Westley Devon Harris deserves death penalty

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Case closed.

Last week, it took a jury of his peers less than a day to find Westley Devon Harris guilty of the pre-meditated murder of six people in August, 2002. Three years ago, local, state and national media descended on Crenshaw County, eyewitnesses to the horror Harris left as the bodies of the Ball family were removed from their rural homes near Rutledge.

In trying the case, prosecutors alleged Westley Devon Harris had slaughtered the Ball family in systematic fashion, lying in wait to kill each family member with a shotgun blast to the head, execution-style.

The defense built its case around Janice Ball, Harris' girlfriend at the time, and daughter, sister and granddaughter to the six human beings left scattered around the Ball family compound that August day. But Harris never denied involvement. He fled the scene, kidnapping Janice and their 17-month old baby. We can only imagine the horror Ball must have felt as she watched her family members murdered in systematic fashion, with the callousness only a monster could unleash.

The victims of Harris' rage, Joann Ball, Willie Hasley, Mila Ruth Ball, Jerry Ball, Tony Ball and John Ball had lives that had meaning. They had hopes and dreams until Harris took them all away.

For the loved ones they left behind; loved ones who will remember forever a dark day in August when Harris removed six members of their family from this world forever, they only have memories of what could have been.

We respect, and understand, the jury's decision. Sequestered away from their families for three weeks during the trial was difficult. Having to deliver the death sentence upon a fellow human being is emotionally troubling and something they would have had to live with for the rest of their lives. In making their decision, they showed and exhibited something Harris never showed his victims - mercy.

Justice, however, cannot be merciful, especially given the cold, calculating viciousness of Harris' crime. The wholesale capital murder of six individuals demands retribution. If there were ever a case where the sentence of death was just, it's this case and while the jury showed mercy, we urge Circuit Judge Edward McFerrin, who tried the case, to act in an Old Testament fashion. An eye for an eye. The lives of six people deserve nothing less.