FEATURED POST

A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof

Image
“What are you?” a member of the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston asked at the trial of the white man who killed eight of her fellow black parishioners and their pastor. “What kind of subhuman miscreant could commit such evil?... What happened to you, Dylann?”
Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah spent months in South Carolina searching for an answer to those questions—speaking with Roof’s mother, father, friends, former teachers, and victims’ family members, all in an effort to unlock what went into creating one of the coldest killers of our time.
Sitting beside the church, drinking from a bottle of Smirnoff Ice, he thought he had to go in and shoot them.
They were a small prayer group—a rising-star preacher, an elderly minister, eight women, one young man, and a little girl. But to him, they were a problem. He believed that, as black Americans, they were raping “our women and are taking over our country.” So he took out his Glock handgun and calmly, while their eyes were closed in prayer, ope…

Is this really the end for America’s death penalty?

Long ago in 1992, the aides of Bill Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, knew all about the inability of the governor of Arkansas to keep it in his trousers. The public was let in on the secret when Clinton’s former mistress, a nightclub singer of the type boys’ mothers once warned were nothing but trouble, announced their relationship.

Clinton lied. The mistress produced tapes of their intimate conversations. The Clinton camp’s fallback position that “everyone lies about sex” did not play well. Everyone may lie, but few want to be lied to, particularly when the liar is a presidential candidate asking for their trust.

Fortunately for Clinton, Arkansas had a convict called Ricky Ray Rector on death row. He had murdered a police officer and turned his gun on himself. Somehow he survived and Clinton flew back home to ensure his execution went ahead without hindrance, even though Rector was so brain damaged he could not have understood the charges against him.

I don’t think Christopher Hitchens ever lost the anger he felt at the spectacle of a white “progressive” from a state in the old Confederacy executing a black man to save his career. But smart political operators appreciated that Clinton’s “positioning” helped him become America’s 42nd president.

The 1990s seem like history now. Like an inmate on death row, the American way of death has been taking a slow journey towards its own extinction. “We are in the middle of a sea change,” Robert Dunham of the US Death Penalty Information Center told me. The number of new death sentences imposed fell sharply in 2015. Executions dropped to their lowest levels in 24 years. All the signs are pointing the same way.

Dunham turned from a lawyer into an activist when he was doing pro bono work. He found a poor Hispanic, who was not so different from Clinton’s Rector. The man had a severe mental disability and could not understand the case against him.

His lawyer could not be bothered to fight because, like Clinton, he was running for office. Dunham learned then that one of the best arguments against the death penalty was that poor clients got terrible advocates.

He never thought he would see abolition in his lifetime, but juries are refusing to pass death sentences and states are overturning old laws.

You don’t win arguments until the other side concedes ground. The biggest hint that change is coming is the second thoughts of Republicans. It turns out that there are strong conservative arguments against the death penalty. Libertarians ask: what greater instance of big government can there be than the state taking a citizen’s life?

As DNA evidence has shown that many of the executed ["sentenced to death" and exonerated would be more appropriate - DPN] were innocent, Christian conservatives have wondered how they can square opposition to abortion with support for the death penalty.


Source: The Guardian, Nick Cohen, December 19, 2015

- Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com - Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

Indonesia: The journey from death row

Marcellus Williams faces execution in Missouri despite doubts about conviction

Georgia executes Emmanuel Hammond

Vietnam upholds death sentences against shipping execs in major corruption case

As Sammantha Allen Heads for Death Row, Will Arizona Execute a Woman Again?

Damien Echols says he suffered brain injuries on death row, his wife calls for end to executions

France condemns Iran execution of juvenile offender Alireza Tajiki

Florida set to conduct its first execution in a year and a half

Iran: Four Prisoners Hanged, Authorities Silent

Johnson & Johnson unit speaks out at planned death row drug use