notinmyname (notinmyname) wrote,

#56 - David Livingston Funchess - FL - 4/22/1986

A perfect example of why I have a real problem with people being unable to raise an issue unless it was raised in their direct appeal.

Victims:  Anna Waldrop (53)        12/16/1974
     Clayton Ragan (56)         12/16/1974

A decorated Vietnam War veteran who claimed he suffered from a war-related stress disorder when he killed two people had accepted the fact that he would be executed, one of his last visitors said.

Funchess was executed for fatally stabbing two people during a botched robbery in a liquor store where he had previously been fired for stealing.   Another woman was also stabbed and, at the time of Funchess' trial, remained in a coma.

Funchess, who suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, was the first Vietnam veteran executed in America.

At the time of his capital murder trial in the mid-1970s, virtually no one had ever heard of PTSD. By the time he was scheduled to die, in spring 1986, much more was known about PTSD. His lawyers tried to tell that to the courts. The courts refused to listen, telling them they should have raised PTSD at the time of David's trial.

David Funchess was a war hero. For his service in combat in Vietnam he received the Purple Heart, the Vietnam Service Medal and the Vietnam Campaign Medal (with device). The Vietnam War also destroyed David Funchess. He was dishonorably discharged for being AWOL.

In statements from people who knew Funchess before his service in Vietnam, they described a quiet, intelligent, and caring person who was in no way headed toward a life of crime. Funchess did well in school, graduating in 1965 with a rank of 47 out of 167 in his class. He had no criminal record and worked hard. Upon his graduation from high school he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps.

He was subsequently sent to Vietnam, where he was immediately thrust into intense combat. In addition to the horrors of jungle combat, Funchess was exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange, which has since been linked to a wide range of serious health problems in Vietnam veterans. Among the common symptoms among many Vietnam veterans has been neuropsychological damage. After his return from Vietnam, Funchess was a deeply disturbed and confused young man.

Compounding these problems, the medication he was receiving for his painful leg wounds eventually led him onto a debilitating heroin habit. All U.S. veterans returning from Vietnam had challenges to overcome when they tried to readjust to civilian life; some met these challenges more ably than others. The damage that the war did to David Funchess, and to too many other soldiers, made his transition to civilian life extremely difficult.

In addition to the effects of their time in combat, Vietnam veterans had to contend with the negative reception many Americans gave the returning soldiers. The American public was sharply divided over the country's involvement in Vietnam, and U.S. soldiers suffered greatly from this division. The unpopularity of the war carried over into many Americans' attitudes toward returning Vietnam veterans. Not only did they receive little recognition for having served their country, many were overtly ostracized upon their return to the United States. Many people viewed the veterans as either violent or drug addicts or both.

Claims were litigated that Funchess deserved a new trial because PTSD was not recognized at the time of Funchess's original trial, and because Funchess's moral blameworthiness for the murders could not be fairly judged without reference to PTSD.

The procedural barriers made such an argument futile, however. Funchess's best chance was clemency, because the clemency process is not burdened with the legal technicalities that exist in the appellate courts.

Governor Graham was free to consider Funchess's PTSD, and he had said some things that indicated he was sympathetic to the problems of Vietnam veterans. Governor Graham denied clemency, however. And then the federal trial court denied everything, including permission to appeal.

A reporter described the scene at the Florida veterans' memorial the evening David Funchess was executed: At the late afternoon vigil, people looked at their watches. It was 5:20. "It must be over by now," one woman told another. Others held each other and wept. Still others stared at the color photograph of Funchess in his Marine uniform placed atop a basket of flowers. The group formed a circle in between the two huge granite columns that form the war monument. The Rev. Jim Hardison, coordinator of the death penalty project for Florida IMPACT, an interfaith lobby group for social justice issues, said he was angered not by capital punishment per se but by the way the state administers it. "Again, we've taken a poor, penniless, minority person who was mentally ill and executed him," Hardison said. Others present said they felt compelled to speak. "We're really appalled by your callous indifference toward David Funchess," said Linda Reynolds, director of the Florida Clearinghouse on Criminal justice, referring to the governor. "Vietnam veterans will not forget what you've done today." "David Funchess was killed twice by society," Reynolds said. "Once in Vietnam and once today." Later, from Jim Thompson, David's friend and fellow Vietnam veteran, who had witnessed the killing, I learned that, at the end, "David was free, from the first burst of electricity."

David Funchess was buried on Florida land owned by Jim Thompson.


  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded