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Life & Death/Revenge & Justice | Mickey Z.

Photo credit: Mickey Z.Photo credit: Mickey Z.

Mickey Z. -- World News Trust

May 12, 2013

"Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders."

- Albert Camus

For a wide variety of reasons, I rarely write specifically about high profile mainstream news spectacles, but the Cleveland kidnapping story contains a broad range of socially relevant angles.

For example, while Ariel Castro is being charged with rape and kidnapping, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty may also bring aggravated murder charges in connection with the pregnancies that were terminated by force.

Such charges, McGinty was quick to clarify, are “punishable by death.” The death penalty is applicable under Ohio law, he explained, for the "most depraved criminals.”

Such a textbook propaganda scenario, of course, doesn’t hold up after even a cursory examination of capital punishment.

Prison Nation
Of the roughly 3,200 human beings currently languishing on death row all across god’s country, some are guilty, some innocent -- but all await a grisly, taxpayer-subsidized demise. Welcome to the prison-industrial complex.

Mumia Abu-Jamal sez: "The ruling, wealthy class built prisons and courts to protect them and their wealth from the masses. They also built the ideological illusion of classlessness, which is maintained through their media. They brayed about freedom, while erecting the most massive prison complex this earth has ever seen. They built Prison Nation."

The death penalty stands as a particularly malicious example of how the 1% attempts to maintain control. This sadistic and racist institution remains in effect in 34 states -- plus the U.S. government and military. California has the highest number of death row inmates, but the state that's executed the most prisoners since 1976 is (wait for it…) Texas.

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why?

The most common justification for capital punishment is deterrence. The 1% tells us that fear of losing one's life will deter humans from taking another's life.

Nancy Reagan sez: "I think people would be alive today if there were a death penalty."

Contrary to Ms. Reagan's sage analysis, there is no conclusive evidence that even an electric chair that burns a prisoner alive serves as a deterrent. According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC):

"Consistent with previous years, the 2010 FBI Uniform Crime Report showed that the South had the highest murder rate. The South accounts for over 80 percent of executions. The Northeast, which has less than 1 percent of all executions, tied with the West for the lowest murder rate."

“Deterrence?” asks Abu-Jamal in his book, Live from Death Row. “The March 1988 execution of Willie Darden in Florida, exceedingly well-publicized here and abroad, should have had enormous deterrent effect, according to capital theories. But less than 11 hours after 2,000 volts coursed through Darden’s manacled flesh, a Florida corrections officer, well positioned to absorb and understand the lessons of the state ritual, erupted in a jealous rage and murdered a man in the maternity wing of a hospital. Seems like a lesson well learned to me.”

And for whom is this “lesson” usually geared? More from the DPIC: "Over 75 percent of the murder victims in cases resulting in an execution were white, even though nationally only 50 percent of murder victims generally are white."

Let's break it down further: 44 percent of the U.S. death row population is African-American, an ethnic group that constitutes a mere 12.6 percent of the nation’s people as a whole. From this statistic, we can draw only one of two conclusions:

  1. Blacks are genetically predisposed towards homicide.
  2. The U.S. justice system is inherently racist.

Ralph Nader sez: "Since I was a law student, I have been against the death penalty. It does not deter. It is severely discriminatory against minorities, especially since they’re given no competent legal counsel defense in many cases. It’s a system that has to be perfect. You cannot execute one innocent person. No system is perfect. And to top it off, for those of you who are interested in the economics it, it costs more to pursue a capital case toward execution than it does to have full life imprisonment without parole."

A second rationale for state-sponsored murder -- one that could only exist in a society indoctrinated to accept predatory capitalism as a viable option -- is cost. In purely dispassionate financial terms, supporters claim that an execution is cheaper than long-term incarceration.

Study after study has proven this to be a convenient myth. For example, in 2005, the Los Angeles Times reported that the California death penalty system -- the largest in the nation -- costs taxpayers "$114 million per year beyond the costs of keeping convicts locked up for life. Taxpayers have paid more than $250 million for each of the state’s executions."

Other sources have reported similar findings in Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Kansas, and Maryland. Hence, even if some insist on putting a price tag on life itself, it still falls short as a justification for capital punishment.

Noam Chomsky sez: "The death penalty can be tolerated only by extreme statist reactionaries who demand a state that is so powerful that it has the right to kill."

“An eye for an eye” is yet another justification -- parroting the best homicidal traditions of The Bible.

But we do not rape the rapist nor do we burn down the house of the arsonist. Why then do we murder the man or woman charged with taking a life?

“Let the punishment fit the crime,” comes the rallying cry. Which brings us back to Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty and the media firestorm swirling around Ariel Castro.

"Capital punishment must be reserved for those crimes that are truly the worst examples of human conduct," McGinty recently declared. "The reality is we still have brutal criminals in our midst who have no respect for the rule of law or human life."

If this is truly our idea of justice, we are obviously living in a society that is not held to a higher standard than that of its “worst” criminals -- a State that is no better than the murderers it chooses to punish (nor the murderers it opts to ignore).

Innocent till proven…
As Ralph Nader stated above, we “cannot execute one innocent person."

But as the DPIC explains: "Since 1973, over 130 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence. From 1973-1999, there was an average of 3.1 exonerations per year. From 2000-2007, there has been an average of 5 exonerations per year."

Amnesty International has listed some of the many actors leading to wrongful convictions:

  • Inadequate legal representation.
  • Police and prosecutorial misconduct.
  • Perjured testimony and mistaken eyewitness testimony.
  • Racial prejudice.
  • Jailhouse "snitch" testimony.
  • Suppression and/or misinterpretation of mitigating evidence.
  • Community/political pressure to solve a case.

Desmond Tutu sez: "To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice."

If you feel righteous outrage at the biased and illegitimate practice of capital punishment, stand up and speak out now.

If you can envision a culture in which holistic justice is the guiding principle, get out on the streets and fight for it.

If you agree that this just may be our last, best chance, join us.


NYC EVENT: Join Mickey Z. (after the March Against Monsanto) at Washington Square Park for a teach-in called “Food Justice, GMOs, & the Vegan Option (Eat Like a Revolutionary)”: Saturday, May 25, 2013 @ 3pm.


Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.

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