I decided a few months ago that I would no longer attend the Jodi Arias trial in person for personal reasons. The retrial started this week and I am supporting the family from afar in my own private ways. I’m also following things on twitter where I’m uncharacteristically tweeting (probably doing it all wrong as I’m not really familiar with the system) and sharing some things about the death penalty and murder trials and this “victim” position I’ve found myself in for 25 years.
The causes that are important to me have to do with trial reform and death penalty appeals reform. Let me just preface this by saying that I am in no way attached to Cindy’s killer who remains on death row, Michael Apelt, being executed. I know the odds are very slim that we will ever see it happen and it’s not important to me. Or to the rest of my family. So let’s get that out of the way. What’s important though is he never be released from prison. When her murderers were sentenced in 1990, the State of AZ had no LWOP (Life Without the possibility Of Parole) so the only sentence that made sense was Death. They were young men, violent, dangerous predators and the death penalty was the only sentence which would maintain them in prison for the rest of their lives. It was a no brainer.
Rudi Apelt, the man who literally slit Cindy’s throat from ear to ear, was released from Death Row in 2009, 18 years after he was sentenced, on a “mental retardation” claim. In fact, it was argued for both killers as soon as the Supreme Court ruled we can’t execute the mentally retarded. Poof! They became mentally retarded. Both of these sophisticated, well planned out, well strategized murderers and con men were argued to be mentally retarded (that link takes you to a very good article on this appeal). The biased Judge, the only finder of fact, Silvia Arellano, ruled almost every single argument in their favor to the tune of seven years and 10 million dollars preparing and executing this ridiculous appellate mini trial. My Dad and I had to testify as did some of our family friends. It was clear to me Arellano held a bias and I learned at some point that she was planning to retire right after this decision. One of her most egregious rulings was that nothing, as in NOTHING could be admitted in to evidence to argue retardation after the age of 18 for the murderers. Meaning, read this carefully: EVIDENCE OF THE CRIME COULD NOT BE CONSIDERED TOWARD THE DECISION FOR THE SENTENCE FOR THE CRIME.
It has always been my belief that she intended to take out her tenure as a Judge with a big splash and let a Death Row inmate off the Row. So she set it up that way. And that she did. My Victim Impact Statement around this, that I read to a courtroom packed on the side of the killer and empty on the side of the State save my attorney, is posted at the end of this post. Please read it.
Judge Silvia Arellano who treated my family very very poorly while championing for two killers on Death Row–she released a violent killer from Death Row single handedly
The joke was kind of on all of them ultimately because those brothers had been afforded the luxury of being housed in cells on Death Row one on top of the other for many years I’m told. When you are locked in a cell 23 hours a day that is about 7 feet wide and you are 6 foot 5 and 6 foot 7 and a non-native English speaker, I suspect having your brother within barking distance through a vent is a pretty fine luxury. They lost that proximity with this win; Rudi was moved to another prison altogether and they will never see or speak to each other ever again.
Death penalty opponents are the loudest voices out there, speaking of barking, about all kinds of causes to champion these worst of the worst of our society they’ve deemed new “victims”. They rant about many things for these murderers, not the least of which this argument about how the death penalty is so expensive. While at the same time, demanding decades of ridiculous, frivolous, lengthy and costly appeals to the tune of millions of taxpayer dollars per killer. Tens of millions actually. PER KILLER. Yes, I do agree it’s expensive and I know who’s making it so. And I know who’s paying for it: you and me.
Opponents also like to spout about how the death penalty is thwarted by angry family members hell bent on vengeance. While they refuse to leave family members alone to grieve, sometimes showing up on their doorstep unannounced of, say, the sister of a murder victim asking her to assist in her sister’s murderer’s appeal. Right within a couple of weeks of the anniversary of her sister’s murder. At Christmas time. Strategized thinking this might be a good time to ambush her as she might be more raw, more vulnerable–aka more manipulatable. Unmitigated gall.
So yes, the death penalty needs reform. Why do we as a culture think it’s ok to impose a sentence we know will never really be carried out? How many people actually pay attention to what happens after a killer receives the death penalty? I’m here to tell you, not many. Not many at all, other than those championing for the killers. Most death row inmates have a better chance of being struck by lightning and killed within the confines of the prison than they ever do being executed. At least in states like AZ and CA. Yet these opponents love to use terminology like “the State wants to kill this person”. They’re not stupid. They know the chance of actual execution is almost nil. Yet they love to perpetuate the drama like this while blaming families for being “angry” “vengeful” “unforgiving”.
Dragging out the process and it’s impact on families is one of my causes that I’m using this platform to speak about because I believe “without awareness there is no choice”. I’m not some pious person spouting opinions and morality plays. I’m living this every single day.
There is another big issue related to this which I will write more about down the road. Stay tuned.
Don’t get me wrong. These concerns don’t dominate my life in the remotest way. I have a brilliant, free and enviable life (if you look at my present that is). Heck I’d envy it myself if I wasn’t living it. But I’ve had to navigate a mine field to enjoy it. I’ve learned those skills well but really, why put an innocent casualty of a sociopathic killer in a mine field to live out their life? Intentionally. And keep throwing bombs at them throughout their entire life in the name of “justice” or “saving a life”? Shame on you. And it happens to people more vulnerable than me: parents of murdered children, elderly victims, people like my brother.
think know the system needs reform. I do think there needs to be a higher level of punishment for the worst of the worst in our society, like Jodi Arias so we can at least find out if it can be a deterrent. How can anyone ever research the deterrent effect of death penalty effectively when the consequence being fulfilled is so unlikely for the killer, so remote that it doesn’t even exist in the same lifetime. With killers who normally, by nature, don’t consider consequences in the first place?
I have ideas that don’t involve execution that I’d be completely happy with. One where those millions wasted on killers’ appeals could go to say, the homeless or the mentally ill. What a concept right? One where a quality of life for this evil person fits the crime, is in some way escalated and where they lose all possibility of ever being released. EVER. As it stands now, I sincerely believe a death row inmate has a higher possibility of prison release than a lifer doing time for a non violent crime. Simply because they have more help. And really really good help. At our expense whether we like it or not.
I don’t like it.
Things can change. That
little bitch worm murderer advocate who showed up on my doorstep that December morning asking me to help Cindy’s killer get out of prison will never be able to do that again to anyone else because she did it to me. My victims’ rights lawyer, because this happened to me, changed legislation and closed the loophole to disallow this kind of victim abuse to ever happen again in the State of AZ. It was traumatic, unnecessary and abusive.
We can make a difference. And my first step is just speaking up about some of these things. With some street cred.
And I think while people are embedded in thoughts of the death penalty regarding Jodi Arias, which by the way she deserves, it’s a good time for me to be doing just that.
I hope this kicks a pebble that starts some kind of avalanche. And if anyone out there reading has a direction to point me, please send me the compass. I’m all ears.
Dedicated to my sister Cindy Monkman.
9/16/1958 – 12/23/1988
My Victim Impact Statement after the mental retardation ruling on Rudi Apelt:
Why have I chosen to take time out of my busy schedule once again to drive to Florence to give this impact statement? I ask myself the same question as I honestly don’t think anything I have to say will make much difference or cause much impact toward the decision on resentencing this defendant but the question always is “can I live with myself if certain decisions are made and know I’ve said nothing?
So, here I am with a few things to say.
I don’t intend to get in to the impact this crime itself has had on me personally or on my family. Partly because I don’t think it’s necessary at this stage and partly because I think it could potentially do more harm than good. I’ll let you fill in the blanks on how losing your only
sister/ your oldest daughter on the day before Christmas impacts on a family. To a vicious senseless murder for money.
I will tell you the impact of this particular hearing and decision over the last several years has had and has the potential to have on me and my family.
When the men who murdered my sister in this cold blooded plot were sentenced to death, we were told there were two options in the State of AZ — Life with the possibility of parole in 25 years and Death which meant they would never get out of prison. Of course, no matter how we might have felt politically about the death penalty, we knew these were young men and would still be as violent and dangerous in 25 years, perhaps more so and the Death Penalty was the only sentence that insured the public’s and our safety from them forever. We were
warned that in time, the tables would turn, the victim would be forgotten and the murderers would be seen as victims. Well that time has come, over 20 years after the loss of my sister. It’s still hard to fathom but it’s the absolute reality now.
I am here to remind the court who the true victim of this crime was, and still is. It was my sister Cindy who was my only sister, fourteen months older than me, whose life was taken for one motive: money. On the day before we were to fly home for Christmas on Christmas eve 1988. I was 29 years old and she was 30. We grew up together with each other to lean on as we lost our mother at a very young age. She was kind and truly an innocent and the defense in both trials could produce no evidence about her in a derogatory way — there simply was none. She was like a lamb to slaughter with the men who murdered her — Rudi and Michael Apelt.
The victim was not and still is not the man, Rudi Apelt, who is being resentenced today. The man who wielded the knife that slashed Cindy’s throat from ear to ear leaving her to be discovered by a young boy in the desert on Christmas Eve.. Rudi Apelt, who has served another prison sentence for a violent rape of another woman in Germany. Rudi Apelt
who conned many women throughout the Phoenix area during the months prior to the murder of my sister for money, use of their car, a living situation in their home, procurement of goods, all of these actions performed ALONE and not in the presence of his brother or any other familiar person to him. All of these facts are clearly documented in the trial transcripts. He is a violent man, a repeat offender and took the life of my sister for money. I do not believe he demonstrates any signs of mental retardation in the commission of this crime–quite
the contrary, in fact. Sophisticated, calculated and cold-blooded homicide are not adjectives I would ascribe to the mentally retarded.
I am here also to tell you the impact that just this one hearing lasting several years has had on my family. My 78-year-old father was required to testify and cancel a prepaid trip to China because the Court would not consider a 2-week postponement of the original hearing
for this which he was required to testify at. This postponement was the one and only thing my family ever asked of this Court in the many YEARS leading up to this hearing and it was not granted. This was perhaps my father’s only opportunity to go to China for the rest of his lfe.
Yet the defense in this case was granted delay after delay over a period of years causing me and my family to be inconvenienced, put plans on hold, prepare ourselves emotionally only to be told yet another delay for the defense for years upon years.
I opened my door one December day, 3 years go, ironically the same day I was planning to decorate my house for Christmas which you can imagine what a task that is for me year after year seeing my sister’s bloody body was discovered in the desert on Christmas Eve morning, only to find an advocate for Rudi Apelt misrepresenting herself to me and asking for my cooperation with this very issue–the mental retardation hearing. And this advocate bald-faced lied to me in my own home assuring me that this murderer, if reversed in sentence, would be
resentenced to life WITHOUT parole. Yes of course she knew this was impossible due to sentencing guidelines yet chose to manipulate me in this way. What did I or my family ever do to deserve this kind of treatment? Laws have been changed now to disallow the abuse of victims in this manner in the State of AZ because of this heinous situation I endured.
My father and I endured sitting in a courtroom often being the only representatives on the side of the State while onlookers filled the side of the defendant hoping obviously to glean some kind of clues for arguing their murderer clients were also mentally retarded to avoid the ultimate penalty.
I have personally learned that in addition to the tides of sympathy swinging away from the murder victim to the murderer over the years that the “worst of the worst” in our society, once on Death Row, receive the “best of the best” when it comes to legal assistance. I am
convinced that a death row inmate has a greater chance of being released from prison than a “lifer” serving a term for a nonviolent crime, simply because more people care about those on Death Row. The murderers also receive free websites which read like singles ads soliciting donations, penpals, wives and the like. When the “serial shooter” claimed to desire the death penalty in his sentencing hearing this year, I completely understood what was motivating him — and it most certainly wasn’t a possibility of execution.
My one consolation with this preposterous ruling/resentencing is that finally Rudi Apelt will receive what he deserves. Which is to be forgotten, finally. I have no doubt that those helping so fervently over the years will drop him like a hot potato once he no longer holds the prestige of Death Row status and he will fade in to the woodwork with all the other violent common criminals in the general population. Until of course we are asked to appear at parole hearings. Then we will be forced to remember him and his violence once again. When do we ever
get to let this go? Do we?
Finally, I did not come all the way down here with any delusions that my words would have any true impact whatsoever on the outcome of this hearing. Biases have been shown throughout and I hold no fantasies that my family’s feelings and wishes will fall in to consideration. Yet let it be known, we all have a certain degree of terror at the thought of
Rudi Apelt ever being released from prison due to a possible switch to concurrent sentences where he could have the possibility of actually being paroled. Yes that terrifies my family and me personally. This again is the man who took my sister in to the desert, and among other
violent acts, slit her throat. Then enjoyed a celebratory meal with his co-murderer/conspirators at a restaurant using her credit card right after commiting the murder. Call it what you want, but I call that nothing but a DANGER TO SOCIETY. His sentences, at the very least,
need to remain CONSECUTIVE to protect society from his violence. Call him mentally retarded, call him an imbecile, call him an idiot savant, whatever you wish. But call his behavior what it has been: VIOLENT and DANGEROUS.
The reason I did come though is in hopes that down the road, whatever decision is reached as a result of this resentencing hearing is REVIEWED by hopefully a non biased individual who has no political agenda at stake. Then that a sound decision will be made then that will prohibit this dangerous individual Rudi Apelt from ever being released from prison again. And to allow me and my family to finally move forward without ever having to worry about him again. And to hopefully get to begin to live a life where we get to focus on remembering my sister’s life and not her violent death.