Whatever your view of the current political scene, President Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court is not good news for the abolition movement. Together with his appointment of Alabama’s Senator Jeff Sessions to the position of U.S. Attorney General, Mr. Trump is making clear his intention to institute a ‘law and order’ policy.
Though ‘law and order’ can have many meanings, what the term means to Mr. Trump may best be exemplified by his purchase, many years ago, of full-page ads in four major New York newspapers calling for the return of the death penalty and the execution of the “Central Park Five,” black and brown teenagers who, it turned out, were both wrongly accused and convicted of the rape of a Central Park jogger in 1989.
Unfortunately, even after the last of the five young men was exonerated due to DNA tests and released 14 years ago, Mr. Trump, as seems to be his wont, refused to admit to having been in error and reiterated his belief in their guilt.
These signs could mean trouble for the new, bi-partisan approach to criminal justice reform showing signs of life in Congress over the past year. It certainly means those of us who believe that a death penalty that is racist in application, is virtually only used against the poor and the poorly defended, is hideously expensive and entraps and kills the innocent along with the guilty, will not get the attention it deserves unless we make ourselves heard.
We at Death Penalty Focus will continue to educate, awaken and activate our fellow citizens to the need for reform, especially the urgent need to end killing by the state, which brutalizes us all. And I hope you will consider making your feelings known to those who represent you in state legislatures and Congress and, with particular regard to the nomination of Judge Gorsuch, in the U.S. Senate.