Letters to the Editor 1/15
Governor should learn from colleague
Illinois Gov. George Ryan has done more for the cause of civil rights in the past week than most people will do in their lives, and all he did was recognize the obvious. I hope Gov. Jeb Bush learns from his fellow Republican’s example and imposes a moratorium on all executions. The problem is not in the system but the system itself.
Proponents of the death penalty say it is just because it is moral, an eye for an eye. I contend that it is immoral because it is unjust.
As with lynchings, the death penalty has been an agent of racism in our country. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 80 percent of persons executed were convicted of killing whites, while people of color make up more than half of homicide victims in the United States. Ninety percent of the people that U.S. government prosecutors seek to execute are black or Latino.
There are many reasons why capital punishment is wrong. Anthony Porter is one of them. He was released in February 1999, after Alstory Simon confessed to the crime for which Porter was to die. He came within two days of his execution and was measured for a body bag before being saved by the work of a Northwestern University professor, the professor’s journalism students and an investigator. Porter had an IQ of 51 and could not assist in his own defense.
Then there’s Willie Darden who was executed in 1988 by our own state of Florida. In this case, the gun couldn’t be traced to Darden. Key witnesses were not allowed to testify. The person who identified Darden stated that, “all blacks look(ed) alike (to her).”
Darden was also the only African American in the police lineup. Florida Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun went on record as saying, “If ever a man received an unfair trial, Darden did.”
In June 2000, Gary Graham (a.k.a Shaka Sankofa) was executed in Texas. The evidence that convicted him was from one woman who “saw” Graham from 30 feet, at night, through a car window for, “about one second.” This went uncontested by Graham’s attorney. Two other witnesses said Graham was not the person they saw, but unfortunately, his attorney never called them to testify.
Gov. Jeb Bush, you have the opportunity to show “compassion” in your conservatism. If for no other reason, think of the voting market you could tap into for both your brother and your party in 2004. Follow the tremendous example set by Gov. Ryan because the rest of us can no longer find solace in not having to pull the trigger while the lives of your citizens are at stake.
Stephen C. Bedell is a sophomore majoringin political science.