This December, for the first time in 16 years, the federal government is expected to reinstate the death penalty and directly kill human beings. And for what – to make the country great again?
You can’t make progress by going backwards. Whether it’s death by lethal injection or death by incarceration, you’re still coming home in a pine box. But at least if you have death by incarceration, you know you won’t wrongfully execute someone.
I talked about this recently with a news station in Houston. You can watch my interview here. But first, a few facts so we can all be on the same page:
I don’t agree with the United States deciding to use the death penalty to kill again. Just two years ago, before he left office, President Barack Obama commuted the death sentences of two people. It was disappointing – we wanted to see more – but at least it was a step in the right direction.
President Obama decided to remove one of the men from federal death row due to new assessments regarding the person’s mental capacity. That’s good. But there’s reason to believe others currently on death row have the same, if not worse, conditions. With the formal return of the federal death penalty, now that person could be scheduled to be killed.
I fully expect that the attorneys of those 62 individuals on death row are going to be examining the evidence a lot more closely now. I know I would want that, especially if I knew I was innocent. I already know what is going to come of it, too:
Questions will be asked – why one person, and not another? Is it up to how skilled the attorneys are on a case – or the qualifications of a doctor called in to determine about a person’s mental capacity? It’s the same problems at the state level.
The United States, as a country, is growing more and more unsure about the death penalty. Polls show that, and political leaders from every party are speaking out against the death penalty. There’s still so much teaching to do, and so many people to talk to.
We have to continue to share our stories, to educate officials about the criminal justice system and how easy it is for attorneys, judges, and juries to make mistakes. I wasn’t the first death row exoneree, and I can promise you I won’t be the last.
A criminal justice system that doesn’t work equally for everyone can only work poorly for everyone.
On Dec. 8, the first seven graduates of the Anthony Graves/TSU Smart Justice Speakers Bureau gave short talks about their experience with the justice system and solutions to make the systems work smarter.
A first of its kind certificate program, inspired by Anthony Graves, a.k.a Death Row Exoneree #138, to train formerly incarcerated Texans will launch this September. Announced August 2, the new ACLU of Texas and Texas Southern University collaboration, the Smart Justice Speakers Bureau, will train formerly incarcerated Texans to speak publicly about criminal justice reform. Learn more and sign up.
Written by a wrongfully convicted man who spent 16 years in solitary confinement and 12 years on death row, a powerful memoir about fighting for--and winning--exoneration.
In the summer of 1992, a grandmother, a teenage girl, and four children under the age of ten were beaten and stabbed to death in Somerville, Texas. The perpetrator set the house on fire to cover his tracks, deepening the heinousness of the crime and rocking the tiny community to its core. Authorities were eager to make an arrest. Five days later, Anthony Graves was in custody.