FEATURED POST

Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

Image
In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

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

⚑ | Report an error, an omission, a typo; suggest a story or a new angle to an existing story; submit a piece, a comment; recommend a resource; contact the webmaster, contact us: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com.


Opposed to Capital Punishment? Help us keep this blog up and running! DONATE!

Comments

Most Viewed (Last 30 Days)

Harris County leads Texas in life without parole sentences as death penalty recedes

Idaho County commissioners take stand against death penalty

Texas: Reginald Blanton executed

Indonesian death penalty laws to be softened to allow reformed prisoners to avoid execution

USA: Executions, Death Sentences Up Slightly in 2017

Texas executes Anthony Allen Shore

Death penalty cases of 2017 featured botched executions, claims of innocence, 'flawed' evidence

Virginia Governor commutes death sentence of killer found mentally incompetent to be executed

Texas man with scheduled execution uses letters from fellow death row inmates to argue for reprieve

30-year-old Chinese inmate bids farewell to daughter, wife and mother before execution