Asleep at the Wheel

The Second Essential Scary Truth


I rarely, if ever, blog on political matters but Tuesday, I awoke to a couple of items on WCBS that made me think both parties were getting over on the populous.  I feel the need to mention it now as they just pissed me off and had me wondering how I could have been so blinded by the bs going on that I missed another erosion of our civil liberties.


The debates, the bailouts, the government can help us out of the financial hole; the government should stay out of our lives.  Who are you voting for?  Why are you voting for him?  With three weeks to go, the white noise of the presidential election is becoming deafening.  The furthering financial crisis is even being overshadowed by the three weeks left before we, the citizens of the republic, will choose the next chief executive.  Once again, the government has managed to push through another evisceration of our rights, under the guise of law and order, the war on crime and general heinous activity by the criminal underclass.  The offending branch of government is the Supreme Court and the area in which our rights have been narrowed has been in death penalty jurisprudence.


No, I am not on crack, drunk or in any other way shape or form intoxicated on any substance that would have me talking out of my anal orifice.  Yes, I said the death penalty.  It is my concerted opinion there are two places where the government’s power is so egregious that is has to be checked with vim and vigor: the ability to declare war and the power to take away the life of its citizen’s who have been convicted of capital felonies.  The power to declare war (or not) is always under scrutiny from the populous.  The Civil War was unpopular in some cities, notably New York, and if Truman hadn’t dropped the atom bomb on Japan, there was a growing contingent of activists that were pressing to end the war as soon as possible, even if that meant accepting a Japanese surrender that wasn’t total and complete. 


When it comes to killing criminals, however, we give our politicians a pass.  We are driven by our visceral fears of criminals running amok, killing our families for no reason.  The death penalty is ostensibly on the books to protect us from just that: the worst of the worst in the criminal strata that have either worked their way up to killing over and over again, or the Ted Bundy-esque serial killer that kills frequently and for no reason.  Either way, knowing a death chamber exists is supposed to give us comfort.  After all, aside from treason, a capital offense (although not defined) is the only other ‘crime’ listed in the Constitution (the Fifth Amendment). 


Tuesday the Supreme Court issued one ruling on a death case in Georgia and another inmate in Ohio was executed after the Supreme Court refused his appeal.


The latter appeal was from Richard Cooey, who was put to death in Ohio via lethal injection.  He claimed he was morbidly obese due to lack of exercise in prison and the lethal injection techs wouldn’t be able to find a vein place the needle for the hot shot.  Therefore, before the drugs could flow, he would endure cruel and unusual punishment.  A unique argument but one that had been tried before by an obese man in Washington State during the early/mid ‘90’s and it was denied as well.  Although not successful, you do have to give well deserved chutzpah points. 


The former, however, is the appeal that raises the questions that need answers.  Troy Davis, a Savannah, Georgia man, was convicted of killing a police officer in 1989.  There was no physical evidence against Davis and since 1991; seven of the nine witnesses have recanted their testimony.  Yet, the Supreme Court has decided to lift its stay and allow the execution to move forward.


I am not here to argue whether the penalty of death is moral, ethical or legal.  As I said earlier, it is in the Constitution and I, of all people understand the visceral element to wanting a criminal dead, being the child of a Holocaust survivor and having a playmate who was a victim of the Oakland County Child Killer.  On the other hand, as a journalist, I was assigned to the case of Alan Jeffery “AJ” Bannister in Missouri, so I also see how political pressure and uneven justice can send a man who was not guilty of a capital crime to his death.  My concern is in the timing of the Supreme Court announcements and what it means for the rights of all our citizens.


This time the Supreme Court decided there would be no new trial for a man who has all but two of the nine people who put him on death row recanting their sworn testimony.  If truly guilty, Davis committed a classic death offense and Georgia, being in the so called ‘Death Belt’ (Virginia south to Florida and then over to Texas), will probably take his life in punishment.  If not, then the Supremes have managed to sneak through yet another decrease in our right to fight against unjust imprisonment or the possibility of being put to death wrongly.


Yes, this did happen on the watch of George W. Bush but before you get out your knives to inflict even more wounds to an already mortally wounded administration, the last time an important death ruling came down it was in June of 1996 and the president who pushed for it was non other than Bill Clinton.  By a unanimous count, the Justices ruled they will choose who among the incarcerated on death row will have access to the Federal Courts.  Only for death row inmates, the worst of the worst and the only those that truly deserve to die?  The Ted Bundy’s and Timothy McVie’s of the world?  Troy Davis and his supporters would have something to say about that. 


My issue with all this remains the lack of any outrage from the average political watcher.  From my perspective, I wonder why they choose election years to review and issue these rulings and why aren’t the moderators asking these questions of the candidates?  Yes the economy is faltering and yes, we are in a war.  But allowing these law and order rulings to go through and then allotting blame to one party or another or liberal and conservative just goes to prove that, as vigilant citizens, we are asleep at the wheel.  And that is how things Gitmo get to go on for so long.

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