Book Review: "Let the Lord Sort Them" by Maurice Chammah
5/5 - The Case Against Death Row...
We can shout "abolish the death penalty" all we like here in England, we do not actually have it. In my opinion, it is completely inhumane for the government and the judicial system to take someone's life into their own hands - especially when there are still violent prejudices which run rampant through the system itself. This book by Maurice Chammah makes the perfect case against the death penalty, going from the falsely accused to the racial implications all the way down to every statistic you can think of. All of them show us that death row either is not right, or is being used in the entirely wrong way.
The book starts off by telling us about 1972, in which every death penalty in the country was ruled as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. It talks about how there was music made on the cell bars, how an officer and a prisoner embraced one another, hugging at the news and how everyone thought that this was finally it - jail for life without the judicial system getting to decide whether you live or die. The case of Furman vs. Georgia seemed to be at least, partly responsible in this. But this was not to be all fun and games since it was only some four years' later that the death penalty was reintroduced. Six years after that, Charlie Brooks was to meet his maker.
The case of Charles Brooks Jr. was one that I had heard of before and had always thought that the execution was a dark stain on the history of death row, if it did not have one already. Maurice Chammah writes this in the most compelling way, breaking down every inch of the case even to who fired the gunshot that killed the mechanic. It was never known. Between the white man, Woody Lourdes, and the African-American man who had converted to Islam, Charles Brooks Jr. - it was for the Supreme Court to decide who fired the gunshot since neither admitted it. In the end, Lourdes got 40 years, serving 11 and Brooks Jr. got the death sentence. He was executed in 1982 by lethal injection. He was 40 years' old.
Maurice Chammah puts it into simple words that we can all understand. For the same crime, the exact same crime, if the perpetrator is white then the sentence is over 50% less likely to be death - but if the perpetrator is black then the death sentence is far, far more likely to be used. The prejudices of the system of justice therefore, are imbalanced and if they are so as we see here, there is no room for the death penalty. If race does come into it, we really need to rethink how the Supreme Court sentences people to death and the statistics on how many white men, vs. how many black men have been sentenced and executed, the crimes they committed and whether or not the court actually knew the full case at all. In the case of Charlie Brooks, I guess they did not. It was an inhumane execution which only led further into the territory.
Wrongful death lawsuits against the executed are rare to say the least, but there is a strangeness to how America, especially Texas, gets away with so much so easily. Is it really more difficult to keep an African-American inmate in jail for a crime of first degree or capital murder, whilst the white serial killer is just about sentenced to death? The Supreme Court does not get to decide on whether there is any chance of reform or not, needless to say they do not know the perpetrator that well. Therefore, death row is flawed in every sense of the word. When life hangs in the balance, these flawed methods should not be met, but instead should be replaced by something that does not allow the judgement of skin colour, race, background etc. to enter the consciousness of the court.
The question is: should the Supreme Court, Justice System, Government etc. be held accountable for taking a life inhumanely? Where does this lead now?