Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is Capital Punishment a Preordained Ritual?


At the age of 18-years old, Dominique Green was arrested for the fatal shooting of a man during a robbery, outside of a Texas convenient store. Green admitted to taking part in the robbery but insisted he did not pull the trigger, which was also the testimony of the only independent eyewitness.

Did Dominique Green receive a fair trial?

No. In addition to the only independent eyewitness not identifying Dominique as the killer, the police made a deal with the only white male involved in the robbery at the scene of the crime. The district attorney interfered with any attempts investigators made to interview this man, and he went free, never charged with a single thing. Meanwhile, the other black man present went to prison, and Dominique, alone, was sentenced to death. The testimony of a psychologist - called by the defense - well known for his views that African Americans and Latinos are more prone to violence than others are, sealed his fate.

Dominique’s own mother, repeatedly diagnosed as a schizophrenic with multiple personality disorder, took the stand per the request of Dominique’s “defense”. When asked if she thought her son was capable of murder, she said, “Of course he is, he’s just like me.” Later at the sentencing phase, when she was asked what should be done with him, she said, “You should impose the full extent of the law.”

The widow of the man murdered attended the trial, and said, “This isn’t a trial, this is some kind of preordained ritual where they know exactly how it’s going to come out in the end. This kid has nobody on his side, and he’s not being defended properly.”

One of the sons of the victim, Andre Lastrapes, said,

"I felt it was dirty and the state will have their chance to face a higher authority that is God. The hell with Texas and the justice system. I'm speaking from the heart. I really mean that. Andrew Lastrapes was my daddy in the first place. I forgave Dominique. I know God has a place for Dominique in heaven. I know the person I met doesn't deserve to die. He became close to me and I pray that he goes to Heaven."
Green was convicted of first-degree murder, and sentenced to death by lethal injection. Extraordinarily kind and patient, during his 12 years on death row, he became an inspiration to those around him. Dominique was able to do for others what he could not do for himself. He became a legal expert and was very helpful in getting a number of people off of death row.

In a theological sense, Thomas Cahil, author of, A Saint on Death Row, believes Dominique Green is a saint, because many people who met him in his last years still consider him instrumental in their lives. In some ways their lives were transformed by that meeting, and rather than being dead and gone, they consider him a living presence. A few weeks before he died Dominique wrote and published More than Just a Rosary

Thomas Cahill, in Germany at the time of Dominique Green’s execution, received a call at 2:30 A.M. to tell him Dominique was gone. After he put down the phone, he looked out across the street where an enormous, elaborate gate, made of huge stones, put in place by slaves of the Romans in the second century A.D. stood tall, and he thought of the similarities between the Romans and present day Americans.
“The Romans knew that they owned the world, that they were the greatest…what they didn’t know was that they were extremely cruel. The enjoyed blood sports, the gladiators in the ring, poor devils being eaten by wild beasts…but they never let themselves know how cruel they were and I have to say, that I feel the Americans have replaced the Romans as the great leaders of the world who also hid from themselves their own cruelty.” -- Thomas Cahill
Dominique Green's Final Words:
"I am not angry, but I am disappointed that I was denied justice. But I am happy that I was afforded you all as family and friends. You all have been there for me; it's a miracle. I love you...I am not as strong as I thought I was going to be. But I guess it only hurts for a little while. You all are my family. Please keep my memory alive."
There are still jurisdictions in this country that do not have Public Defender offices. In those areas, any lawyer, regardless of the type of law he specializes - real estate, divorce, etc. - may be drafted or conscripted to handle, for example, every 6th, 10th or 15th case. In addition, there are jurisdictions where there is a limit on the amount of money that court appointed lawyers may receive. For example, in Mississippi - $1,000 is the maximum doled out for death penalty cases.

In another case, in Houston TX, Calvin Burdine's trial only lasted 16 hours. His lawyer, Joe Frank Cannon - ten of his clients were sentenced to death - fell asleep every afternoon during Burdine's death penalty trial. The prosecutor urged the jury to kill him because "sending a gay man to prison would be like setting a kid loose in a candy store" (There are restrictions for injecting race into a trial but no such restrictions exist when it comes to homosexuality). Responding to Burdine's lawyer napping, the Chief Criminal Judge said: “The constitution says you have a right to a lawyer but the constitution doesn’t say the lawyer has to be awake”

For almost 20 years, Burdine struggled for legal recognition of what should be obvious to anyone: that a sleeping lawyer is no lawyer at all. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that that was no reason to set aside Burdine's conviction. Finally, on June 7, 2003, the United States Court of Appeals, considering the issue on habeas corpus, disagreed, by a vote of 9 to 5.

These two cases are not rare, especially in the state of Texas. As Thomas Cahill said, well known for his knowledge of ancient civilizations, capital punishment in America is akin to human sacrifice.
"I don't think the death penalty has anything to do with justice. All of us are going through this incredible national drama where bankers and hedge fund managers have stolen everything from everybody. I wonder how many of them will go to prison. Very, very few, and outside of someone like Bernie Madoff, maybe no one. Why is that? Because they can afford good lawyers. So, why do we sacrifice the poor and minorities on this altar, which is basically an altar of human sacrifice. It's like something out of prehistoric times." -- Thomas Cahill
The Innocence Project has found that "one in eight juries makes the wrong decision – by convicting an innocent person."
"It is the deed that teaches, not the name we give it. Murder and capital punishment are not opposites that cancel one another, but similars that breed their kind." ~George Bernard Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionists
"So long as governments set the example of killing their enemies, private citizens will occasionally kill theirs." ~Elbert Hubbard
Links:
Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
Texas Abolition Blog
But in Texas, we sometimes execute accomplices...

1 comments:

Anonymous,  11:41  

Hardly a saint. Did he deserve to die? I don't know, but to make him a saint is ridiculous. He even admitted to doing the crime.

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