners who behave can earn privileges and Arthur gets conjugal visits. But, in no ways, can there be any alternative to “life in prison.” Here is the pecking order:

1. Best punishment = Life in prison.

2. Second best punishment = Death

3. Worst punishment = Any punishment that releases him back into our society.

You hear that, anti-death penalty supporters? If you are against death, you must be for life.

Update:  September 7, 2012 – Arthur Longworth Denied Clemency. Nelson’s family spoke at the hearing.


3 Responses

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  1. Anders Breivik face a amximum sentence of 21 -before his first parole hearing. Not 21 years maximum. He’ll then get another hearing every five years untill he is considered to no longer be a threat to society. He will probably serve his time in the Ila maximum security facility.


    May 18, 2012 at 12:06 am

  2. From The Guardian: “Since he has admitted his actions, Breivik’s mental health is the key issue for the trial to resolve. If found guilty and sane, Breivik would face 21 years in prison, although he could be held longer if deemed a danger to society. If declared insane, he would be committed to compulsory psychiatric care.”

    Caleb Powell

    May 18, 2012 at 4:44 am

    • UPDATE from CNN:

      “He was sentenced to the maximum possible term of 21 years and was ordered to serve a minimum of 10 years in prison. The time he has already spent in prison counts toward the term.”

      The article continues, implying that it is likely, in his case, that he will continue to serve after the maximum.

      Caleb Powell

      August 24, 2012 at 5:59 am

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