This is what moral bankrupcy looks like:
Execution rescheduled to accommodate Pam Bondi fundraiser
After [Florida Governor Rick] Scott last month rescheduled the execution for Sept. 10, the date of [Attorney General Pam] Bondi’s “hometown campaign kickoff” at her South Tampa home, Bondi’s office asked that it be postponed. The new date is Oct. 1.
Scott said Monday that he did not know the reason for the request, and he declined to answer when asked whether he considers a campaign fundraiser an appropriate reason to reschedule an execution.
The focus of the article to which I’ve linked is on delaying justice. But that’s only half of the story. For people like me, who oppose the state killing its citizens (even those who commit crimes), the other half of the story is the utter and complete moral bankrupcy of telling a healthy human being that you’re going to take him out of a cage on September 10 to pump his body full of poison and then, after he’s suffered with that knowledge for a little while, tell him that you’ve changed your mind, that he’ll get to live for a few more weeks because of the AG’s previously scheduled fundraising event, and that you’ll just poison him to death on October 1 instead.
This is torture, plain and simple, and it’s inherent in our death penalty system; most of the time, of course, it happens because of legal challenges that result in last minute stays of execution. But in this case it’s being done not in a last ditch attempt to save the life of the condemned man, but to ensure that the state official who wants to kill him can also have a nice time at her fundraising party.
Ah, Facebook: Where logic goes to die.
Making powerful statements in 140 characters.
HT: Patrick Jones.
In the wake of an absolutely horrific and brutal crime in Omaha, one local politician raced to make the tragedy all about immigration.
Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Janssen took to Twitter to blame “illegal immigration” for the crime. Days later he took to the opinion page of the Lincoln Journal-Star to respond to a letter written by Lincoln resident Daniel Moser:
Daniel R. Moser (“Janssen stirs up hate,” letter, July 29) correctly states my position that the brutal rape and murder of a 93-year-old Omaha woman at the hands of an illegal immigrant should be part of our ongoing discussion of immigration policy.
Whenever a crime of this magnitude occurs, the societal factors that contributed to the crime are discussed and analyzed endlessly. To omit or ignore the illegal immigration issue in relation to this tragedy is politically correct nonsense.
Those who share my opinion will not be surprised to hear I’ve been labeled a racist threat to the Republican Party for holding this view, but I am undeterred and will continue to speak out despite these lazy and ignorant criticisms of my character.
I have visited with Nebraskans across the state and can say with certainty that our citizens are deeply concerned about the ramifications of illegal immigration in our communities. Last week’s sad and horrific events are no exception.
This crime is undeniable evidence that our borders are not secure and we have no idea who is entering our country. The result of the federal government’s failure here — not only criminal violence but human trafficking and drug smuggling — has cost our state immeasurably.
Nebraskans have demanded leadership on this issue, and I will continue to regard their command and concern as my top priority.
Now, the editorial board of the Journal-Star has issued their own opinion on Janssen’s move to suggest that a particular crime at the hands of a particular individual is indicative of the broader immigration problem:
In marked contrast to the apology issued by State Auditor Mike Foley stand the actions of gubernatorial candidate Charlie Janssen.
No sooner did officials hint that the assailant in the heinous rape and beating of a 93-year-old Omaha woman, who later died of her injuries, was in the country illegally than Janssen tried to tie the crime to immigration policy.
Clearly Janssen has no compunction about making a sweeping and damaging generalization.
By painting immigrants with such a broad brush Janssen does a disservice to genuine and productive discussion of immigration policy, which people on both ends of the political spectrum agree is a mess.
If there’s one thing we can learn about crime from this absolutely awful case, Janssen suggests, it’s that the real culprit is every single Mexican person who wants to come to the U.S.
“George Zimmerman got away with murder,” Maddy, who declined to give her last name, said in an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America,” “but you can’t get away from God. And at the end of the day, he’s going to have a lot of questions and answers he has to deal with.”
Oh, well, that’s cool, then.
Seriously, though, a few things:
1. Zimmerman didn’t get away with murder; he was found not guilty of murder … by you. This means he was judged not to have murdered Trayvon Martin. He did, of course, kill him. So, really, he got away with killing him.
2. This juror is right about one thing:
"As much as we were trying to find this man guilty … they give you a booklet that basically tells you the truth, and the truth is that there was nothing that we could do about it," she said. "I feel the verdict was already told."
Given the laws in Florida, Zimmerman could shoot another kid to death tomorrow and be found not guilty all over again … so long as he felt that, when he opened fire, his life was in danger (while he was carrying a gun and stalking the kid).
3. God isn’t going to sort this out. See #2, above, and then work on changing the laws.
Louis Ruprecht highlights an unusual form of protest:
On November 2, 1984, Velma Barfield became the first woman to be executed in the U.S. since 1962, and the first to be executed in the State of North Carolina after the nationwide moratorium on the death penalty was lifted in 1976. She was 52 years old.
The Barfield execution came back to life in the following spring, in the form of a letter from an eloquent if quirky citizen of the State of North Carolina; one who was opposed to the death penalty for religious reasons. He had calculated the approximate cost of executing Velma Barfield—not just the lethal injection, but the years of legal wrangling as well. According to his calculations, and given the current population of the state, exactly one cent of his own tax payment had been used to execute Velma Barfield—so he enclosed a check to the North Carolina State Tax Commissioner for 1984, in which he had withheld that suspect penny.
As you might imagine, the state took a different view, taking issue especially with this self-imposed tax break. Their point was that you do not get to pick and choose which state services you are willing to pay for, not even for religious reasons.
I didn’t know anything about this particular death penalty protest, despite living in North Carolina and publicly protesting executions there for five years years. But it’s pretty fascinating.
Incidentally, for those who are interested, the article in which the example appears is mostly about how the Catholic Church wants to be exempted from providing contraceptive coverage for its employees under the Affordable Care Act:
The question that should be asked is why the US Catholic Bishops are exerting so much energy and money and time on the matter of contraception, with no similarly public cries of outrage against the death penalty, state-sponsored torture, or the two preemptive wars in which the U.S. has involved itself for fully a decade.
The whole piece, which was actually published more than a year ago, is well worth reading; the issue of witholding a penny when you pay your taxes as a sort of conscientious objection is worth discussing.
HT: Steve Dear.
On yesterday’s episode of ESPN’s “Pardon The Interruption,” Michael Wilbon casually mentioned that the death penalty doesn’t deter people from committing murder.
Right around the show’s 2 minute mark, during a discussion of whether or not Ryan Braun’s suspension will deter other baseball players from cheating, Wilbon said, “If the death penalty can’t serve as a deterrent to murder, I don’t know that there’s a real deterrent that’s applicable.”
Though I assume Wilbon’s words weren’t fully processed by his audience, and so might not have made much of a mark on them, a whole lot of people nonetheless heard those words about the death penalty and, in the context of the conversation about deterring PED use, they might reflect on how deterrence works — or doesn’t. Either way, this is a very far cry from the days when the deterrent value of the death seemed so obvious to everyone that they simply chose not to believe statistics that challenged the deterrence hypothesis.
It’s great to see a journalist challenge the deterrence myth — even if he’s a journalist who covers sports rather than criminal justice or politics.
Stand Your Ground
A number of people have spent the day today pointing out that George Zimmerman’s defense did not hinge on Florida’s Stand Your Ground law but instead on a standard argument of self-defense.
This is certainly true.
But it’s also missing what I take to be a critically important point about the chain of events that led to the death of Trayvon Martin, namely that George Zimmerman’s actions that night — and the confrontation that led to the shooting — were precipitated by Florida’s peculiar Stand Your Ground law. That’s why I’ve been talking about Florida’s distinctly terrible laws.
To be specific, a law like the one in place in Florida leads inexorably to vigilantes like Zimmerman, who ride around their neighborhoods in the hopes of finding someone who looks suspicious enough to confront. The law tells Zimmerman that he can stalk Martin at night, he can put himself in a situation that might lead to a confrontation, and that — if such a confrontation should ensure — he can pull his gun and take a shot without having to do a whole lot of explaining. He can act as an aggressor and still be entirely within his rights when he shoots someone he deems also to be an aggressor or when he finds himself on the losing end of a confrontation that he initiates.
In other words, Zimmerman’s defense team didn’t have to appeal to the Stand Your Ground law in order to clear him of the murder charge — mostly because the other key witness to the events had been shot to death. The innocent guy, at the end of the night, is the guy who had more firepower, had no compunction about using it, and therefore didn’t end up dead.
But make no mistake that a confrontation occured that night in Florida — and Martin was shot and killed — because Zimmerman knew his rights under that Stand Your Ground law and thereby felt empowered to cruise around like a vigilante, looking for a bad guy and an excuse to wave his gun around.
[For different takes on the use of the Stand Your Ground defense, or lack thereof, in the trial, see here, here, here, and here.]