Supreme Court ignores fatal flaws, OKs executions
Starting in May executions in the United States will resume after a
7-month de facto moratorium that began last September, when the Supreme
Court agreed to hear a Kentucky challenge to the constitutionality of
lethal injection procedures.
On April 16 the U.S. Supreme Court, in a splintered opinion, ruled 7-2 in
Baze v. Rees that the three-drug protocol used in the state of Kentucky
did not violate the 8th Amendment to the Constitution's prohibition of
cruel and unusual punishment.
Responding to the ruling, Harvey "Tee" Earvin wrote from Texas death row:
"The Court's determination to kill us must be met by our determination to
end the killing. Death row prisoners must commit today to organizing
ourselves, our families and our friends. We need them in the streets with
the activists who are fighting the death penalty.
"The mood on the row has changed drastically since the ruling. The men
here become friends, we are a community. When something bad happens to one
it affects us all. And when there's good news, we are all happy. But this
court ruling negatively affects every single one of us," he continues.
Earvin is a founder of the Texas prisoner organization, Panthers United
for Revolutionary Education (PURE).
7 out of 9 justices wrote separate opinions in the case, which indicates
that the court is far from a consensus about how to resolve additional
challenges that are likely to arise, both around lethal injection protocol
and the death penalty itself.
But the court totally ignored the fundamental facts of the death penalty
(DP) itselfthat it is racially biased, meted out only to the poor, and
that innocent people are often convicted and likely to be executed.
Garcia White writes from Texas death row: "How is it that everything
concerning the DP is a hurried-up and rushed thing? What's the rush when
we see and know that there are all kinds of flaws in the whole system?"
The American Veterinary Association forbids putting down animals with the
three drugs now used in lethal injections. Prisoner Quinton Jones told
Workers World: "It's a damn shame when animals are put down with a higher
standard of care and decency or the handlers must answer to the highest
court. Now the Supreme Court has approved a lower standard for human
During the 7 months that no person in the U.S. was executed, several
significant events occurred:
New Jersey abolished the death penalty.
The Supreme Court ruled that the use of the electric chair is
unconstitutional, which left the state of Nebraska with no effective death
penalty since electrocution was the only method used there. The American
Bar Association called for a national moratorium on executions and the
United Nations voted for an international moratorium, reflecting a
worldwide trend limiting executions.
Also during the last seven months, hearings in California and Tennessee
have studied their respective death penalty systems, and New Mexico and
New Hampshire have raised constitutional questions regarding application
of the death penalty in those states. Wrongful convictions have led to
releases in Dallas. Ongoing crime-lab woes and district attorney scandals
in Houston continue to make headlines in Texas.
The last person executed in the U.S. was Michael Richard in Texas last
Sept. 25. Texas highest court had decided to close at 5 o'clock that day
instead of waiting 20 minutes for an appeal for Richard based on the
Supreme Courts acceptance of the Kentucky case just hours before Richards
As of April 29, there are 11 executions scheduled in the U.S. with dozens
more likely in the coming months. It is no accident that 10 of these 11
scheduled are in Georgia, Virginia, Louisiana and Texas, all former
Confederate states where capital punishment has historically been a legal
alternative to lynching.
While the Supreme Court responded to one states question about its lethal
injection method, many more questions about capital punishment remain
Justice John Paul Stevens, the courts most senior member, took aim at the
entire system of capital punishment, writing in an opinion that it was a
"pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal
contributions to any discernible social or public purposes."
It is the first time 87-year-old Stevens has called on states to stop
Many on death row in Texas have communicated with Workers World:
Ronnie Neal says: "This ruling affects us all, not just those given
immediate dates. The fact is the door is open. The death chamber is once
again operational. Any number at any time can be called. Yours or mine."
Juan Reynoso proclaims: "I will fight to the death. What else is there
left? I'll never give in, until my last damn breath."
Milton Mathis, whose family in Houston is concerned about the issues of
his limited mental abilities, said: "This ruling affects me because I have
had a date once already and at any time my number can be called. As I
brace myself for the fear of the unknown, my only hope is that there will
be someday justice for the poor and the have-nots."
Activist Howard Guidry, also with PURE, wrote from his death row cell in
Livingston, Texas: "With the recent ruling comes a wave of urgency and
desperation for most of the men on Texas death row. It is difficult to
interpret the tension here. Executions are being scheduled. Men are
grasping desperately for relief from the appeals courts. Some men have
resigned to planning their funerals. We are going to be herded into the
slaughter pen. 4 brothers here in Texas are already in the so-called death
watch cells. Men are talking about raising money for their own funeral.
They are talking about the law. They are desperate. Its fight or die and
fight we must!"
(source: Gloria Rubac; The writer is a Houston organizer of the Texas
Death Penalty Abolition Movement)