“Why Is Toforest Johnson Still on Alabama’s Death Row?” former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Drayton Nabers, Jr., asks in his op-ed in the Montgomery-Advertiser. Johnson was sentenced to death in 1998 for the killing of Birmingham deputy sheriff William G. Hardy. But despite substantial new evidence that Johnson is innocent, and that the district attorney and the lead prosecutor in Forest’s case support a new trial, state officials have defended the conviction, and Johnson is still on death row. “Supporting the death penalty shouldn’t mean ignoring signs that a person on death row may have been wrongfully convicted. In fact, it should mean the opposite. If we’re going to use the power of the state to execute someone, we should do everything possible to make sure that the person had a fair trial and that the evidence proves his guilt.
“Killing is easy, if you look the other way,” John Archibald writes in an op-ed in AL.com. Years after witnessing an execution in Alabama, Archibald writes how he is still haunted by the reaction of the father of the man killed by the state standing next to him “and the sounds he made as he tried to swallow his heartache.” And he points out the irony of the popularity of Montgomery’s Equal Justice Initiative monument to the many people lynched in this country in a state that “pursue[s] death for the poorly represented, the mentally disabled, and cases in which evidence is questionable.”
In his op-ed “Parkland killer should live out his life in prison,” in the Gainesville Sun, Bill Cotterell takes a cold, cynical, and practical position on the death penalty case of Nikolas Cruz. Cruz, who pleaded guilty to fatally shooting 17 people and wounding 17 others at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, should be sentenced to several consecutive life sentences instead of death, he argues. “Vengeance is satisfying and suited for crimes like these, but not a worthy goal of the law . . . . Nikolas Cruz doesn’t deserve to live, not even in prison. But the state doesn’t need to kill him,” he writes.
In the Atlantic, Elizabeth Brunei asks, “Can America Kill Its Prisoners Kindly?”. She speculates that successful legal challenges to various methods of execution in the U.S. “may well result in the resurrection of bygone methods of last resort—the firing squad, electric chair, or gas chamber, with the perverse result that prisoners’ battle for their constitutional rights will, in the hands of the state, become an assault on the very same.”
In her essay, “I Was An Innocent Woman Sentenced To Die. Here’s Why Melissa Lucio Must Be Saved,” in Elle, Sabrina Butler-Smith writes of her coerced confession and subsequent death sentence in the death of her nine-month-old son, Walter, in 1990, when she was 18 years old. She served six-and-a-half years in a Mississippi prison, almost three of them on death row, before getting a new trial, during which she was able to prove her son had died from a hereditary kidney condition. She sees frightening and tragic similarities between her case and Melissa Lucio’s. Lucio is Latina, and is scheduled to be killed by the state of Texas this month for the death of her five-year-old daughter, Mariah, who died in a fall, but whose death Lucio confessed to causing after a brutal interrogation. “The deck is stacked against women like us. Women who are poor, isolated. Women of color. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can put a stop to Melissa’s execution. It’s the right thing to do,” Butler-Smith writes.