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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Dylann Roof’s 'show trial' exhibits Justice Department at its worst

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
Attorney General Loretta Lynch has a fleeting moment in time, before Dylann Roof’s show trial falls into deeper lunacy, to exercise strength, grace, and sound moral judgment on behalf of the United States government – by pulling the plug.

“Ms. Lynch chose to seek the death penalty after a contentious review process that included South Carolina’s top federal prosecutor siding with Mr. Roof’s defense lawyers in their offer of a guilty plea in exchange for a life sentence,” writes The New York Times’ Alan Binder.

In the piece published Saturday, Binder observes: “the federal government’s decision to pursue Mr. Roof’s execution is widely questioned, and it is in defiance of the wishes and recommendations of survivors of the attack, many family members of the dead and some Justice Department officials.” 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a “show trial” as “a judicial trial held in public with the intention of influencing or satisfying public opinion, rather than ensuring justice.” In a sense, therefore, I’ll concede that U.S. v. Roof is unlike a “show trial.” 

Because, in addition to the many victims’ families (who, as Binder notes, don’t want the death penalty for Roof) the opinion of that segment of society most impacted by Roof’s heinous hate crime – black people – also, overwhelmingly, don’t want Roof killed on their behalf.

Instead, a University of South Carolina poll found “a majority of black South Carolinians – 64.7 percent – said Roof should be sentenced to life without parole if found guilty.” 

In an op-ed asserting “Dylann Roof Shouldn’t Get the Death Penalty,” Christina Swarns, director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, wrote, “[a]lthough this crime was meant to challenge the black community’s right to exist, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund opposes the death penalty for Mr. Roof. Such a sentence would have the perverse effect of justifying the routine, racially discriminatory imposition of the death penalty on black people.”

The victims in the shooting were (top row, left - right) DePayne Middleton-Doctor,
Tywanza Sanders, Myrah Thompson, (center row) Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson,
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, (bottom row) Daniel Simmons, Clementa Pinckney
and Cynthia Hurd.
Poignantly and plaintively, writer Ta-nehisi Coates, demanded: “If the families of Roof’s victims can find the grace of forgiveness within themselves; if the president can praise them for it; if the public can be awed by it – then why can’t the Department of Justice act in the spirit of that grace and resist the impulse to kill?” 

But, even though Dylann Roof’s federal death penalty trial won’t show black people in this country anything they don’t already know – such as the fact that the United States justice system is uncaring, unfeeling, and downright hostile to their interests – it is still apt to call the proceedings a show trial, because: (1) it will, as South Carolina authorities have promised, all be painstakingly repeated again soon, in state court, in all of its gory, gruesome, bloody detail; (2) it needlessly promises to keep Roof’s name and dastardly deeds in the news for weeks, months, and years to come as his appeals work through the dysfunctional federal death penalty system (appeals that wouldn’t exist, or that would, at a minimum, be dramatically limited in scope if Roof were offered and accepted a plea in exchange for a life sentence without the possibility of parole); and, perhaps most outrageously, (3) this federal trial ginning up in South Carolina, with all its brutal, painful facts, and exorbitant high costs (emotional and economic), is being forced upon the victims, the victims’ families, Roof, the federal court system, and literally all of us, for reasons that have nothing to do with seeking justice for “The Emmanuel Nine.”

Click here to read the full article

Source: The Hill, Stephen Cooper, November 30, 2016

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