The Problem with Arkansas and the Execution of Ledell Lee

Less than 24 hours ago, a man by the name of Ledell Lee was executed on the basis of murdering Debra Reese in Little Rock, Arkansas. This crime took place over 20 years ago and has been debated about whether or not Lee received a “fair trial”. Throughout Lee’s incarceration, he continued to plea not guilty and asked for DNA evidence to be investigated — since he was not given proper DNA investigation 24 years ago. However, I am not here to argue if Lee was innocent or guilty of  the murder of Debra Reese. Based on the police report and investigation, I would say most likely. I am here to argue that having the Supreme Court vote 5-4 to stop the execution and having any ounce of uncertainty on this case, is reason enough not to execute Ledell Lee.

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Photo provided by the New York Times

Justice Breyer said after the Supreme Court’s decision,

In my view, that factor, when considered as a determining factor separating those who live from those who die, is close to random, Justice Breyer wrote. I have previously noted the arbitrariness with which executions are carried out in this country. The cases now before us reinforce that point. (www.nytimes.com).

In this case, Justice Breyer was referring to the randomness of those selected to be executed in Arkansas’s recent rush to use its soon-to-be expired lethal drugs; in addition to the randomness of those who are given capital punishment in general. Unfortunately, this is not the first of many executions that have and will continue to take place in the coming weeks. Again, let me emphasize, I am not arguing these inmates innocence, but rather that at times it is near impossible to secure certainty with someone’s guilt.

Lee’s lawyer argued , “Arkansas’s decision to rush through the execution of Mr. Lee just because its supply of lethal drugs are expiring at the end of the month denied him the opportunity to conduct DNA testing that could have proven his innocence”, Nina Morrison said. “While reasonable people can disagree on whether death is an appropriate form of punishment, no one should be executed when there is a possibility that person is innocent.” (www.nytimes.com)

And I cannot help to agree with Nina. Without conclusive evidence, capital punishment should not even be an option. Another fact that has been left out of this case is that the drug company responsible for making these soon-to-be expired drugs was never told what the States intent was when buying from the company. The company has even demanded that the State of Arkansas return its drugs for improper use (www.bbc.com). In some states, the use of vecuronium bromide has caused botched executions where prisoners were not fully unconscious and exposed to significant pain (www.nytimes.com).

According to National Public Radio, countries — who dismantled the death penalty years ago — are watching and visiting Arkansas as it continues to execute inmates. Countries like England and Ireland view the death penalty as an unjust and permanent punishment that cannot be undone. This is a common view, as a strong majority of Europe holds similar beliefs.

Want to learn more about the Ledell Lee case? Here are a few links I found that helped me learn more about the Lee case.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/04/20/524846031/court-rulings-block-2-scheduled-executions-today-in-arkansas

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39662139

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/21/us/arkansas-death-penalty-ledell-lee-execution.html?_r=0

Want to learn more about the Death Penalty? Check out my article about capital punishment at

https://calvinscatharsis.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/the-death-of-capital-punishment/

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The Death of Capital Punishment

144 people have been exonerated or released from death row since 1974 (Newsweek.com).  In laymen terms, 144 innocent people have been falsely accused of committing a crime they did not do, and were then put on death row. Fortunately for those 144 people, later evidence was found that proved their innocence. Unfortunately, according to the study Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it is estimated that 4.1% or 1 in every 25 accused of a crime they did not due, are put to death. Of course, there is truly no way of knowing who is innocently put to death and who is not. I believe that capital punishment is not only inhumane, but has no place in a society that seeks progress.

Capital punishment has taken the lives of over 14 hundred people, some of which may have been innocent, while many were guilty of the crimes committed (deathpenaltyinfo.org). Many believe capital punishment is a form of “justice”, taking the life of someone who has been “proven” guilty of murder. Yet, what are the true benefits of capital punishment? Does it really lower the homicide rate in America? Most studies say no. In fact, 88% of current and former presidents of America’s top criminology societies said capital punishment does not lower the amount of homicides in America (deathpenaltyinfo.org). Police Chiefs ranked the death penalty last as a way to reduce violent crime. In North Carolina, the homicide rate has only decreased since abolishing the death penalty (nccadp.org). If there is not evidence of capital punishment actually reducing homicide rates, why keep it? Even if there is a slight decrease in the homicide rate due to capital punishment, there is no room for error when risking murdering an innocent person.

Others argue that capital punishment helps those related to the victim recover. This seems logical at first, until you understand the duration of capital punishment. Most of those sentenced to the death penalty are not executed until decades later. If you are looking for closure from capital punishment, be prepared to wait for at least ten years. Additionally, it has been found that capital punishment does not actually help the victims family. One family came to regret having their daughters killer killed. After Jeff Furgonson’s execution, Jim Hall stated “I’m convinced significant healing would have occurred for us all if our family had engaged in a frank conversation with him at the prison. I wish I had had the chance — consistent with my Christian beliefs — to have told him in person that I forgave him for what he did to our innocent and precious daughter” (Jim Hall, 2016).

From an economic perspective, capital punishment fails. The death penalty cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year (deathpenaltyinfo.org). Ironically, with only 33% of citizens believing the death penalty should be used to punish murder, 100% of American citizens are being taxed to fund capital punishment. In the state of California, the death penalty has cost taxpayers over 4 billion dollars since 1978, a staggering amount (Alarcon & Mitchell, 2011).

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Not only does the death penalty cost taxpayers millions of dollars, it is racially bias. There have only been 20 cases where a white person killed a black person and was sentenced to death; meanwhile over 280 black persons have been executed for killing a white person (deathpenaltyinfo.org). In Washington State, jurors were three times more likely to recommend the death penalty for a black defendant than a white defendant in similar situations (Prof. K. Beckett, Univ. of Washington, 2014). In multiple studies, it has been found that killing a white person greatly increases your odds of being sentenced to capital punishment, compared to other races.

Capital punishment has no place in society. J.R.R Tolkien, the renown author of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, said “Do not be eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise can not see all ends”. Desmond Tutu said “To take a life when a life is lost is revenge, not justice”. Capital punishment is the farthest thing from justice. To administer death in a already flawed judicial system only promotes future barbarianism and murder. Most 1st world countries have already abolished the death penalty and replaced it with life with/without parole, yet few like the United States persist on using this practice. In 2007, 95% of death penalties took place in China, Iran, the United States, Pakistan, and Iraq (deathpenaltyinfo.org).

I believe that in order to encourage further peace among humans and reduce the homicide rate, our first step is to abolish the death penalty and seek love and forgiveness. Gandhi’s famous “eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” quote could not be more relevant. The life of Jesus Christ did not encourage vengeance, but rather unending love and forgiveness. Likewise, his teachings about turning the other cheek when wronged with evildoing is also extremely relevant when discussing capital punishment. It is time for the United States to join the majority of the world and abolish the use of capital punishment.

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I want to end my post with my favorite quote about capital punishment by Steve Earle. Earle describes his objection to the death penalty when he said “My objection to the death penalty is based on the idea that this is a democracy, and in a democracy the government is me, and if the government kills somebody I kill somebody”. How will you help rise against the evildoing of capital punishment and the cycle of revenge?

Interested in learning more about capital punishment? I posted multiple links full of fun facts and studies on the death penalty. As always, feel free to express your own views or opinions. Thanks for reading!

https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/documents/FactSheet.pdf

https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/states-and-without-death-penalty

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/execution/readings/history.html

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/04/death-penalty-2015-facts-and-figures/

Refugees, America, and Politics

Refugees, America, and Politics

Thanks for taking the time to look at my very first blog post, I know there are plenty of other Facebook articles you could be scrolling through and reading, so thanks! Feel free to leave any comments or questions, I would love to further discuss the Syrian refugee crisis and explore the opinions of others.


In May of 2016, I was given the opportunity to live in Greece with an awesome group of classmates from school. Throughout my time in the Mediterranean country, I was able to visit old monasteries, swim in the Aegean Sea, and eat lots and lots of Gyros—a Greek delicacy so to speak. However, one event radically rocked my world during my visit. Exploring a Syrian Refugee camp. During my time there, I was able to play soccer with the children, fix broken mosquito netting, and observe the lifestyle of those in the refugee population. Yet, the most powerful part of this experience was listening to the horrific stories many had to tell.

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A Syrian boy named Zacchaeus and I smiling after playing soccer at the refugee camp.

The story that one of my classmates heard, and by far the most impacting to me, was that of an older man. This man had seen and been in the unthinkable. ISIS had come through his village and beheaded hundreds of innocent children because a girl did not have her head covering on. And while the movies make decapitation look easy, it is not. It is a slow and gruesome process. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon in Syria. With the constant conflict between ISIS, the Syrian government, and the rebels, no Syrian is safe.

With that background information being said, I decided to write my first blog on our country’s current viewpoints and involvement with the Syrian refugee crisis. In America, political parties tend to be polarized when it comes to the refugee crisis. I believe this polarization displays more than political differences. It shows the hearts and fears of those in America. So lets take a look at a few very simplified viewpoints of the crisis.

One opinion that resonates with a lot of Americans is that terrorist are scheming to blend in with refugees and attack our country. Ironically, since 1980 there have been zero attacks on U.S soil by a terrorist posing as a refugee. None, zero, zilch. In fact, most attacks on U.S soil are domestic. Does that mean it will never happen? I can’t say. Is posing as a refugee a good way to sneak into the U.S? No. Anyone who has worked with the refugee population would immediately understand why terrorist would choose not to go through the refugees to enter the United States. In fact, 51 percent of the worlds refugee population are children and a majority of the Syrian refugees are women and children. Refugee’s are going through hell. Not only does it take a considerable amount of time to enter the United States, many are separated from their families; the only thing most of these people have left. It is not an effective way to enter the U.S. and refugees go through considerable inspection before entering.

A second common opinion is to let anyone and everyone enter the country upon request. Another controversial thought. Germany has welcomed over 1 million refugees, a staggering amount. And while there are some regulations with the amount of refugees Germany is letting in, many German officials have stated that they have lost control. Today, German politicians are seeking ways to share the load of refugees in and outside of Germany. Greece is another country that has had a similar experience to that of Germany, both voluntarily and involuntarily. Because of Greece’s geographic location, some asylum seekers are paying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to enter Greece illegally, while others are legally accepted. Unfortunately, Greece’s economic crisis has hindered it’s ability to help many of these refugees. Countries like Germany and Greece have faced several consequences for having hundreds of thousands of immigrants enter in a short period of time. However, it is important to clarify that this method has Syrian refugees safe and out of the civil war that has caused endless pain for the citizens of Syria.

The final opinion I am going to discuss is the most middle-grounded. The desire to, under thorough regulations, welcome a set amount of refugees each year or month. Not only is this the most neutral idea, but it is the most common among countries who are able to help. Historically, this is what the United States has done in the past when welcoming refugees from around the world. Different Democratic and Republican presidents have been advocates for welcoming refugee into the country. During Ronald Reagan’s presidency, more than 600,000 refugees entered the United States. Likewise, President Barrack Obama has attempted to allow more refugees into the country throughout his presidency, faced with strong opposition.

Additionally, since the Syrian Refugee Crisis started, most federal action has been dismantled. Unfortunately, the United States has had a strong history of denying entry of refugees. According to Pew Research Center, in 1938-1939, 60 percent of Americans opposed refugees entering the country from Nazi Germany. In 1955, America followed a similar path and 55 percent of Americans opposed admitting refugees from communist-ruled Hungary. Years later, 62 percent opposed letting in refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Millions of these refugees were killed. A large portion of which could have been saved. Today, over 450,000 Syrians are dead due to the conflict in Syria.

The lives of millions of people are in the hands of those capable of extending a helping hand. With over 4 million Refugees seeking a place to call home, political affiliation needs to be set aside and love needs to abound. In 2015, America welcomed a measly 1,700 refugees into the country. The following year, 13,000 were admitted into the United States. If change does not take place soon, history will repeat itself and thousands of humans will perish while millions of Americans continue on with their lives—oblivious to the atrocities that could have been prevented.

 

Want to help Syrian refugees, but don’t know where to start? Here are a few websites that offer realistic ways to help those in the refugee population. If you want a more specific and hands on way to help, send me a message and I would be more than happy to help!

http://www.crs.org/media-center/syrian-refugee-crisis-7-things-you-can-do-help

This is a blog with several  methods of donating money to help refugees in need: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/syria-donate-how-to-help-charities_us_5852ade3e4b02edd4115f85a

https://www.rescue.org/article/how-help-refugees-united-states