The rest of the world rightly asks: Why is the United States still imposing the death penalty?

Certainly there’s a lot going on in the news right now, but the fact that this story has received very little press is disgraceful:

What America does in its own prisons is its own business, most of the time. That was not true on Tuesday night, however, when a lethal injection was administered to a Mexican national in Huntsville prison, Texas, convicted in a case of gang rape and strangulation of two teenage girls in Houston 15 years ago.

The death of Jose Medellin brought an instant diplomatic protest from Mexico, which had demanded that he and 50 other Mexicans on death row in America be allowed consular access, as required by a treaty to which the US is a signatory.

We are one of the few developed nations in the world who still execute people. No country in Europe does, and neither do Canada nor Mexico. It’s bad enough that we allow our government to kill our own people, now they’re killing foreign nationals — and breaking international law along the way:

The International Court of Justice in The Hague has twice in the past five years ruled that the US should hold hearings on the status of foreign nationals on death row. The White House had asked Texas at least to delay the execution. But on Tuesday night, Texas defied George Bush and the world after a last-minute appeal to the US Supreme Court on behalf of Medellin was turned down.

And yes, we know the state of Texas does love the execution. They are number one in this country for executions. And even though one of their own In George W. Bush — who certainly let them continue when he was governor — requested that they not execute this foreign national, Texas went ahead and did it anyway.

Even George knows this is not a good idea right now. Duh.

And this is again why I continue to say that we must insist that our Democratic nominee for president stand firm on the issues. I am extremely disappointed that Barack Obama has stood with the death penalty for those particularly “heinous” crimes, (and here’s the flaw in that: at what point does a crime become more heinous than another? No, you’re against it, or your not.) However, I would like to think that were he in the White House, Barack Obama would stand up to Texas, would use his political avenues to stop this from happening. I would like to think, anyway.

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18 comments

  1. I found it quite funny, in a sad sort of way, that GWB was overseas condemning China’s human rights records today. Of course, he won’t say those things when he’s actually IN China, at the opening of the Genocide Games.

    More to the topic:

    I really thought Obama would be different on this issue, and I had hope after we here in The Garden State managed to get capital punishment outlawed in our state. But he feels compelled to pander to the center-right. Maybe he’ll flip back when and if he gets elected.

    The trouble is that for every voice like yours and mine out here, there are much louder, much better funded voices, in talk radio in particular, which crave blood and revenge. The morning after the latest execution in Texas this week, I actually listened to an hour’s worth of the most rabid, hatefull, blood-chilling celebration of that man’s death.

    And lots of folks that were listening were celebrating, too.

    THAT’S what we’re up against.

  2. I know. And I can’t get out of my mind a quote that I saw this week from a woman here in Maryland, after the man convicted of shooting her son was given the death penalty. She said “Good. I don’t have my son anymore. Why should they get to have theirs?”

    We would be a much more honest society if we eliminated the middleman here, and let the victims families do the actual killing of those convicted. Gruesome, yes, but it would better reflect our values as a society on this issue.

  3. I was disappointed in what Obama said about the death penalty, but not surprised. I don’t know why many cannot see that he is not a progressive and not all that liberal–he’s more George Bush than many want to see. I wouldn’t be hopeful that Obama will do anything to “change” if he’s President, and I have no idea why anyone would think he would. He’s got the votes to get him where he wanted to be, and he’s already proven that he is willing to vote for that FISA bill even when he claimed he wouldn’t. It’s the great bamboozle, better get used to it.

    I’m so saddened that our country is still is as barbaric as they are. When I think of how many that have been put to death, when later found innocent because of new DNA evidence…it’ makes me ill.

  4. it’s time for the u.s. to leave behind this barbaric practice of execution , you are supposed to be a civilized people , come on it is now time to get civilized , end the death penalty and progress as a people

  5. I tell you what. You get it passed so those with life in prison have to work for their own support and I will concider changing my possition on the death penalty. I for one don’t want my tax dollars supporting human trash for decades of their lives. Let them work and work hard for their own room and board. Until that time…everyone rightfully on death row gets exicuted the morning after their first appeal.

  6. ” I for one don’t want my tax dollars supporting human trash for decades of their lives.”

    “Human trash.” See what I mean? That’s exactly what I was talking about.

    gundoctor (interesting moniker, that) is operating under the (mythological) assumption that prisons are “country clubs,” where prisoners sit around all day watching cable or working out in the yard building muscles.

    Knowing something about the prison system as I do, I can assure him that isn’t the case.

    And in order to create the programs needed to have prisoners “work for their room and board,” state legislatures would have to vote for more funding for the prison system. That means voters such as gundoctor would have to support that.

    So? Are you in? You’re willing to write those letters today? And are you willing to pay to help to educate the prisoners who will someday be released? Because the majority of prisoners WILL get out some day.

    “everyone rightfully on death row gets exicuted the morning after their first appeal.”

    If I was a nasty person, I’d respond by saying that if this is the kind of system you want, you are welcome to move to China or Saudi Arabia or North Korea or Iran, where their “justice system” works this way.

    But I try not to be nasty.

    A little historical research will show you that the death penalty has been used on people who were later found to be innocent. If that happens even once (and it has, dozens of times), then the system is a sham. Only a lengthy a thorough appeals process can prevent this.

  7. QuakerDave, you hit the nail on the head about the funding. Our society would rather complain about prisoners leeching off the system than do anything about it (i.ie., fund more effective programs). Our prisons are overcrowded and ineffective — and clearly that’s all the prisoners’ fault!

  8. Deep sigh. Filled with sadness and then rage.

    How can this be?

    Earlier this year I wrote about about Carroll Pickett, who worked as a death row chaplain. After watching that post I read Pickett’s book and saw the documentary.

    Highly recommended. The death penalty is a travesty.

  9. FranIAm: it is a travesty. By the way, GunDoctor, it costs more to the system to have an individual on Death Row than in prison for Life w/out parole.

  10. When executions occur in the this country, much of Europe places it on the front page of their news. We are barbaric it seems. I am rather shocked that Obama hasn’t taken a anti- death position. One hopes he will be more supportive after the election. Given that Texas has released a lot of prisioners as of late because of a corrupt Prosecutor who withheld defense evidence, I would think they might be particularly wary of executing people who might turn out to be innocent. Such does not appear to be the case in the death state.
    I find plenty of “Christians” who support the death penalty. Goodness knows I can’t figure it out.

  11. gundoctor
    read some books about the death penalty , those written by the inmates , and people who have worked on death row and in the death chamber , see how it has changed the views they once had . The death penalty is all money to hear you talk , all tax dollars .You say you may consider changing your views if all death row inmates work to keep themselves , and all inmates in the general population , that says to me it is all money.Thank goodness for the long appeals process where these people have a chance to fight for life . Thank goodness for all the people who are fighting for the abolition of the death penalty , we maybe a small group but we have loud voices , we are the voices of the inmates who are buried to deep within the system to be heard .Have you seen how many people have been exonerated ?do i really have to say more

  12. I find it reassuring that so many folks felt compelled to comment on this story. It gives me hope that the death penalty may be gone in this country in my lifetime.

  13. I was encouraged when New Jersey abolished the death penalty and can only hope that other states that haven’t actually executed anyone in years, finally realize they should just take it off the books.

    Sherry, you ask a question I’ve also often wondered – how can anyone calling themselves a Christian be pro-death-penalty? What part of “thou shalt not kill” don’t they get?

    I’ve actually heard all kinds of convoluted explanations for this (including that the original translation of the 10 Commandments actually meant “thou shalt not murder”) but none of them ring true to me.

  14. Sue: Thanks for reminding me about that book. I’d heard Pickett earlier this year being interviewed on the radio, and was profoundly moved by the story he has to tell.

    Mauigirl: We did it here. It took years, but we did it. It can be done!

  15. “…how can anyone calling themselves a Christian be pro-death-penalty?”

    Like the bumper sticker says: Look what happened to Jesus.

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