The United States is approaching 400,000 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic, a number that is terrifying to think of, and the there are more than 2,000,000 deaths world wide. If you'd like to pause here and try to figure out how a country that makes up 4.25% of the world's population also makes up 19% of worldwide COVID deaths, you can take that pause now. Done? Okay. The reasons a country with 4.25% of the world's population has accounted for 19% of COVID deaths are varied, but ultimately they boil down to two things; selfishness and Donald. Believe it or not though, the nearly 400,000 deceased Americans that are the result of selfishness and Donald are not the deceased Americans I want to talk about today. I want to talk about a different group of people who have died under Donald. Daniel Lewis Lee, Wesley Ira Purkey, and Dustin Lee Honken died between 14 JUL and 17 JUL, 2020. Lezmond Charles Mitchell (26 AUG) and Keith Dwayne Nelson (28 AUG) the following month. William Emmett LeCroy, Jr (22 SEP) and Christopher Andre Vialva (24 SEP) in the next month. Orlando Cordia Hall on 19 NOV. Brandon Bernard (10 DEC) and Alfred Bourgeois (11 DEC) over the course of two nights. Lisa Marie Montgomery (13 JAN) and Cory Johnson (14 JAN) in the early parts of 2021. When Daniel Lewis Lee was put to death by the federal government in July of 2020, he was the first federal execution in 17 years. George W. Bush was the last president to execute a federal inmate, back on 18 MAR, 2003. Were the people on this list murderers in their own right? Did they deserve to die as a punishment for their crimes? Daniel Lee has proclaimed his innocence until the very moment he was put to death. Dustin Honken purportedly converted to Catholicism in prison, and the Archbishop of Newark, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, had written to President Trump asking to commute the death penalty. His final words before dying by lethal injection were "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me."
The criminal justice system must be designed to rehabilitate, not punish. Rehabilitation prepares inmates for life outside of the system, and helps them to come back to a world outside of cages with a sense of purpose and well-being. Confinement for the purpose of rehabilitation may take on many forms, an in-house alcoholic treatment facility is designed to help a purpose recover from a problem with addiction, and teaches them the tools to spend a life in recovery. They will leave that confinement hopefully better prepared for the world, and better able to make their way in it. This should be the goal of criminal confinement as well; the rehabilitation of a life which can then be dedicated to greater purpose. It may not always be possible, and sometimes the crime is so heinous that there should never be a period of freedom, but at the same time, sometimes evidence arises that exonerates a person. It was only last month that Eddie Lee Howard walked free, 26 years after he was first wrongfully incarcerated for a crime he did not commit using a long debunked piece of forensic technology. Imagine that, 26 years spent in prison for a crime you did not commit. Now, imagine that new advances in forensic technology had exonerated you two weeks after a murderous, sociopathic, power-hungry, president had ordered his Justice Department to go forward with your execution. Ultimately, how you feel about the death penalty must also be tempered by the randomness of the entire process. When Timothy McVeigh was put to death under the DOJ of President George W. Bush it marked the first federal execution since the Kennedy DOJ had put to death Victor Feguer in March of 1963. It's not that death row was empty during these long times. There were prisoners on federal death row during the presidencies of LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Obama, but not one federal inmate died during any of these presidencies. This is further illustration of the seeming randomness of the death penalty, a penalty by which its very nature makes it impossible to rehabilitate the guilty, or discover their innocence, and let's make no mistake here...mistakes happen. In the United States, between 1973 and 2019, there were 167 exonerations of death row inmates. A study from University of Michigan law professor Samuel Gross and a team of experts in law and statistics estimate that about 4% of people on death row are innocent, and there is no doubt in his mind that we have executed innocent people. The death penalty is randomly completed based on the whims of a president and their Department of Justice. This leaves death row inmates at the whims of an individual, and how that individual feels about the death penalty. In this way, it is cruel and unusual punishment. The death penalty is disproportionally is handed down against black defendants, and becomes especially prevalent if the victim is white. In this way, the death penalty violates constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law. The death penalty sets a terrible example for Americans, for our children, and for the world. It tells people that society can kill to solve its problems. Bloodshed, and the destruction of community decency, are all too real. This is especially true here, in Indiana, where all fifteen death row executions have been completed. This blood stains the soul of Indiana, which has operated as Trump's murder factory over the last seven months. The death penalty must be abolished at the federal level by changes to federal law, for the path to justice can not be found at the end of a lethal injection.