Friday, July 26, 2019

Team Trump brings back the federal death penalty. That's some ugly electioneering.

Because there isn't enough killing these days to satisfy everyone, Trump's Attorney General and personal lawyer William Barr

William Barr.jpg
has sent out the word: gear up the federal death penalty machinery again and let's get get cracking!
The federal government has ordered the death penalty to be reinstated for the first time in nearly two decades, as Attorney General William Barr directed the Bureau of Prisons to schedule the execution of five inmates after adopting an updated execution protocol.
Barr says this is to kill off the worst of the worst, but let's be honest: No doubt there are other worst of the worst - - especially if you ask the kin of other victims of violence. Ranking the offenders is dishonest and dishonors their victims.

And it's broadly known that capital punishment discriminates against the poor, is weighted against minorities and has its roots in lynching and slavery. There's a book about that, written by a professor whom I interviewed in Texas some years ago - - the state which is usually #1 in executing some, but not all, of the worst of its worst. 

George W. Bush, take a bow, or maybe memoriaiize it in oil on canvas: it's part of your legacy.

More about that, below.

So let's be further honest: this is more pre-2020 Trump voter base maintenance, and, yes, this is how other dictators routinely roll.

Below I offer excerpts from a piece I wrote about this ugly topic in 2006 for the Madison Capital Times.
The Capital Times
© Copyright 2006, Madison Newspapers, Inc.
DATE: Saturday, October 07, 2006
PAGE: A9
BYLINE:  James Rowen

TEXAS-STYLE JUSTICE LOOMS IN STATE VOTE
 
...to complete a series on capital punishment for the Milwaukee Journal, I traveled to Texas in 1995 to... witness an execution...

When processing my request to serve as an execution media witness, Texas prison officials suggested I arrive in January 1995, when they were to try something new: two executions on the same day.
   
With a death penalty proponent taking office as governor -- one George W. Bush -- why not show off their death penalty's smooth operation by gearing it up twice in a day?

So I got myself to Houston, then drove north to the small city of Huntsville, where Texas executes its condemned prisoners inside the fortress-like death house known as "the Walls Unit."


Inside the Walls Unit and at other stops, I interviewed prison employees, academics and several death row prisoners, including the two men headed for what prison officials were calling "the back-to-back."

If you believe that capital punishment deters murders, you'd have thought the extra publicity about "the back-to-back" would have turned potential Texas killers more peace-loving, at least temporarily.

So imagine my surprise when I picked up a newspaper in a Huntsville cafe and saw that a different double execution had knocked the "back-to-back" to the back pages.


Frank Picone, an ex-Houston police officer -- a person trained to uphold the law, mind you -- had murdered his two young sons, shooting one boy with a shotgun as he slept, then drowning the other.


A few days after reading that Picone had turned a nasty custody dispute into his own domestic massacre, I witnessed, on Jan. 31, 1995, another homicide -- the execution of 33-year-old Clifton Russell Jr. in the opening half of "the back-to-back."


At 18, Russell and another teenager, William Battee, were charged with beating a man in Abilene to death and stealing his car.


Russell had pleaded not guilty, but was convicted. After 15 years on death row, and without a single rule infraction, prison officials said, Russell got the injection and moaned when it stopped his heart. His death suggested that lethal injection is not as humane as some proponents believe, though the eye-for-an-eye crowd argues it's not painful enough.


Nevertheless, Texas isn't going to bring back "Old Sparky," though its retired electric chair is displayed prominently in the Texas Prison Museum on Huntsville's downtown square.


And what about William Battee, Russell's co-offender?

Tried separately, Battee pleaded guilty and was incarcerated -- then was released, only to reoffend and return to prison before Russell was executed, prison officials said.


Therein lies another problem with capital punishment: It's not applied uniformly, state-to-state, county-to-county, criminal-to-criminal.


As for Frank Picone -- the ex-cop turned double child killer?

He got life imprisonment.
   


2 comments:

Minnesconsin Tom said...

I’m not delusional enough to put much stock in polls this early, but Donald Trump is. My guess is that this death penalty announcement is directly related to this week’s Fox News poll showing Joe Biden beating Trump by 10 points in 2020.

Too good to be true, I know. I fully expect this to be the ugliest, most god-awful election in U.S. history. 2016 will look like child’s play. Trump will use every weapon in the book to win. With the indictments sure to come his way once he is out of office, nobody is more terrified to become a private citizen than he is.

James Rowen said...

Agreed, and I'll add that whether he leaves office in 2021 or 2025, he'll go with one of those Nixonian Forever-pardons, self-issued.