Arkansas panelists describe death penalty as “legalized lynching” – Baptist News Global
People of faith must stand up against capital punishment as a legalized system of lynching and retaliation designed to suppress people of color through intimidation, torture and death, according to a recent report sign legal experts and lawyers against the death penalty.
Participants in the first “Richard Wright Summit: The Father-Daughter Legacy” also urged churches, community groups and others to become more vocal opponents of the inhumane conditions endured by death row inmates and to see through them. False claims that capital punishment is less of a burden on taxpayers than long-term jail terms and that it helps end the families of murder victims.
The discussion, sponsored by the Elaine Legacy Center, was moderated by Arkansas judge and pastor Wendell Griffen, who is also a columnist for the BNG.
The panelists were the lawyer for Little Rock Furonda Brasfield, director of leadership development for the 8th Amendment project, and Julia Wright, veteran of the national movement against the death penalty and daughter of the late Richard Wright, whose 1940 novel Native son and other novels and short stories exposed black oppression in the United States His book The man who lived underground was written in 1941 but published posthumously that year.
Echoing the themes he wrote about for BNG, Griffen said it should be made clear that the death penalty in America is primarily used against black or brown people. “This is not justice, it is thirst for blood. Grief is not alleviated. They (the families of the victims) do not begin to miss their loved ones any less. This lie must be fought.
The virtual discussion of June 17 occurred just days after the Pew Research Center published a new investigation showing that a majority of Americans support the death penalty.
“Six in 10 American adults support the death penalty for those convicted of murder, 27% strongly in favor of it,” Pew said. “About four in ten (39%) oppose it , with 15% strongly against Support is strongly associated with the belief that when a person commits murder, the death penalty is morally justified.
However, nearly 80% of those polled admitted to having concerns about the possibility of innocent people being executed and most said they did not believe the death penalty had a deterrent effect on homicide. Interviewees also saw that race is a determining factor in the use of state-sponsored executions.
“A majority of Americans (56%) say blacks are more likely than whites to be sentenced to death for having been convicted of serious crimes, ”the study’s authors wrote. “This view is particularly prevalent among black adults: 85% of black adults say blacks are more likely than whites to receive the death penalty for being convicted of similar crimes. “
Other data confirms the truth of the racism behind the death penalty.
“People of color have accounted for a disproportionate 43% of all executions since 1976 and 55% of those currently awaiting execution. A moratorium on the death penalty is necessary to remedy the blatant prejudice in our application of the death penalty ”, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union.
But for Wright, family history and experience taught him the brutality and disparities of the death penalty. She called it a “crime against humanity, basically.”
As a child, she learned that an uncle had been lynched in 1916. Her father, who was 8 at the time, asked why the family hadn’t tried to do something.
“His mother slapped him to silence him,” she said. “The impact of this lynching on this child was so huge, I think that’s why he became a writer.”
But she was also changed by this story. “These words have echoed like ghosts in my mind through time, through the decades, and sent me on my quest for justice for those who have been lynched – the high tech lynchings on our death row. “
For 40 years, his activism has been devoted to attempting to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Black Panther party member and journalist who in 1982 was sentenced to death for the murder of a Philadelphia policeman a year earlier. After decades on death row, his sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole in 2011 and he keeps on to file appeals.
Abu-Jamal’s situation is testament to the failure of the national racist death penalty system, Wright said.
“He wasn’t the right color: he was black. It was already a sentence ”and“ he had the audacity to become an award-winning journalist ”who denounced police brutality, she said. “You are being punished for climbing the ladder like that. “
Griffen added that Abu-Jamal has maintained his innocence since his trial. “This shows all the more the illegitimacy of the death penalty, the racism of the death penalty and how the death penalty has been used to punish a black man who denounces police brutality.”
Try to remember a time when a wealthy white person was sentenced to death.
Try to remember a time when a wealthy white person was sentenced to death, he said. “In the United States, it is used primarily, almost exclusively, to target poor, non-white people. This disparity is flagrant beyond any contradiction. “
Griffen added that the conditions for death row inmates and lifers without parole often cause them to suffer in solitary confinement for decades. “There is a special hell that goes with being on death row.”
Civil rights groups and churches must speak out against these conditions and practices, Griffen said. “We have to see it as a community issue, a social justice issue. It’s too big for individual families to fight on their own.
But convincing religious groups to join the movement isn’t always easy, said Brasfield, who said he learned about it as a former leader of the Arkansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty.
“I tried to organize the religious leaders and often encountered, with few exceptions, a brick wall trying to organize believers, ”she reported.
The selling points for the cause, however, are numerous and powerful, Brasfield said. “We know this is morally wrong, that it is not cheaper (than other forms of punishment) and that it does not deter crime. Murderers don’t stop and have moments of clarity.
She urged opponents of the death penalty to learn about trends, including efforts in some states to use firing squads or gas to kill prisoners and the persistent racial disparity between death row inmates.
“Capital punishment is racist. That’s the bottom line, ”Brasfield said.
“It’s a legalized lynching,” Griffen added. “Let’s call it that. “
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