Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Judicial Circuit halted the planned execution of Robert James Campbell. Prosecutors had failed to provide Campbell’s attorneys with the results of two intelligence (IQ) tests that indicated Campbell’s IQ was under 70. The United States Supreme Court has held a person who is mentally retarded cannot be executed. Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002). Also, the Court long ago held that the State is under an obligation to disclose potentially exculpatory evidence to the accused in a criminal proceeding. Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).
The Campbell case follows Oklahoma’s botched execution of Clayton Lockett. Lockett eventually was “put down,” but only after initial efforts had failed. The “drug cocktail” Oklahoma corrections officials had concocted for the event were not as efficient as thought. Soon after, Governor Rick Perry of Texas bragged about the Longhorn State’s “gold standard” in executions. During the 2012 election campaign, in one of those memorable Republican “debates,” Perry was cheered part-way through his answer to a question when he mentioned how many people had been executed in Texas during his tenure as Governor.
Our system of justice and the death penalty are not supposed to be subject to public passion for blood. I believe if a television network aired a weekly show that featured execution, and viewers were able to vote, the show would be a hit. Imagine: the host appears on stage, in front of a “live” studio audience. Three capital defendants—“chosen at random by drawing of lots from the various Death Rows across the country and the Federal system”—are in plexiglass enclosures. A film clip is run to tell the audience about each person’s crime or crimes. Each defendant then has his or her say as to why he or she should not be put to death. But wait! There also is an opportunity of survivors of the person or persons killed to have a voice! Technology has advanced and so even the TV audience at home can vote!
“So what will it be? One of these three people will be executed and—one can go free if you vote that way tonight! While you vote, let’s have a dance number from the Death Row Dancers ...”
Ratings, no doubt, would be great. The ratings would go through the roof if the actual execution was shown. Eventually ratings would slide, as viewers become bored with the same old fare each week. That’s when network producers would take pages from history and make the methods of execution extremely painful and gory. Decapitations by various means—broad axe, guillotine or, still in use in Saudi Arabia, sword—old-fashioned hanging, or drawing and quartering by horses would bring people back to their TV sets to watch the latest execution.
People who are sentenced to death usually are poor, suffer from some sort of mental instability and are non-white.
Middle-class white people are spared the death penalty because—well, that would be barbaric to impose on one of “us.”
People do not want to acknowledge that all the people on Death Rows are amongst that category we should call “one of us.” As Chuck Manson famously said during his trial, “You made me what I am.”
The death penalty is wrong. We should abolish it, for reasons I set forth yesterday. I was disappointed Scott Tibbs did not respond to my blog. He must not scan the right-hand side of the home page of “Ogden on Politics” each day.
On Saturday we shall discuss the death penalty. Guests will be named later.