Cheerfully speaking ill of the dead

michael-ryanIn a post entitled An irrelevant and selfish concern for the quality of my sleep, I noted that I was conflicted over the death penalty. Today, I illustrate one side of that conflict.

Last Sunday, Michael Ryan died on death row in a Nebraska prison. He was 66. He had been there 30 years. According to the Omaha paper, he was suffering from terminal brain cancer.*

Ryan was a white supremacist. He and his group of followers had loose ties to the Posse Comitatus and links to the Christian Identity movement. His teachings included the supremacy of the white race, the inherent evil of Jews, and a distrust of all established earthly authority, including governments. 

For me, Ryan’s death is a pleasant surprise. I know that sounds bad, but it is manifestly the truth.

Consider what I wrote when denying his habeas corpus petition:

This is a death penalty habeas corpus case. It involves the most horrendous torture and sickening murder imaginable. There is not the slightest doubt about the petitioner’s guilt. If any man deserves to be put to death, that man is Michael Ryan.

Michael Ryan (Ryan or the petitioner) was sentenced to death for torturing and then killing James Thimm. Ostensibly in the name of his God, and over a period of two days, Ryan and others at his direction tied and chained Thimm in a hog confinement shed; on several occasions sodomized Thimm with a shovel handle or a pick handle to the point that the man’s guts ruptured; whipped and beat Thimm; shot off some of the victim’s finger tips; partially skinned Thimm alive; and caused the man’s bones to be broken, once using a piece of lumber and a block of wood to complete the fracture of a leg with one blow. After that, Ryan stomped Thimm to death. Although a five-year-old child, Luke Stice, was also killed a month or so earlier as the events culminating in Thimm’s death boiled up, Ryan did not receive the death penalty for that crime [but was sentenced to life in prison].

Ryan v. Clarke, 281 F. Supp.2d 1008 (D. Neb. 2003).

I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell. It is enough for me that Ryan is dead and gone.


*Clarification: Ryan was not executed. He died probably as a result of his cancer. An autopsy will be conducted. The precise cause of death will be known publicly when that procedure has been completed.

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