Keep killers off the Internet
Date: January 23, 2004
Jack Trawick kidnapped 21-year-old Stephanie Gach from a shopping mall near Birmingham, Ala., in 1992, then beat her with a hammer, strangled her and stabbed her to death. Four months earlier, he killed 27-year-old Aileen Pruitt. He subsequently was sentenced to death for killing Ms. Gach.
Yet at age 56, as an inmate at Alabama's Holman Prison, Trawick was still actively tormenting Ms. Gach's family by bragging about his heinous act -- and describing it in gruesome detail -- in writings on an Internet site. And as The Associated Press reported this week, Trawick isn't the only convicted killer whose twisted perspectives have achieved wide-scale distribution on Web sites -- some provided by death-penalty foes for not just writings but artwork by death-row prisoners.
Trawick, in one of his entries, even taunted Mary Beth Gach, mother of one of his murder victims, by name. He also wrote: "I would do the whole thing again knowing death row was waiting for me."
The man who created the Web site featuring Trawick's musings shut it down this week, expressing regret for the pain the Gaches felt. But the Gaches aren't the only families being subjected to such cruel, unwarranted abuse from the killers of their loved ones. And those families aren't the only Americans wondering why killers can't be barred from using the Internet in prison.
That battle is still being waged in various court cases. And as Amy Fettig, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project, told the AP last week: "Just saying nasty things or having bad opinions is not a crime."
Murder, however, is a crime -- in Trawick's case, a capital crime. Nearly 12 years after killing two innocent people, his execution date has not been set. Reducing the time gap between conviction and capital punishment would be one logical way to reduce the abhorrent use of the Internet as a forum for killers to revel over their unspeakable acts.
So would depriving death-row inmates of Internet access.
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