Murder Is Not Cruel and Unusual Punishment?


Not in the eyes of the law.

Christopher Eugene Brooks was executed in Alabama last night. He had killed Jo Deann Campbell in 1992.

His attorneys sought a stay of execution because the method of execution was cruel and unusual punishment. Apparently his murder of Jo Deann was not cruel and unusual punishment to her, because the court never considered that in Brooks’ fight to stay his execution, or at any other time, including the trial.

Have the scales of Justice that you see balanced in any depiction been tilted in the wrong direction? The victim died a horrible death, and the killer’s attorneys can actually write those words on a stay request, and they be considered by the court. Fortunately the Supreme Court said no.

If you’re not familiar with the details, let me give you an update. Jo Deann, through her generous heart, let Brooks and another man into her apartment. They had showed up on Jo Deann’s doorstep unannounced, asking for a place to stay for the night. Brooks and Jo Deann originally met in upstate New York briefly, but that was as far as it went. She had no idea she was letting her killer in the door.

Brooks robbed her, hit her in the head with an 8-pound dumbbell, assaulted her, raped her, killed her, then burglarized her apartment. That sentence seems straightforward, but let’s break it down. The 8-pound dumbbell you use for curls to build up your arms. They are hard and unforgiving. A blow to Jo Deann‘s head probably fractured her skull.

Robbery and burglary. What is that? An insurance company and the police have a definite definition. Robbery is a confrontation of the robber and at least one other person. Burglary means you don’t confront anyone, and take whatever you wish.

Jo Deann was aware that she was being robbed. She knew at that point she was confronting a monster. Then Brooks assaulted her and raped her, presumably while she was alive, and then killed her, and then by definition, burglarized her apartment.

I do think Jo Deann knew that it would never stop at robbery, and was going through the hell of cruel and unusual punishment herself before the rest of her fate progressed.

Medical examination can normally determine if a rape has occurred prior to death or afterwards, which gets into the realm of necrophilia. That might have been the only thing Brooks did not do to Jo Deann.

The other man in the apartment that night now walks the streets a free man. He served a short jail sentence on some ridiculous, minor charge. Did he stand there and watch the murder of Jo Deann and not try to stop it? I would have had him before a jury with some legitimate charge, and let the jury put him away for a long time.

Jo Deann lived in a quiet suburb of Birmingham called Homewood, by all accounts a place where murders never take place. But a murder took place on this night of December 31, 1992, and the Homewood police, though unaccustomed to investigating murders, nonetheless had experts in the field, and brought them in.

Let me stop here and reiterate. Brooks sought to put off his execution because the method of his execution was cruel and unusual punishment. After the injection of a sedative, he might still feel the medicine coursing through his veins that would stop his lungs and heart. I’m not sure of the amount of potassium chloride they used to stop his heart. I’m guessing a half a liter. The Justice system would have chided me of overdoing it slightly if I had been the administrator of the drugs, and not the Warden of Holman Correctional Facility. I would have used a five-gallon bucket of potassium chloride.

I would have probably been sued by Brooks’ family because the five-gallon bucket had not been cleaned and sanitized before I poured in the potassium chloride. Lawyers for Brooks seemed to be able to come up with unusual reasons to go to court, and I would fully count on them doing that in the case of the 5-gallons of potassium chloride. When I got on the witness stand I would have requested of my attorney that I make a statement to the jury prior to any questioning, and that statement would have been, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. I can assure you Christopher Eugene Brooks is dead.”

You would think someone whose name spells out Christ in the first six letters, might not be a killer. But there he is dead, and he still has the same name. Couldn’t we at least have the option of renaming the killer? But there might be restitution in the fact that if no one claims his body, it will be buried in the graveyard of the unwanted and unknown. I’m quite certain Holman Correctional Facility has such a place. Then he will be known no longer by a name, maybe a number, a non-entity in this world who could have passed through it peaceably, but didn’t.

Had I been in charge of his burial, I would have ordered another 5-gallon bucket of potassium chloride to pour on his grave. I would, of course had to pontificate at that time with these words, “Darn, he’s dead again.” I would not have told his lawyers if the bucket was cleaned and sanitized before I poured the contents on his grave.

Jo Deann would have been 46 now. I imagine she would have been married and had two or three kids, and maybe some grandkids. From what her family said about her, she would have been enjoying life, appreciative of life, contributing to life.

Christopher Eugene Brooks was 43. He didn’t deserve to be 43. Justice moves very slowly. The forensic and physical evidence was there to prove he killed Jo Deann Campbell. He should have died a long time ago.

I wish that would have righted the wrong. That somehow Jo Deann would have come back to life the second that Brooks died, but it never works that way, does it?

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