The views I then held and now hold were expressed in a memorandum made in the case of a Negro convicted of the rape of a young Negro girl, practically a child. A petition for his pardon had been sent me.
WHITE HOUSE, Washington, D. C.,
August 8, 1904.
The application for the commutation of sentence of John W. Burley is denied. This man committed the most hideous crime known to our laws, and twice before he has committed crimes of a similar, though less horrible, char acter. In my judgment there is no justification whatever for paying heed to the allegations that he is not of sound mind, allegations made after the trial and conviction. No body would pretend that there has ever been any such degree of mental unsoundness shown as would make people
even consider sending him to an asylum if he had not com mitted this crime. Under such circumstances he should certainly be esteemed sane enough to suffer the penalty for his monstrous deed. I have scant sympathy with the plea of insanity advanced to save a man from the conse quences of crime, when unless that crime had been com mitted it would have been impossible to persuade any re sponsible authority to commit him to an asylum as insane. Among the most dangerous criminals, and especially among those prone to commit this particular kind of offense, there are plenty of a temper so fiendish or so brutal as to be in compatible with any other than a brutish order of intelli gence ; but these men are nevertheless responsible for their acts; and nothing more tends to encourage crime among such men than the belief that through the plea of insanity or any other method it is possible for them to escape paying the just penalty of their crimes. The crime in question is one to the existence of which we largely owe the existence of that spirit of lawlessness which takes form in lynching. It is a crime so revolting that the criminal is not entitled to one particle of sympathy from any human being. It is essential that the punishment for it should be not only as certain, but as swift as possible. The jury in this case did their duty by recommending the infliction of the death penalty. It is to be regretted that we do not have special provision for more summary dealing with this type of cases. The more we do what in us lies to secure certain and swift justice in dealing with these cases, the more effectively do we work against the growth of that lynching spirit which is so full of evil omen for this people, because it seeks to avenge one infamous crime by the commission of another of equal infamy.
The application is denied and the sentence will be car ried into effect.
(Signed) THEODORE EOOSEVELT.
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