Two years ago the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned the two murder convictions in Willie Manning’s second case, saying:
“[T]he State violated his due-process rights when it failed to provide favorable, material evidence, upon request.”
Willie was fortunate. If exculpatory police canvass notes had not been withheld at his trial (and later produced as evidence of this), he could have been executed on the basis of a witness’s false, coerced, recanted testimony.
Willie’s experience serves to remind us of one argument against the death penalty: innocent people can be executed only too easily. Writing in the student magazine of Mississippi State University, The Reflector, Holly Travis refers to Willie’s exoneration and the danger of executing innocents. She also outlines additional reasons to end capital punishment: it is extremely costly; it does not deter crime; and it is racially biased.
For many Mississippi lawmakers, such reasons are not persuasive. Earlier this month they advanced a plan to add nitrogen hypoxia, firing squad and electrocution as possible execution methods, if their preferred method of lethal injection drugs is blocked in court. Their bill, House Bill 638, met opposition but passed the house, and will be debated in the senate.
But even if the senate clears the bill, the law will intervene. Attorney Jim Craig has promised legal challenges for each proposed method.
His assurance is welcome. Opposing the death penalty is crucial in a free society; writing in The Nation, Jen Marlowe sums up why:
“When we grant states the right to kill its citizens, we are accepting all forms of state-sanctioned violence. Police killings, mass incarceration, surveillance, immigration raids, stop and frisk, and other methods of repressive social and racial control are part of the same destructive system in which capital punishment is the sharpest edge.”
We wish Jim Craig success.