Early on Wednesday 30th September 2015, Kelly Gissendaner, convicted of orchestrating her husband’s 1997 murder, was put to death at a state prison in Jackson, southeast of Atlanta. Pleas for clemency including an appeal by Pope Francis were of no avail in Kelly’s case. The state execution machine grinds painfully on.
In Oklahoma, Richard Glossip, who has always protested his innocence of a 1997 murder, and who was due to be executed on the same day, Wednesday 30th September, has been granted a 37 day stay of execution.
It is beyond belief that in this 21st century, an advanced country such as the US continues to permit capital punishment. How can a society hope to discourage violence and claim to place a value on human life if its judicial system has recourse to violence, subjecting convicted persons to the torture that is the death penalty? If a society truly values human life then it must not follow the example of those of its members who have been convicted of ending the life of another. Our degree of civilisation can be measured by the restraint which we execrcise in the face of extreme provocation. Violence in attitude and deed only breeds more violence dragging more and more people down in an unending spiral of pain.
And there is the question of erroneous convictions. A postumous pardon is of no benefit to a person wrongly accused and wrongly convicted of a capital offence.
In the US the execution process itself has descended into a state of near anarchy with too frequent reports of drawn out botched executions carried out painfully with a mish mash of drugs when (rightfully) the EU prohibit the export to the US of drugs required for the purpose of facilitating capital punishment.
In making use of this primitive form of punishment the US finds itself in the company of the most unlightened and regressive of regimes. We really do expect more from the US than to see that country grouped with states where unhappy victims find themselves flung from buildings, subjected to judicial rape and torture, or stoned to death in public displays of barbarity that belong in the darkest pages of human history.
What can we do?
One idea: Befriend someone on death row – join www.humanwrites.org
Another: Most important – keep yourself advised of these forthcoming punishments. Write to the governor of the state or the president of the country, as the case may be, let your voice be heard in social media. People pay attention (eventually) to the persuasive power of overwhelming public and world opinion. Your opinion counts, express it. Don’t leave it to others.
Tony – 1 October 2015