One of the many inmates on death row in the United States is Marvin Charles Gabrion. The inmate is in for a case of kidnapping and murder. The victim, in this case, is Rachel Timmerman, a 19-year-old, who before her death had gone missing alongside her daughter, 11 months old at the time. The body of the victim was found in Oxford Lake apparently after having been drowned and her body was forced into the lake using blocks of cider (Slovenko 126). She was identified as a drowning victim. The accused was scheduled for a court hearing as Rachel had earlier filed a case against him for rape. The baby has never been found, but it is presumed dead. It was concluded that the accused murdered the teen to ensure that she did not get the chance to testify against him in the rape case. The West Michigan community was shocked when the details of the cruel murder came out (Tirschwell and Hertzberg 57). The victim was gagged and bound when she was drowned by the killer who had thrown her into the lake while alive.
The trial took place in 2002 for the killing of the teen. The accused was found guilty and given a death sentence. This is one of the cases that had a global focus for two reasons, one being the cruelty with which the victim was murdered and the second the controversy that surrounded the sentence given to the accused. Interestingly, the commission of the crime was in Michigan (Tirschwell and Hertzberg 57). This is one of the states in the country where the death sentence does not apply according to law. However, the federal court prosecutors were able to get a death penalty sentencing. The reason why this was possible was because the murder was perpetrated on federal land. Since the reinstating of the capital punishment in 1988, the accused was the very first person to get a death penalty in a jurisdiction where such a sentence did not apply. Also, he was the first person within the jurisdiction to get a capital punishment sentence since 1937.
United States v. Gabrion became the most notable case as capital punishment applied in a state where it was not allowed by law. In the state of Michigan, since 1846, capital punishment was against the law, which means that the court in the state was not allowed to give such a sentence. However, the murder was concluded to have taken place in a federal land, which made it possible for the federal law to be applied. The body of the victim was collected in Manistee National Forest, which was a federal land (Tirschwell and Hertzberg 57). As a result, the law applied in a different manner than would be expected in usual circumstances, possibly if the body has been found on the state land. He would have received a different sentence if the Michigan law was applied in entirety, which was not the case in this situation. This led to the controversy that surrounded the case with a global reach.
To prevent the possible death sentence, the defense side of the case argued for a possibility that the murder might have occurred outside the federal land but disposed there. If it was proven that she was murdered outside the Manistee National Forest, the sentence could have been different because the Michigan law would have applied. However, it was proven behold any reasonable doubt that the murder had occurred in the forest and not any other place as the defense argued. Given that the murder had taken place in the Manistee National Forest, there was room for the federal law to be applied in making the judgment against Gabrion (Tirschwell and Hertzberg 57). None of the defense statements prevailed against the sentencing. After the court decision, Gabrion found himself behind the bars waiting the time of his execution, which has been long overdue. While waiting, he has tried other means to ensure that he escaped the execution, including the defense of insanity at the time the murder was perpetrated.
The trial was surrounded by the erratic behavior of the accused. He went against the wishes of his attorney and took the stand to witness in his own case. His testimony was that he was innocent of the murder he was being accused of. He claimed that the teenage mum committed suicide by throwing herself into the lake (Tirschwell and Hertzberg 57). He also testified that the teenager was helped in committing suicide by two other individuals and the evidence was left at his campsite. This is how he was implicated in a crime that he had not committed. Regardless of his witness, his behavior as described by the witnesses and even at the court showed him as a violent person capable of committing murder. This led to the court ruling that he was guilty of the murder of Rachel and the possible murder of her daughter Shannon Verhage (Slovenko 126). Following the death sentence, Gabrion has been claiming to have been mentally ill when the death of Rachel took place.
In the event that followed the sentence, there was a focus of the case from the victim to the circumstances of the accused. There was a shift of focus from why the teenager was killed to the period of time, Gabrion, 63, would be staying on death row. There does not appear to be any pressure to execute inmate. The case marks the reality within which the criminal justice system in the country has been handling the inmates who are marked for execution. Since he was sentenced to a death penalty, Gabrion has been sitting in the prison facility awaiting execution. The challenge, in the case, is probably because he was convicted and is being held in a state that does not allow death sentence even if the federal does (Slovenko 127). Since he was sentenced has had been trying to reverse the sentence or possibly vacate it or get another trial, a chance to defend his case once more. However, all these efforts have not borne fruit.
It has been within the right of the inmate to appeal against the judgment to ensure a different kind of sentence. The most recent effort to appeal against the sentence and conviction by the inmate was in 2011. According to the defense, it should have been known to the members of the jury that a sentencing under the state law would not have led to the death sentence. In the appeal, he was still trying to prove that the murder had occurred outside the forest, hence, not in a federal land. The jury must have used the Eighth Amendment in establishing the validity of the defense. After all, there was no way of proving beyond reasonable doubt that the murder had taken place in the forest (Tirschwell and Hertzberg 57). While the conviction was upheld, the same did not happen to the sentence. As a result, the inmate will still be spending more time in prison awaiting execution, which has been waiting for years. He is one of the many who do not know when that day is likely to come.
The inmates awaiting death sentence, though few, have been left behind the bars for years exploring their chances to get their sentences appealed. In the case of Gabrion, his direct have been exhausted which means that he has no other opportunity to appeal the sentence directly. However, he still has the chance to pursue a “collateral attack” (Slovenko 128). This is a process under the civil law where the accused would argue for a violation of the constitution of the United States in the sentencing. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati is the opportunity that the inmate has the chance to appeal. The statement, in this case, would be the complete depriving in the way that Gabrion killed Rachel. The inmate could potentially get a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has previously declined to hear the case. However, the appeals are ending so fast, but this does not mean that his execution is coming up anytime soon.
The case of Gabrion is a unique one in terms of capital sentence judgment. However, this does not mean that it is not deserved. In fact, the Michigan law denies the due punishment for capital offenses by making the death sentence illegal. For Rachel and her innocent child daughter, it is fortunate that the murder was committed within a federal land for the death sentence to be applied; otherwise, they would not have received the deserved justice. For any murder that is premeditated and gruesome as that of Rachel, it is only fair and just that the perpetrator gets the utmost punishment, which is the death sentence. Hence, there is no argument that luckily, Gabrion got the kind of sentence that he deserved. It is also not fair that the inmate stays in prison for years before being executed. The punishment should be implemented as soon as the sentence is read. The law should be revised further to ensure that execution is taking place as soon as it is proven behold reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime for which he or she is accused.
Tirschwell, Eric A., and Theodore Hertzberg. “Politics and Prosecution: A Historical Perspective on Shifting Federal Standards for Pursuing the Death Penalty in Non-Death Penalty States.” U. Pa. J. Const. L. 12 (2009): 57.
Slovenko, Ralph. “Self-destructive behavior and the hereafter.” (2005): 125-130.