Thursday, July 27, 2006

No Justice in Flippen Execution

On August 18, 2006, the State plans to execute Samuel “Sammy” Flippen. Sammy Flippen faces execution for the 1994 death of his two-year old step-daughter, Britnie Hutton. The death of Britnie was not a premeditated killing that calls for the death penalty. Sammy was 25 years old when he married Britnie’s mother, Tina. On the day of Britnie’s death, Sammy made an emergency call to 911 seeking medical attention for Britnie. Tragically, Britnie later died of serious injuries. Sammy’s 911 call is strong evidence that Sammy never had the intention of harming his step-daughter. In addition, there was no history of Sammy ever injuring Britnie. Indeed, the State recognized that justice did not require that this be viewed as a premeditated death, and offered a plea to second degree murder.

Family, friends, community members, and even the father of the victim in this case, believe that although the death penalty may be justified in some cases, Sammy’s sentence should be commuted to life imprisonment because of his character and lack of a violent history. In a system where the death penalty is reserved for the most heinous offenders, Sammy Flippen’s execution would undermine any remaining confidence in the way North Carolina administers the death penalty.

Before being sent to death row, Sammy had never been charged or convicted of any crime. He was devoted to his school and church, and was known as an upstanding and contributing member of his community. Sammy was raised in the Gospel Light Baptist Church and graduated from Gospel Light Christian School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He was very active in his Church Youth Group and their community service efforts. After graduating, Sammy worked and remained active in his church. Teachers, classmates, and others consider Sammy to be a respectful man who always tried to do the right thing.

Even Britnie’s father does not believe that justice would be served by executing Sammy. He still thinks about his daughter’s death every day. During the trial, he got to know Sammy’s mother and father well. He says he knows how terrible it is to lose a child and does not want Sammy’s parents to suffer in the same way. He has said that the State of North Carolina does not need to execute Sam Flippen for justice to be served.

A mental health evaluation has shown that Sammy poses no risk of violence; indeed, Sammy’s risk of violence is not only less than the inmate population, but is less than that of the general population. This is not surprising given that Sammy has no history of substance abuse, mental health disorders, or criminal convictions.

The death of Britnie was a tragic loss, which Sammy continues to mourn. The death, however, was not the type of premeditated murder that calls for the death penalty. This is a case that calls out for clemency.

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