Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
February 24, 2012
Last week, Robert Brian Waterhouse was executed by lethal injection in Florida.
He was the fourth person executed in 2012. He was convicted in 1980 of murdering
Deborah Kammerer of St. Petersburg, Florida whose body was found in the Tampa
Bay. Kammerer had been beaten, raped and dragged into the bay, where she
drowned. In 1966, Waterhouse was convicted of second-degree murder for killing a
77-year-old Long Island woman during a burglary. He was sentenced to life but
was paroled after eight years.
Waterhouse remained defiant to the end. He offered no contrition or remorse.
His final words, reported by the Wall Street Journal, "You are about to witness
the execution of a wrongly convicted and innocent man.” Waterhouse directed
blame at everyone but himself -- corrupt prosecutors, a prejudiced judge and a "rubber-stamp"
appellate system .
Waterhouse’s final words were reminiscent of Virginia’s Roger Coleman,
executed in 1992. Coleman was arrested in 1986 for the rape and murder of his
sister-in-law. Coleman was the personification of a cold blooded killer. Before
police zeroed in on him as a suspect, he served as a pallbearer at his victim’s
As Coleman sat strapped to the electric chair, moments before his execution,
he made a final statement. "An innocent
man is going to be murdered tonight. When my innocence is proven, I hope
Americans will realize the injustice of the death penalty as all other civilized
Coleman’s case had generated a great deal of attention. As his execution date
approached, Coleman was on the cover of Time. Pope John Paul II requested
clemency on his behalf. Centurion Ministries, an ardent supporter, continued to
fight to clear Coleman’s name for years after his execution.
Finally, in 2006, as Virginia Governor Mark Warner was about to leave office
he became the first governor in the nation to order post-execution DNA testing.
Coleman supporters and death penalty abolitionists were in the unenviable
position of hoping that an innocent man had been executed. Coleman was going to
be the poster-child for dismantling the death penalty.
However, the anti-death penalty movement took a hit. DNA confirmed that
Coleman did, in fact, rape and kill his sister-in-law. Death penalty opponents
remain unable to point to a single wrongful execution.
James C. McCloskey, Centurion Ministries’ executive director, said he felt
betrayed by Coleman. "How can somebody, with such equanimity, such dignity, such quiet
confidence, make those his final words even though he is guilty?" McCloskey
It has long been accepted law that a dying declaration has the indicia of
trustworthiness. A dying declaration is admissible as an exception to hearsay
pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Evidence 804 (b)(2). Waterhouse, and certainly Coleman, cause one to pause when
accepting the reliability of a statement made in contemplation of death.
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