Hunters and Gatherers
“Ladies and gentleman, my name is Margaret Barnett, and I am a member of Oregonians Against the Death Penalty. I have been asked to speak on behalf of Mr. Davis to provide you with a perspective that represents a moral, Christian and rational alternative to execution by the state. In order to be tried in this courtroom, Mr. Davis was first judged mentally competent to stand trial, meaning he has the ability to understand the legal process, knows right from wrong and so can be held responsible for his actions. But it is our belief that this very low bar of competence to stand trial needs to be measured against the higher bar of mental illness that largely goes unrecognized and untreated in our society.”
Margaret Barnett stood in front of the judge and faced the jury. “Oregonians Against the Death Penalty opposes the use of lethal justice as a solution to social problems, and we do not see that it is an adequate answer for the lack of a vigorous mental health system. For that reason I would like to outline some of the specifics of the family culture in which Mr. Davis grew up to give you an idea of how many opportunities were missed that could have led him down a different path.”
She stopped for a moment in order to emphasize her next point. “The most important facts that I will introduce are the specifics of his parents’ employment which I believe reveals a great deal about the basis of Mr. Davis’ unstable and violent character. For over a decade Paul and Victoria Davis have been the proprietors of the Doghouse Adult Superstore that specializes in pornographic magazines and videos. In addition, the Doghouse features rooms in the back of the establishment called the Peep Hole where men pleasure themselves while watching naked women dance. Paul and Victoria are the only employees of the Doghouse except for their teenage son who for years has been immersed in that business, stocking shelves, waiting on customers and scrubbing down the rooms of the Peep Hole. You must imagine what effect such an environment has had on Thomas Michael Davis immersed at a young age in a business which denigrates and victimizes women while catering to the excessive and perverted sex drives of depraved men. The cumulative effect of violence in that culture and the expression of unbridled gender based oppression cannot be underestimated. You can be certain that Thomas Michael Davis was adversely affected by the unfortunate circumstances of his upbringing. Although the court determined that he can stand trial and a jury has pronounced him guilty, it is my belief that you also need to consider whether there is rehabilitation available for this youth that could address the disturbing and troubled mental condition that led to his heinous murder of Mr. Van Damme and Mr. Elliott. Let’s not destroy another life just because it has a legal basis but instead use your position on this jury to provide for Mr. Davis the rehabilitation that might allow him the opportunity to redeem himself and contribute in some positive way to our society even if it is within the confines of a penal institution. I thank you for your consideration.”
Casey Bush is a Portland poet whose eighth collection Student of Hippocampus was published in 2018 by Last Word Press (Olympia, WA). His essay “Sisters Around the Cauldron: Mary Barnard and Her Sappho” was recently posted on the Berlin based website The Decadent Review. Casey is the poetic voice of Notes & Motes: The Vlatkovich Trio Plus One. He recommends Planned Parenthood and the Southern Poverty Law Center.