We all know what happens when US networks attempt to remake UK shows – it’s usually an utter mess.
Hot off the success of UK costume dramas, ABC has decided to throw its hat into the ring with Gilded Lilys, a…wait for it…Shonda Rhimes creation set in New York City in 1895. The question is whether the popularity of the costume drama will translate to the United States effectively when it’s produced in-house, or whether the series will be a complete flop.
As often happens when networks attempt to ride trends, there’s a high risk of sucking the life right out of the concept and leaving audiences cold, especially since Rhimes is juggling a lot of shows at the moment and they can’t all receive her focus and attention. Given that this is new territory for her, this could potentially be an expensive disaster for the network.
It is mindboggling that Manning’s supporters continue to engage in this, in the very act of “support”–and it says everything about how we on the Left see transgender women.
One of the most persistent threads throughout the two years of imprisonment of accused Wikileaks leaker Private Bradley Manning has been the rumour that he is in fact, she–a transgender woman. Manning faces thirty charges, one of which “aiding the enemy” potentially carries the death penalty (though life in prison is more likely) for leaking hundreds of thousands of documents via the website Wikileaks including the shocking “Collateral Murder” video. Dismissed by many as a smear or simply irrelevant to the case, this transgender story has nevertheless refused to die.
The death machine is back in full swing. The grievous miscarriage of justice that ended in Georgia last night with the murder of Troy Davis is only one among many such cases.
Two men were murdered by the state last night in ‘legal executions’ in Texas and Georgia, respectively. Lawrence Russel Brewer was a white supremacist who committed a vile hate crime and was sentenced to death for it, in the face of outcry from the victim’s family, which opposed capital punishment in the case. Troy Davis was a man who was, in all probability, innocent of a 1989 shooting of a police officer, but spent half his life on death row nonetheless. A literal last minute delay from the Supreme Court ended with an eventual denial of a stay—four hours after his scheduled execution, prison officials began the process. Speaking after the killing, Davis’ attorney reiterated his statement that this was a judicial lynching.
Another man, Derrick Mason, is scheduled to die in Alabama tonight. Supporters of his clemency request include the judge who originally sentenced him to death, who argues that he would not issue such a sentence in that case today and regrets very much having done so at the time. Like many Black men who encounter the justice system in the United States, Mason had inadequate legal representation and his attorneys failed to introduce mitigating circumstances during his trial. Death by bad lawyer is a not uncommon sentence in the United States.
For a very brief period in the 1970s, the United States suspended the use of the death penalty. It was a golden moment for the nation, which could have seized it and become a leader in the abolition of capital punishment worldwide. Growing numbers of countries refuse to perform capital punishment, and the United States is on an increasingly shrinking list of nations it normally wouldn’t want to associate with. The condemnation of these nations for human rights violations seems especially galling in the face of the cold-blooded murder of people in execution chambers across 34 states.
With a certain degree of suspicion, one of the students inquired about the publication for which I was writing. After I answered his question, he looked at me unfavourably and said that my writing would be permissible only if it were humanitarian.
I attended a silent vigil outside the Pakistani High Commission in London last week. It called for the abolishment of the death penalty in Pakistan and came just one week before the planned execution of a man held on death row for 18 years. Amnesty International expressed concern that this could be a case of mistaken identity.
Amongst the overly opulent urbanity of Lowndes Square, ten people quietly held banners. One stated: “7,000 Prisoners on Death Row” – a controversially large number.
The small group of protesters included two students, a Member of Parliament, and a spokesperson for Amnesty International.
In a handing over of letters, John McDonnell MP was invited inside the High Commission’s office to present the case for the potentially wrongly accused prisoner, and to appeal for the end of the Pakistani death penalty.
Amnesty said it was very likely that the execution of the man will be stopped in order to have his identity verified independently. Moreover, they are hopeful that the new government in Pakistan may suspend the death penalty as early as this week.
I spoke to Niall Couper, the Amnesty spokesperson, who argued that the death penalty presents a serious moral cost to the societies in which it is practiced. A government’s legal system that sponsors the killing of its citizens, he explained, sends a message that homicide is an acceptable punitive measure. This, he said, can actually increase the rate of murder rather than reduce it.
Towards the end of the vigil, as banners were packed and the demonstrators began making their way back, another moral cost emerged. (more…)
The tide has turned against capital punishment in America.
The tide has turned against capital punishment in America.
The New Jersey legislature abolished its death penalty last week after years of moratorium and state-commissioned study. New York’s death penalty has been paralyzed by its courts and left for dead by its legislature – its death row shut down last month. Maryland came close this year to passing repeal legislation, and succeed in the next legislative session. An abolition bill passed the senate in Montana earlier this year, and the state of Nebraska came within one vote. In the meantime, with the protocols of lethal injection currently frozen under scrutiny by the Supreme Court, the country has not gone this long without a single execution in decades.
But all of this is happening not because the American populace has experienced some sort of moral rebirth, like a cowboy learning mercy. No, the new discomfort with executions actually has little to do with the ethics of crime and punishment. Rather it has everything to do with whether the death penalty works – and, if it doesn’t work, whether it’s actually dangerous and harmful to those whom the justice system is meant to protect.
Indeed, a majority of Americans still believe that our worst criminals deserve to be put to death. But when asked whether in practice it might be better to simply send them away for a life in prison, a slim but growing majority of Americans prefer this simpler, more consistent version of justice. And a large majority support a moratorium on executions.
The primary reason for this sea change is the alarming streak of exonerations that rippled throughout our justice system after the advent of DNA testing decades ago. Over 200 people have been exonerated by DNA evidence that proved their innocence. And as of this writing, 124 people have been exonerated from death rows in 25 states.
Their stories are shocking: forced false confessions, eyewitness misidentification, prosecutorial misconduct, incompetent or fraudulent forensic analysis. Some of these failures occur due to people with great power, under great pressure, doing bad things; some of it is just due to plain old (and inevitable) human error. But regardless of why, it is clear to many that if our justice system can go this wrong, we can’t allow it to continue as is – especially not with the irreversible act of execution.
A broken system
Behind the spectre of wrongful execution, many other reasons to abandon capital punishment pile up. So many that the American Bar Association called for a moratorium this year.
The death penalty is arbitrary – a given state will likely see the vast majority of its capital sentences come from a tiny minority of its counties. Crimes of similar magnitude will receive different sentences depending on any number of external factors.
The death penalty is biased – almost all of the people who typically receive the death penalty are dirt poor, and often mentally unstable. Crimes of the same magnitude committed by persons with the resources to get a good lawyer typically do not result in death sentences. Crimes in which the victim was black almost never result in death sentences.
The death penalty is harmful to family members of victims of crime, who must endure years, even decades of entanglement with the legal system as the case winds the long road from sentencing to execution.
Last and perhaps least is the cost of the death penalty: counterintuitively, a capital case costs the state many times more than a life in prison. With innocent people being exonerated from death row every year, who could suggest that the justice system cut more corners to make the trial process cheaper? (more…)
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