Attorney General William Barr announced the Department of Justice will reactivate the death penalty in federal cases, breaking a 16-year lapse.
Barr said he and the DOJ were motivated by the rule of law and fulfilling their obligation to victims and their families. However, I believe President Donald Trump’s influence, like seeping dye, colored the decision.
Alas, Mr. Trump lacks a corresponding empathy for those languishing in vermin-infested prisons due to malicious prosecution.
Author John Grisham said, “If you believe that in America you are innocent until proven guilty, this book will shock you. If you believe in the death penalty, this book will disturb you. If you believe the criminal justice system is fair, this book will infuriate you.”
Grisham was referring to “The Innocent Man,” which details how police and prosecutors’ malicious and malignant prosecution sent Ron Williamson to death row for 11 years, where he festered until Innocence Project lawyers exonerated him.
In 1989, Trisha Melli was raped then battered into a 12-day coma. Five teens were arrested. Trump bought four full-page ads in New York City newspapers. He clamored for the death penalty’s reinstatement, warned about roving bands of wild criminals.
Trump wrote, “… I want to hate these muggers and murderers.”
Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric notwithstanding, Mathias Reyes, a murderer and a serial rapist serving a life sentence, confessed in 2001. His DNA matched crime scene DNA, and he provided confirmatory evidence.
A 2003 Gallup.com poll showed the 37% who favored the death penalty cited an eye for an eye. Have they besieged their legislators to include Leviticus 20:10 into the criminal code?
The Scripture commands the adultery and adulteress be killed. In September 1994, Gallup.com found 80% favored the death penalty; however by September 2018, the percentage plummeted to 55%.
A 1935 Supreme Court ruling, Berger v. U. S., said, “…prosecutors have a twofold aim, that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer. He may prosecute with earnestness and vigor — indeed, he should do so. But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones.”
November 1, 1986, Ronda Morrison was working at the Jackson Cleaners in Monroeville when she was robbed and shot to death. Eleven miles away, Walter McMillian, a self-employed logger, and Jimmy Hunter, his mechanic friend, were replacing McMillian’s truck transmission, amid a gaggle of church members and family, who were selling fish sandwiches to raise money for their church. In addition, a police officer bought a sandwich and recorded in his logbook McMillian and a crowd of church members were also present.
Ralph Myers, a habitual criminal, lied when he fingered McMillian as Morrison’s killer, and Monroe County officers arrested McMillian. Sheriff Tom Tate illegally confined McMillian to death row until his trial 15 months later. A Baldwin County jury convicted McMillian of murder.
On Brian Stevenson’s fifth appeal, the court ruled McMillian was wrongfully convicted because district attorney Theodore Pierson’s racial discrimination contaminated the jury selection process and suppressed evidence that proved McMillian’s innocence. Also, Tate, Larry Ikner and Simon Benson suborned perjury, a fact Stevenson confirmed when he listened to a police recording. In addition, Judge Robert E. Lee Key Jr. moved the trial from Monroe County, 60% white; to Baldwin County, 86% white. Why? To ensure McMillian a fair, just and righteous trial?
What punishment do lawbreaking law enforcement officials deserve? After all, they create false convictions, making it necessary to exonerate 2,373 people since 1989, including 68 for homicides.
Bible readers: Is it coincidental God used a murderer, Moses, and an accomplice to murder, Paul, as the Law giver and gospel proclaimer?
Marc D. Greenwood is a Camp Hill resident and a columnist for The Outlook.