Decommissioning the warehouse of death

I’ve blogged a lot about the death penalty in recent weeks – see here and here if you missed them and, hey, please feel to read ‘em! – so I’ll keep it (relatively)brief.

The Guardian went big on the topic today, one of those journalistic splashes that remind you of just how disgusting the warehousing of people for death actually is. One way and another, it’s beginning to look as if the United States could be turning against capital punishment. Not everyone. You only have to see some of the knee-jerk stuff around about the Fort Hood killings to realise that. But key people like state governors and those – like Steve Hall from the StandDown Texas Project – who’ve switched sides, are gradually turning the tide.

Crucially, as George Pitcher puts it on the Telegraph site, you can’t “un-kill” people (as opposed to releasing the wrongly-convicted from jail) and the unique power of miscarriages of justice to trouble even proponents of capital punishment is definitely at the vanguard of the death penalty roll-back movement in the US.

I reckon Troy Davis’ case in Georgia is looking increasingly likely to feed into this. The power of a released and vindicated man or woman telling you what it’s like to spend decades on death row is hard to match and I fervently hope to see a free and impressively intelligent Troy Davis doing exactly that within the year. 

Meanwhile, to get a real flavour of what this is all about – the human cost, to both victims’ families and condemned prisoners' loved ones – please come to hear Troy Davis’ sister Martina speak at the Amnesty office in London on Wednesday night next week. Martina’s extremely self-composed and amazingly eloquent 15-year-old son De’Jaun (Troy’s nephew) will also be speaking, as will my favourite drummer-from-a-piano-led-stadium-rock-band Richard Hughes, taking time out from providing the beat for Keane.

The US is not the only country currently experienceing doubts about killing prisoners in the name of … er, deterring people from killing each other. But it’s a key country in the abolition campaign. If the US becomes a death penalty-free zone in the next few years, then countries like Japan and Singapore will become big targets for anti-DP campaigners.

Picture President Obama giving his first speech saying why it was right that America abandoned the death penalty. Now that, as they say, is change I could certainly dig man.

 

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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