Most people, even those generally opposed to incarceration, would agree that raping and killing the 15-year old girl who lives next door is the type of crime that ought to land a perpetrator behind bars for life. Add to that crime the complications of torture, and a demonstrable lack of remorse, and the best outcome would seem to be literal banishment from the public mind.
But Marcus Wellons was all over the news this week. The killer is “elated” that the Supreme Court agreed with him that the behavior of jurors after the trial merits even more scrutiny — that is, scrutiny yet again, for Wellons has levied accusations against them many times in the past, and other courts already rejected those other claims.
This time, Wellons, sinking what could easily be be his hundreth quarter into the one-armed bandit of capital appeals, has hit a little jackpot. The victim is still dead. She has been dead for 20 years. Nobody doubts that it was Wellons who raped and killed her. None of this is about the crime itself: none of those nine judges sitting on the highest court spent one moment considering the rape and murder of India Roberts. Her death is besides the point.
It is the process that is obscene.
So the jurors, who were dragged from their ordinary lives to perform the task of judging Wellons’ heinous crimes seventeen years ago, will now be dragged from their lives and scrutinized once again. A majority in the Supreme Court agreed that (extremely tasteless) gag gifts given by the jurors to the judge after the trial and sentencing concluded somehow derailed the “dignity and respect” of the judicial process to such a degree that action must be taken.
Since the Supreme Court has now placed itself in the business of micromanaging the free speech of former jurors, it’s worth asking: how dignified is the judicial process, anyway?
Where is the dignity in a system that allows the defense to block and withhold evidence, treating jurors like children, ostensibly because they can’t be trusted to evaluate the quality of evidence on their own? What is so “respectful” about a system in which a dead victim and the entire matter of innocence or guilt may be reduced to a footnote throughout a mind-bogglingly expensive, twenty-year rehashing of minutiae from the trial?
The post-trial candy controversy is only the latest of Wellons’ appeals. I encourage you to read through this 1995 disposition of other appeals. It includes 37 separate claims. None have anything much to do with the rape and murder, except to dispute that Wellons tortured his victim in the act of raping and strangling her. Several of the arguments for overturning Wellons’ sentence are based merely on words used by the prosecutor to describe the victim. Wellons appealed on the grounds that the prosecutor referred to his dead victim as a “little girl.” He also objected to the act of mentioning of the victim’s lost life opportunities; to the prosecutor saying that the young woman did not deserve to die, and to stating the victim’s age in court.
Again, what, precisely, is “dignified and respectful” about a system that permits a convicted murderer to spend taxpayer dollars to object to someone saying his victim didn’t deserve to die?
Here are a few more of Wellons’ failed, taxpayer-subsidized appeals:
- Objection to the state cross-examining character witnesses Wellons placed on the stand.
- Objection to presenting evidence seized at the scene of the crime, though probable cause was established, and the actual tenant of the apartment gave police written and verbal permission to search it.
- Objection to permitting the trial court to let jurors see a videotape of the crime scene.
And so on. See a lengthy description of the crime and the appeal court’s findings here.
For the past twenty years, Marcus Wellons has apparently not deviated from his belief that he is the victim of an unfair system that should have “understood” him, not punished him. He expresses these beliefs in his writing and in the singles ads he places with a ministry group that posts such ads on the internet.
“Be a good listener,” In His Grip Ministry counsels potential prisoner pen-pals, “keep confidential what you are told . . . be prepared for romantic overtures.” Also, “don’t ask why an inmate is incarcerated” or “send photos except for group photos,” the latter, presumably, because some of the people you meet when you start sending mash notes to murderers might not be as taken with the spirit as IHGM might wish.
And may be released again.
Here is Wellons’ IHMG ad:
Favorite Verse: Isaiah 40:28-29, 31
I am Marcus Wellons, 50 years old (at this writing) a Christian. I love to read the Bible, history, & autobiographies. I’m very open and honest, sincere, loyal and a good listener. I studied business administration and counseling in college and graduate school. I have a 26 year old daughter, Tynecia. We are very close. I have been blessed with a ministry inside called “Life Row Ministries.” I like helping and serving others. I’m from Miami, FL where I grew up. Then I spent 3 years in the military – two of those years were in Germany. I am bi-lingual in Spanish. I love literature. Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky are two favorites. I love sports, to exercise, and to meet new friends. If you are interested in sharing life’s experiences and supporting each other through good and bad times, please contact me.
In another ad, by another ministry called Lamp of Hope, Wellons describes his crime only as his “first time in prison.” “I can assure you I’ll be just as much a blessing to your life as you can be to mine,” he writes. There is nothing illegal about trolling for extremely disturbed women on the internet, of course. Lamp of Hope claims to be in the business of “supporting victims’ families by promoting healing and reconciliation.” They also offer hot chats about sunsets and kittens with men who raped and murdered multiple victims, if that’s your thing.
Interestingly, Wells claims to be concerned for the victims of other offenders, just not his own. His own victim, apparently, is far too valuable to his efforts to be removed from death row to dignify her with some of his cell block-renowned empathy:
I forgo all table games, yard call, and frivolous conversations such as joking, playing, and laughing. My conversations are more of a serious nature. I send back all my food trays instead of giving them away to comrades. When the officers ask why, I politely remind them, “I don’t eat on execution days.” I explain respectfully that when their comrades pass on, they observe it by attending the funeral and wearing black tapes on their badges. Since I can’t attend the funeral of those who were executed, this is my way of showing respect. I spend the time praying not only for my comrade, but also for the victim’s family and friends and the powers that be. The reason I observe executions in this way is that I’m grieving. . .
Extraordinary, isn’t it? The highest court in the land sat around last week trying to decide if a convicted rapist and murderer should get another chance at freedom because innocent jurors made a tasteless joke two decades ago. Meanwhile, the killer is permitted to impugn the innocence of his victim in order to try to get free, and we have to pay for the lawyers to argue such a heinous untruth and the judges to hear it in a court of law.