On hearing that Clayton Lockett suffered during his botched execution many of you may have looked at his crime before deciding whether he was worthy of your compassion. That’s okay, we’re all human and entitled to empathise only with those we feel deserve it.
Clayton Lockett was a convicted murderer and therefore in the eyes of the righteous undeserving of sympathy. But what about when we get it wrong? Do you really think that human beings are infallible and all death row inmates are guilty?
Take the case of Glenn Ford, a black man who lived under the shadow of death for 30 years. Ford now 64 was convicted by an all-white jury in the 1983 robbery and murder of Isadore Rozeman following a trial filled with constitutional violations.
Watchmaker and jeweller Isadore Rozeman was well respected in his neighbourhood. When his body was found in a pool of blood, shot to death behind the counter of his shop on 5 November 1983, the community was in shock.
Four men were eventually accused of murder and theft of assorted jewellery items from Rozeman’s store. But Glenn Ford who did occasional work for Rozeman was the only one to stand trial.
For three decades, Ford maintained his innocence and filed multiple appeals, most of which were denied.
In 2000, the Louisiana Supreme Court ordered an evidentiary hearing on Ford’s claim that the prosecution suppressed favourable evidence related to Jake and Henry Robinson, two brothers initially implicated in the crime.
In March 2014, Glenn Ford was finally freed when prosecutors filed a motion to vacate his conviction and sentence, saying that in late 2013 “credible evidence” came to their attention “supporting a finding that Ford was neither present at, nor a participant in, the robbery and murder of Isadore Rozeman.”
In the US death row inmates typically spend over 10 years awaiting execution. Some prisoners like Glenn Ford, have been on death row for well over 20 years.
Since 1973, more than 140 death row inmates have been exonerated. Ford is one of the longest-serving death row inmates in US history to be exonerated. What if he had been put to death back in the 90s? Would we ever have known of his innocence?
Aside from the fact that the death penalty is premeditated murder on behalf of the citizens of a country, something I just can’t get behind, I do not believe in the punishment because of cases like Ford.
Add that to the fact that the death penalty, both in the US and around the world, is discriminatory and is used disproportionately against the poor, minorities and members of racial, ethnic and religious communities. Since humans are fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated.
According to Amnesty International in a 1990 report, the non-partisan US General Accounting Office found “a pattern of evidence indicating racial disparities in the charging, sentencing, and imposition of the death penalty.”
The study concluded that a defendant was several times more likely to be sentenced to death if the murder victim was white. This has been confirmed by the findings of many other studies.
From initial charging decisions to plea bargaining to jury sentencing black people are treated more severely when they are defendants, and their lives are given less value when they are victims.
Some facts to chew on:
- A report sponsored by the American Bar Association in 2007 concluded that one-third of black death row inmates in Philadelphia would have received sentences of life imprisonment if they had not been black.
- A January 2003 study released by the University of Maryland concluded that race and geography are major factors in death penalty decisions. Specifically, prosecutors are more likely to seek a death sentence when the race of the victim is white and are less likely to seek a death sentence when the victim is black.
- A 2007 study of death sentences in Connecticut conducted by Yale University School of Law revealed that black defendants receive the death penalty at three times the rate of white defendants in cases where the victims are white. In addition, killers of white victims are treated more severely than people who kill minorities, when it comes to deciding what charges to bring.
The death penalty is flawed, prone to racial biased and it’s proving to be inhumane. A new report states that 4.1% of death row inmates are probably innocent. If one innocent person is put to death, it’s one too many.
Do you agree with the death penalty? Hit me up in the comments.