Thursday, September 10, 2009

Abolish the Death Penalty

The Workers World site published an article entitled "Another Reason to Abolish the Death Penalty."

The death penalty in the United States should be abolished because it functions as a potent agent of racism and class oppression. African Americans and Latino/as represent the majority of those on death row. And executions are reserved almost exclusively for the poor. Ninety percent of those awaiting execution could not afford to hire a trial attorney.

In addition, death penalty abolitionists have known for decades that many of those executed are also innocent.

The article goes on to mention the highly publicized case of Todd Willingham, in which the arson experts proved he was innocent after he'd been executed. The thrust of the article is that the disproportionate number of black and Hispanic prisoners on Death Row, like Wllingham, is due to racism and poverty.

I'm not sure why they call this "another reason." I thought this was one of the main reasons right along, as we've discussed before.

Of course, Texas appeared prominent in the article.

As Shaka Sankofa lay strapped on the gurney in Huntsville on June 22, 2000, he said, “They know I’m innocent. They’ve got the facts to prove it. ... But they cannot acknowledge my innocence, because to do so would be to publicly admit their guilt.”

Sankofa continued, “Slavery couldn’t stop us. The lynchings in the South couldn’t stop us. This lynching will not stop us tonight. We will go forward . ... It’s state-sanctioned lynching, right here in America and right here tonight. Our destiny in this country is freedom and liberation. We will gain it by any means necessary. We must avenge this murder and continue to move forward to stop all executions of the poor and of Black people.”

We must put Shaka Sankofa’s words into action and abolish the racist and anti-poor death penalty.


What's your opinion? Do you agree that capital punishment is racist and anti-poor? Does the fact that a disproportionate number of minorities are executed prove anything? Do you think it's fair to call the death penalty "modern lynching?"

Please feel free to leave a comment.

4 comments:

  1. The article goes on to mention the highly publicized case of Todd Willingham, in which the arson experts proved he was innocent after he'd been executed.

    I've read a bit about the execution of Todd Willingham, and I'm not ready to agree that it has been proven that he was innocent. I am very strongly convinced that he was innocent, and I definitely agree that the evidence exonerating him should have been enough to free him, and certainly enough to spare his life--I'm just quibbling with your use of the word "proved."

    And executions are reserved almost exclusively for the poor. Ninety percent of those awaiting execution could not afford to hire a trial attorney.

    Geez, you just can't please some people--you demand a War on Poverty, and when the government obliges and starts killing the poor, you complain about that. Sorry--that's not as funny as I was hoping it would be.

    Seriously, though--what's your proposed solution--that the justice system spend megabucks for hotshot defense lawyers for every scumbag (and the occasional unlucky innocent) who gets arrested? Or would you favor caps on the amount rich people can pay for defense attorneys?

    Actually, I suppose you've made your proposed solution clear with the title of this post. To be honest, I don't really have a big problem with that idea (although there are instances in which I see the death penalty as being best for everyone--including, perhaps, the condemned), but I don't see it as being likely anytime soon in the U.S.

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  2. Beowulf, Thanks for the comment. You said, "Actually, I suppose you've made your proposed solution clear with the title of this post. To be honest, I don't really have a big problem with that idea (although there are instances in which I see the death penalty as being best for everyone."

    By "best" do you mean most expedient or easiest? My first main objection to the death penalty is that's it's morally reprehensible to kill, except in self defense. A guy who's already incapacitated by incarceration for life is no longer a threat. Capital punishment is most akin to pre-meditated murder. It's just wrong.

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  3. Sign a petition to Governor Rick Perry and the State of Texas to acknowledge that the fire in the Cameron Todd Willingham case was not arson, therefore no crime was committed and on February 17, 2004, Texas executed an innocent man.

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  4. By "best" do you mean most expedient or easiest?

    A big part of my point is that if I were the convict, and faced with either life in an 8' x 8' (or whatever the exact dimensions are) cell (and a reasonable expectation that said life would go on for decades), or execution, I would much prefer execution.

    In the end, though, I don't have a passion for either side of the capital punishment debate. The horrible possibility (or probability in Mr. Willingham's case) of killing an innocent man gives the opponents of capital punishment the edge in that debate, I think, but I have enough quarrels with government abuses that that particular problem is going to have to get in line for my attention.

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