When a University of Arizona criminology professor asked a class of about 100 students how many of them would be willing to “turn the switch” on a death row inmate to facilitate an execution, Terry Rubey was the only one who raised his hand.
That was around 1991.
And although Arizona voters were just a year away from approving death by lethal injection as a way of executing the state’s death row inmates, Rubey, who was a junior in college at the time majoring in sociology, thought more people would have raised their hand.
“I was surprised,” Rubey said. “It’s not that I would take joy or pleasure in doing it, but I think people should take responsibility for their actions. Depending on the crime, I think the death penalty is justice served. When I raised my hand in that class, I think we were at a time when we were focusing on the welfare of the person who did the crime instead of the victims and people who suffered through them.”
Rubey, 40, who now lives in Gilbert, was a friend of Christy Ann Fornoff, the 13-year-old Connolly Middle School seventh-grader killed by Donald Beaty on May 9, 1984. Fornoff was collecting subscription payments on her Phoenix Gazette newspaper route at Tempe’s Rock Point Apartments, 2045 S. McClintock Dr., where Beaty worked as the complex’s maintenance supervisor. Beaty was 29 in 1984 when he pulled Christy into his apartment, sexually assaulted her and suffocated her by gagging her to the point she choked on her own vomit as she was trying to cry out for her mother, who was helping her collect on her route that evening.
Beaty, now 56, has been on death row since July, 1985. He is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 10 a.m. Wednesday inside the Death House at the Arizona Department of Corrections prison complex in Florence. Beaty will become the state’s 89th death row inmate to be executed and the 24th to die by lethal injection.
In an execution that will take just a few minutes, the state will intravenously inject three drugs into Beaty’s bloodstream — pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride, in that order.
Sodium thiopental, a sedative, was replaced because it stirred controversy as it no longer is produced in the U.S., but is being obtained from a British company and is not approved by the Federal Drug Administration.
The U.S. Supreme Court has previously ruled that death row inmates do not have a say in the origin of the drugs used to kill them.
Beaty’s execution will end a three-decades-long emotional roller coaster ride for Christy’s parents, Roger and Carol Fornoff, who plan to attend. Carol Fornoff told the Tribune that the sharp pain of Christy’s death always came rushing back each time Beaty was granted an appeal or an issue came up about his execution.
“Every day is a new challenge and this has been very difficult for us,” she said. “We surely would not be able to get through this without all the prayers and support we have been given.”
In a decades long debate that has been in and out of the U.S. Supreme Court, some view the heated issue of the death penalty as cruel and inhumane; others view it as justice served for criminals who have committed violent or heinous crimes.
“I think he got himself there,” Rubey said of Beaty’s looming execution. “It’s been tough on her parents and family. I’m thinking of them more so than what’s going to happen inside the prison on May 25. We never forgot about Christy.”
Christy’s parents and six siblings will witness the execution and a number of her former classmates will be outside the prison awaiting word that Beaty’s execution was carried out.
It is not known whether any of Beaty’s family members will be present, but opponents of the death penalty will be protesting Beaty’s execution Wednesday morning outside the prison. They contend that such punishment is inhumane and against God’s will.
The sixth of God’s Ten Commandments, “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” is one of the mantras for the Arizona Death Penalty Forum, a Phoenix-based group that opposes the death penalty and has about 600 members on its mailing list. The group educates people about what it believes is the immorality of the death penalty and hope to see it banned in the U.S.
“We certainly think the death penalty is wrong,” said Dan Peitzmeyer, president of the Arizona Death Penalty Forum. “Inhumane would be one phrase. It’s not uniformally applied and is racially biased. There’s many who are far worse living in prison who have done far worse things.”
Not everyone on death row is guilty, Peitzmeyer said, citing that since 1976, 1,250 people have been executed in the U.S., but 138 death row inmates were exonerated.
For 30 years, from 1962 to 1992, there were not any executions in Arizona during a time when the U.S. Supreme Court was implementing new procedures for death penalty cases. The court ruled in 1972 that the death penalty was cruel and unusual punishment and violated 8th Amendment rights,
Peitzmeyer said both the Bible’s Sixth Commandment (thou shalt not kill) and the “eye for an eye” passage are “Old Testament” and that an “eye for an eye makes everyone blind.”
“Anytime you look at the crime and you see this horrific murder of Christy Ann Fornoff, nobody can defend that type of behavior, but I don’t think we as a society have the right to take someone’s life,” Peitzmeyer said. “I would say life in prison is safe and would make the streets safer. The death penalty does not as it takes $1 million more to try to sentence someone to death than sentence them to life in prison. No, I would not want Donald Beaty as a neighbor; he is not fit to live in society.”
Outside of Beaty’s execution, Christy’s friend, Kristina Reese, said she has mixed feelings about the death penalty.
“For me, going to the prison the day of the execution, is kind of seeing final justice for Christy,” Reese said. “Nothing will ever bring her back, but to see this part of the process completed will bring some closure. Outside of this particular case, I’m not real sure what my feelings for the death penalty are, but because this case is so personal, in my heart, I know it’s the right thing.”
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