Monday, January 29, 2024

Common Error


In the wake of the execution by nitrogen hypoxia of Kenneth Smith, convicted of the premeditated murder in 1988 of Elizabeth Sennett in Alabama, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch pens a thoughtful column but bad tweet.

This is not a good example of decrepit morality:




 

Bunch notes that the USA executed more individuals in 2022 than all but four nations, "trailing only a rogues' gallery of (mainland) China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt" (parentheses mine but you already knew that). Nonetheless, if the use of the death penalty is a pretty good barometer of a nation's morality, the USA is a very moral nation, indeed. 

The super-woke ("Latinx," anyone?) Death Penalty Information Center reported that twenty-nine states have either abolished capital punishment or paused executions and that in 2023, only five states executed a person(s) and only seven states sentenced anyone to death. It's the ninth consecutive year in which fewer than thirty people have been executed and fewer than fifty individuals sentenced to die. Moreover, of the twenty-one in the latter category, four (4) were black- so good luck to all those who argue that imposition of the penalty is racially biased.

Only nine (9) states in 2023 either executed an individual and/or sentenced someone to death in 2023. For those keeping track at home (obviously not including Bunch), that means that 41 states and the District of Columbia, with or without legalized capital punishment, avoided putting to death anyone who intentionally murdered another living, breathing human being. For anyone opposed to capital punishment, that does not qualify as astonishing immorality.

It's hardly surprising, though, that one would mistake what he consider a nation immoral in part because of a very occasional action of the government in less than 20% of its jurisdictions. That's what occurred in the summer and autumn of 2020 after the brutal murder of a black man by a white police officer in one city in one state prompted the mobilization of millions of Americans to protest the perception of constant oppression by law enforcement of blacks across the country.

That perception, borne of a failure to differentiate among cities, among states, and among regions disturbingly went almost completely unchallenged by media and political figures, the vast majority of whom knew better. Almost four years later, we have not learned from that major error and an execution considered unfair and inhumane in one state is attributed equally to every place; in Bunch's phraseology, a "nation's use of the death penalty."



 




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