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No Second Chances: What to Do After a Botched Execution

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Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. The state shouldn't get a second chance.
The pathos and problems of America's death penalty were vividly on display yesterday when Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. Immediately after its failure Gov. John Kasich set June 5, 2019, as a new execution date.
This plan for a second execution reveals a glaring inadequacy in the legal standards governing botched executions in the United States.
Campbell was tried and sentenced to die for murdering 18-year-old Charles Dials during a carjacking in 1997. After Campbell exhausted his legal appeals, he was denied clemency by the state parole board and the governor.
By the time the state got around to executing Campbell, he was far from the dangerous criminal of 20 years ago. As is the case with many of America's death-row inmates, the passage of time had inflicted its own punishments.
The inmate Ohio strapped onto the gurney was a 69-year-old man afflicted with serious ailm…

Arkansas executions bring Sister Helen Prejean’s death penalty fight to the fore

Sister Helen Prejean
Sister Helen Prejean
Prejean’s work opposing capital punishment was captured in her book and film Dead Man Walking, and now she’s speaking out against a spate of planned killings

Sister Helen Prejean, the Louisiana nun who through the movie of her book, Dead Man Walking, became the face of the American anti-death penalty movement, has a message for Asa Hutchinson, the Republican governor of Arkansas who this month attempted to carry out an unprecedented killing spree of eight executions in 11 days.

“Governor, be a statesman and a real moral leader of the people,” she said. “Do what is morally right. As a state official, you should not be involved in the deliberate killing of human beings.”

On Thursday night, Hutchinson had his way: Lendell Lee, 51, a convicted murderer, was executed through lethal injection just four minutes before midnight, when his death warrant ran out.

By the twisted logic of US capital punishment, the killing went “smoothly”, lasting 12 minutes and with no visible signs of Lee’s distress. But it came with a heavy price.

Opprobrium has rained down on Hutchinson and his state from across the country and around the world. An inordinate amount of court time has been expended on a flurry of last-minute lawsuits that have temporarily spared the lives of four of the eight condemned men. Three more face the gurney next week.

At least the one positive element to emerge from a grim business has been to bring Prejean’s advocacy back to the fore. Her Twitter feed has been on fire all week, with excoriating criticism of both Hutchinson and Arkansas’ attorney general, Leslie Rutledge.

“Why do we kill people to show that killing people is wrong?” she asked them both in one memorable message.

As a nun who built her ministry in New Orleans, Prejean has had a singularly intimate relationship with the death penalty. Living and working in the deep south, she has no doubt that America’s cult of killing is a fundamentally southern phenomenon with its roots in slavery.

“The real practitioners of death have always been the 10 southern states that practiced slavery, Arkansas among them,” she said.

Prejean thinks the key to understanding and opposing US capital punishment is to understand the microculture from which it comes as well as its essential geographic unfairness. Studies have shown that just 2% of counties across America are responsible for generating most executions.

She sees her role as partly that of teacher to a nation woefully uneducated about its own justice system.

“I do what I do out of compassion for the American public who do not reflect deeply on the death penalty,” she said. “I have found in these 30 years getting out there that people are not wedded to the death penalty at all, they have just never thought about it.”

The Louisiana nun will keep firing up her white-hot censure of Arkansas next week, when two more inmates are set to die on Monday and a third on Thursday.


Source: The Guardian, Ed Pilkington, April 21, 2017

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