With a Death Penalty-Loving Fascist Regime in Power:
Arkansas Goes on a Torture and Execution Spree

May 8, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


In April, the state of Arkansas carried out the first double execution in the U.S. in 17 years, putting Marcel Williams and Jack Jones Jr. to death with lethal injections. Arkansas executed two more prisoners, Ledell Lee and Kenneth Williams, in the same month. Four other death row prisoners in Arkansas who were also due to be put to death in April had their executions stayed by the courts.

Arkansas officials said they were rushing to execute because their supply of midazolam, a drug used in lethal injections, was running out at the end of the month. This drug causes extreme pain and agony—one man executed with midazolam in Arizona in 2014 was put through two hours of torture before he died. And witnesses at Kenneth Williams’ execution in Arkansas said they saw him convulsing, lurching forward, and jerking after the drug was administered and that they could hear him moaning and gasping, even with the microphone turned off.

So the state of Arkansas carried out a spree of torture-executions because it was in a hurry to use up its stock of a poisonous chemical that is known to bring on barbaric suffering!

Whatever the drug or the method of execution used, the death penalty in the U.S. is part of a deeply unjust setup of law enforcement, courts, prisons, and punishment that serves to protect and maintain the oppressive, white-supremacist system that rules over the people. Since 1973, close to 160 people who were on death row have been exonerated—newly uncovered evidence showed that they were wrongly convicted and sentenced to death. How many never had the chance to have their cases re-opened and were wrongly put to death in that same period?

Lawyers for all four men put to death in April in Arkansas had petitioned the courts to stop the executions, arguing that the prisoners had not been given fair trials. They said that all kinds of information, such as their mental status and childhood abuse, had not been introduced in court and that the men had received inadequate legal representation—including one case where the defense lawyer was drunk during the trial.

And the death penalty is used disproportionately against Black people, in a country where Black and Brown people are targeted by the police and are imprisoned at a hugely disproportionate rate. Three of the four men executed in Arkansas in April were Black. Before these executions, 20 out of 36 prisoners (56%) on death row in Arkansas were Black—in a state where Black people are 15.5% of the total population. Across the U.S., nearly 35% of prisoners executed since 1976 have been African-American—in other words, Black people are subjected to the death penalty at three times the rate of white people.

Now the U.S. is headed by a fascist ghoul who has been and is an avid advocate of the death penalty. In 1989, Trump took out a paid full-page ad in New York City newspapers to demand the death penalty for the Central Park 5—Black and Latino youths who were wrongly accused of a brutal rape of a white jogger. Even though all five were cleared, after spending many years in prison, Trump still to this day says they’re “guilty”! In 2000, Trump said that his only “complaint” about the death penalty is that “lethal injection is too comfortable a way to go.” Trump wants a mandatory death penalty for anyone convicted of killing a cop. He said there “should be like death penalty or something” for the people behind WikiLeaks.

Trump’s appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, is also a big proponent of the death penalty. In his first act as a Supreme Court justice, Gorsuch cast the deciding vote in the 5-4 decision that cleared the way for the four Arkansas executions in April. Ledell Lee was executed just hours later. Last year, as a federal judge, Gorsuch ruled against the family of a Black man who suffered horribly through a 43-minute attempted execution using midazolam before dying of a heart attack. Gorsuch called the torturous lethal injection an “innocent misadventure” or an “isolated mishap.”



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