Commentary: It’s Time to Kill the Death Penalty


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By Stanley Howard


THE U.S. Supreme Court abolished capital punishment in Furman v. Georgia in 1972, finding it to be unconstitutional because it was being applied in an arbitrary and capricious manner—there were no set standards and it was being issued in an uneven and bias fashion.

We know exactly what that means in America: you will most likely face and be sentenced to death if you are poor or a person of color.

That hard-earned victory was short lived because the Court reversed itself by reinstating the death penalty in 1976, asserting that it would be constitutional if certain conditions were met. In other words, the Court gave the government (state and federal) the green light to continue carrying out this barbaric, modern-day form of lynching if they could stop making the obvious look so obvious.

Honestly, the Court gave the government the impossible task of taking racism and classism out of America’s criminal legal system, which is the cornerstone of the entire system and the equivalent of tsking apples out of apple pie.

That impossible task did not stop states and the federal government from rushing to implement new death penalty legislation, even though none of the measures addressed nor remedied the Court’s unconstitutional concerns.

This fact was on full display in the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh in South Carolina in front of a national TV audience. Before issuing the two life sentences for the convictions of killing his wife and son, Judge Clifton Newman pointed out the blatant unfairness of how Murdaugh and members of Murdaugh’s family, as prosecutors, had other people sentenced to death in that same court building and same courtroom for less.

Do not be shocked or alarmed. It has always been the American way where a rich White man could be indicted for killing two people and doesn’t face the death penalty, when death is sought and obtained for others involving one murder. Every fair-minded American should be outraged to know that a large number of men and women were executed in this country, and many others are still suffering on death row for less than what Murdaugh was convicted of.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not espousing that Murdaugh should be executed because, as an innocent man who spent sixteen years on Illinois death row for a crime I did not commit, I am totally against the death penalty.

It’s so sad that executions are still being carried out in this country even though most Americans know the criminal legal system and its system of capital punishment are plagued with an unbelievable number of problems—false and coerced confessions; wrongful identifications; under-representations; police, prosecutor and judicial misconduct and abuse; racism; sentence disparities; corruption; wrongful convictions; and much more.

Everyone, including most Democrats and Republicans, knows the entire system is in serious need of reform but executions are still being carried out, which truly reveals and says plenty about the moral fiber of this country.

The state of Arizona resumed its thirst for killing human beings in 2022 after an eight-year hold on all executions due to a highly publicized botched execution where the person, according to the Arizona Republic, “was injected 15 times with an experimental combination of drugs” and “snorted and gasped for air more than 600 times until he finally succumbed almost two hours later.”

In 2022, it gave a lethal injection to Clarence Dixon (66), Frank Atwood (66) and Murray Hooper (76). Incredibly, Arizona was prepared to murder Atwood and Hooper with the same poison (potassium cyanide) used by the Nazis during the Holocaust—if the condemned men chose to die in the gas chamber opposed to a lethal injection which has a high risk and history of being botched.

Hooper, who was from Chicago and known for his smile and laughter, was like a big brother to me and many other guys that were on Illinois death row.

He proclaimed his innocence the entire time, including days before he was lynched in Arizona, stating that he was “railroaded by crooked cops, corrupt prosecutors, and a judge who saw the state’s misconduct firsthand but sentenced [him] to die anyway.”

News of Arizona reviving its machinery of death should anger and scare the hell out of all of us.

How could a state, where close to half of its population does not have faith or trust in the government’s ability to run free and fair elections, have faith and trust in its ability to murder human beings under any circumstances?

We must never stop fighting to kill the death penalty.

Stanley Howard is Author of TORTURED BY BLUE: The Chicago Police Torture Story


About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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