Gruesome Buddies: ISIS Beheadings and the American Death Penalty
from: Flagler Live (Florida)
ISIS is like us...we systematically kill innocent people and they do too!
Perhaps the bleakest fact of all is that the death penalty is imposed not only in a freakish and discriminatory manner, but also in some cases upon defendants who are actually innocent.
-Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., 1994
The same media shrugged when 200,000 Syrians were butchered over the past three years, most of them by the same guy to whom the U.S. Air Force is about to give aid and comfort. The same media chest-thumped and encouraged the butchery of 2,000 Palestinians in July, about a quarter of them children, when Israel launched its latest massacre of Gaza residents. The killing was carried out mostly with weapons you and I paid for. But let the jingoes parade YouTube beheadings and Anglos, and suddenly it’s time to care.
At least this much is clear: we either don’t know what we want in Middle East or don’t have a clue how to go about getting what we want. We are not expanding the war again for humanitarian or strategic reasons. We are doing so as an emotional response, and because the president’s spine has been replaced with Playdoh. The beheadings were gruesome. And the brutality of the Islamic State is indisputable. But neither adds up to a compelling reason to step up the killing and get back into billion-dollar waste.
More to the point: we have no moral ground to stand on when it using the Islamic State’s bloodlust for execution as a spark plug for intervention. We do it all the time, just as gruesomely. Rick Scott has signed the death warrants of 13 people in his brief tenure as governor, a faster rate of executions than any of his predecessors in a four-year term. Florida has executed 81 people since re-instituting the death penalty in 1979, and the United States has executed almost 1,400 since 1976. We don’t show it on YouTube, because we’re ashamed while pretending to be civilized. We hide it behind a grotesque dead-man-walking ritual that poses as solemnity.
But I fail to see how less gruesome it is than beheadings, particularly when we have a shameful record of executions gone wrong, whether it’s a head exploding in flames in our own Starke prison or injections’ lethality proving more leisurely than advertised, to the gasping inmate’s realization.
There are also some misconceptions about beheading as a method of execution. It’s not an Islamic invention. It’s a western invention. The Greeks and Romans, founders of our civilization and all things grisly, considered beheading the privileged way of dying, because it was quicker, more certain and less painful than other ways. They reserved the—what, favor, in their eyes?–for their own citizens. Non-Romans, as we well know from Jesus’s experience, got crucified. European countries subsequently reserved beheadings for their aristocrats. All European countries have since abolished the death penalty altogether, finding the act, not just the method, gruesome.
A few more backward countries are still at it of course, including Pakistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, which still has public beheadings. In that regard, those countries are no different than the Islamic State. And in that regard, we’re no different, either. We don’t behead people. At least not intentionally. That went out of style in the West with the retirement of the guillotine in Paris in 1977. But we electrocute them, lethally inject them, gas them, hang them or execute them by firing squad, as they still do in Oklahoma and Utah, though the two states, because they have such good hearts, also give prisoners the option of getting injected instead.
The conventional assumption, well-heeled by the American death penalty’s fans and PR specialists, is that capital punishment by these means is more humane, and that it’s more justified than the beheading of innocents. Murdering innocent people as the Islamic State does is barbaric. But it’s the fact that they murder them to start with that makes it barbaric, not the method. It’s not clear how less barbaric lethal injection is just because we say it is.
As for murdering the innocents: In Florida alone, 23 people have been exonerated off death row after conviction, after unexpected evidence turned up. Imagine how many people have been killed here and in other states who, on more careful review, would have been proven innocent. What is certain is that we, too, execute innocent people. We just do it after spending a lot more money to cover our asses. That’s without getting into the racism of a death penalty system that is far more likely to sentence blacks than whites for the same crime. So much for due process.
There may be a few legitimate reasons to attack the Islamic State, though I’d prefer it if Arabs were attacking them, not us. The Islamic State’s method of executions is not among those. Otherwise, we should be bombing ourselves. When it comes to capital punishment, not much separates us from the butchers of the Islamic State. That we do it in English, with more recognizable uniforms and behind closed doors doesn’t make it any less backward, any less barbaric, any less repulsive. This moral high ground can’t be claimed until the death penalty is abolished.
© 2014 Flagler Live
Exonerated After Execution:
12 Men (And One Woman) Found Innocent After Being Put to Death
By Alexis Garrett Stodghill
The execution of Troy Davis in Georgia last week despite tremendous doubt about his guilt has brought the issue of capital punishment into the national spotlight. As a country that supports use of the death penalty, America is in poor company with “the world’s great dictatorships and autocracies [such as] Iran, Zimbabwe, China, North Korea, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt, Ethiopia, Cuba, [and] Belarus” according to The Atlantic — while we are supposed to be the land of the free. Far above and beyond the politically nasty associations with capital punishment is of course the moral concern over accidentally putting innocent people to death. It is likely that the average American believes this is a rare occurrence worth the social value of the death penalty as a deterrent from violent crime. Unfortunately innocent people are often placed on death row. In a study of executions in 34 states between 1973 and 1995, Columbia University professor James Liebman found that: “An astonishing 82 percent of death row inmates did not deserve to receive the death penalty. One in twenty death row inmates is later found not guilty.” Most death row inmates do not have the resources or time necessary to determine their innocence before it is too late. Hopefully, Troy Davis’ case and others like his will show U.S. citizens how the death penalty destroys innocent lives. Over 1,000 people have been executed since 1976. We may never know how many went to death in error. Here are just a few who we know for sure were likely innocent — but this was discovered too late.
from: The Innocence Project
Q. How many innocent people are there in prison?
A. We will never know for sure, but the few studies that have been done estimate that between 2.3% and 5% of all prisoners in the U.S. are innocent (for context, if just 1% of all prisoners are innocent, that would mean that more than 20,000 innocent people are in prison).
More broadly, we know that innocent people are often identified as suspects by law enforcement and that DNA testing often clears them before they go to trial, but that DNA testing is impossible in the vast majority of criminal cases. In approximately 25% of cases where DNA testing was done by the FBI during the course of investigations, suspects were excluded by the testing. That doesn’t mean we believe 25% of convictions are in error, but when coupled with the fact that DNA testing is only possible in 5-10% of all criminal cases, it shows that science cannot always clear innocent suspects, which can result in wrongful convictions.
10,000 INNOCENT PEOPLE CONVICTED EACH YEAR, STUDY ESTIMATES
from: Ohio State University
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- About 10,000 people in the United States may be wrongfully convicted of serious crimes each year, a new study suggests.
The results are based on a survey of 188 judges, prosecuting attorneys, public defenders, sheriffs and police
chiefs in Ohio and 41 state attorneys general.
The study also found that the most important factor leading to wrongful conviction is eyewitness
THE DEATH PENALTY IN THE US:
from: The Death Penalty Information Center
The danger that innocent people will be executed because of errors in the criminal justice system is getting worse. A total of 69 people have been released from death row since 1973 after evidence of their innocence emerged. Twenty-one condemned inmates have been released since 1993, including seven from the state of Illinois alone. Many of these cases were discovered not because of the normal appeals process, but rather as a result of new scientific techniques, investigations by journalists, and the dedicated work of expert attorneys, not available to the typical death row inmate.
How many innocent people has the US executed?
As a report reveals the innocence of a man put to death in Texas in 1989, we examine the US' use of capital punishment.
More than two decades after the US state of Texas executed Carlos DeLuna, an investigative study has revealed that he was in fact innocent.
DeLuna was put to death in 1989 for stabbing and killing a petrol station cashier, Wanda Lopez, in 1983.
Their report concluded that the murderer was Carlos Hernandez, a man who bore a striking resemblance to DeLuna.
How Many Innocent People Are Sentenced To Death?
At least 4 percent of all people who receive the death penalty are innocent, if a new study is right.
The number of people sentenced to die for crimes they didn’t commit is often described as “not merely unknown but unknowable,” wrote the study’s researchers, led by Samuel Gross of the University of Michigan. And there is no systematic method to determine whether a criminal conviction is right, which would prevent the deaths of wrongly-sentenced people. Because of this, very few false convictions are discovered in the justice system.
But because a tiny number of exonerations do take place, the researchers had a foothold for estimating the overall rate of wrongly-convicted inmates. From 1973 until 2004, 7,482 people were sentenced to death. Among them, 117 exonerations that took place in during those 31 years; 107 took place among those who were awaiting execution. Another 10 were exonerated by legal proceedings that were initiated after the threat of death had been removed, according to the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
8 People Who Were Executed and Later Found Innocent
from: Naked Law
Cited from: NakedLaw by Avvo.com
It’d be nice to think our judicial system is totally infallible, but unfortunately, that’s just not the case. Innocent people are convicted of crimes they didn’t commit more often than anyone would like to admit, and in some cases, people who were later found to be innocent have actually been put to death.
Here are 8 people who were executed and innocent.
1. Cameron Todd Willingham--In 1992, Willingham was convicted of arson murder in Texas. He was believed to have intentionally set a fire that killed his three kids. In 2004, he was put to death. Unfortunately, the Texas Forensic Science Commission later found that the evidence was misinterpreted, and they concluded that none of the evidence used against Willingham was valid. As it turns out, the fire really was accidental.
2. Ruben Cantu--Cantu was 17 at the time the crime he was alleged of committing took place. Cantu was convicted of capital murder, and in 1993, the Texas teen was executed. About 12 years after his death, investigations show that Cantu likely didn’t commit the murder. The lone eyewitness recanted his testimony, and Cantu’s co-defendant later admitted he allowed his friend to be falsely accused. He says Cantu wasn’t even there the night of the murder.
3. Larry Griffin--Griffin was put to death in 1995 for the 1981 murder of Quintin Moss, a Missouri drug dealer. Griffin always maintained his innocence, and now, evidence seems to indicate he was telling the truth. The first police officer on the scene now says the eyewitness account was false, even though the officer supported the claims during the trial. Another eyewitness who was wounded during the attack was never contacted during the trial, and he says Griffin wasn’t present at the crime scene that night.
4. Carlos DeLuna--In 1989, DeLuna was executed for the stabbing of a Texas convenience store clerk. Almost 20 years later, Chicago Tribune uncovered evidence that shows DeLuna was likely innocent. The evidence showed that Carlos Hernandez, a man who even confessed to the murder many times, actually did the crime.
5. David Wayne Spence--Spence was put to death in 1997 for the murder of three teenagers in Texas. He was supposedly hired by a convenience store clerk to kill someone else, but he allegedly killed the wrong people by mistake. The supervising police lieutenant said “I do not think David Spence committed this crime.” The lead homicide detective agreed, saying “My opinion is that David Spence was innocent. Nothing from the investigation ever led us to any evidence that he was involved.”
6. Jesse Tafero--In 1976, Tafero was convicted of murdering a state trooper. He and Sonia Jacobs were both sentenced to death for the crime. The main evidence used to convict them was testimony by someone else who was involved in the crime, ex-convict Walter Rhodes. Rhodes gave this testimony in exchange for a life sentence. In 1990, Tafero was put to death. Two years later, his companion Jacobs was released due to a lack of evidence…the same evidence used to put Tafero to death.
7 & 8. Thomas Griffin and Meeks Griffin-- The oldest case on this list dates back to 1915. The Griffin brothers, two black men, were convicted of the murder of a white man. The reason they were convicted is because Monk Stevenson, another black man suspected of committing the murder, pointed to the brothers as having been responsible. He later admitted the reason he blamed them is because they were wealthy, and he assumed they had the money to beat the charges. The Griffin brothers were completely innocent, but they were put to death nonetheless.