Frankly, the title of this post is a little bit of milquetoast, considering the heart of the topic I want to mention. I picked the title as a kind of play on words, but, again, the heart of this post is anything but play.
This blog hasn’t gotten my full attention. It is something of the poor stepchild to my older, more-established law blog. Probable Cause: The Legal Blog with the Really Low Standard of Review is my real baby; it’s where I pour my heart and soul. In fact, I’d never have set up this second blog if it weren’t for the fact that I got lucky and managed to buy FresnoCriminalDefense.com when another local attorney apparently let registration on the name lapse.
Originally, I intended to have Fresno Criminal Defense focus on more “local” issues — at least through Central California — and have Probable Cause be my blog for every other kind of legal blogging. Unfortunately, I’ve found that sometimes writing about local issues can get me into “sensitive” areas where I could potentially cause more harm than good.
I don’t want Fresno Criminal Defense to fade into nothingness, which it will do if I don’t find more to blog about here. I want to avoid its unfortunate death.
Death and dying is something I’ve been doing a lot of reading about lately. Not that I really want to, but I’m a criminal defense attorney. Right now, some other criminal defense attorneys whose blogs I follow are writing about some serious injustices being done in the name of “Justice.” They’re writing about punishment by state-sponsored murder, a.k.a., “the death penalty.”
And then comes an email, with this message:
“Death row is a special hell for innocent people…a real nightmare. We were going to be murdered as punishment for crimes we did not commit. And we were the lucky ones who were exonerated. Others were executed who were as innocent as we were. Think about that.” – Ron Keine, who came within 9 days of execution.
We, the People, are eager to kill. Or at least our elected representatives and the unelected goons who have been hired to staff our gulags think we are. So eager, in fact, that we’ve taken to ordering the drug from overseas, because there isn’t enough available in the United States. The British have, finally, bowed to world pressure to stop the bloodthirsty Americans. They have banned the export of drugs which could be used by us to kill our unwanted citizens.
Those frickin’ Brits. They always seem to be ahead of us. Back when the United States refused to ban slavery, the British — along with other civilized countries — had already done so. In the early 1800s, they banned the slave trade; by 1833, they had banned most slavery throughout their empire.
Ironically, there was one area we had them beat. For awhile.
During the 1780s Americans launched a full-scale attack on English criminal justice. They chose to critique English law at its most vulnerable point: the capital-laden statutes of the criminal code. Rejection of English law was part of a discourse of legitimization and delegitimization that surrounded the American Revolution. English publicists, as David Brion Davis has shown, dismissed American claims for liberty as coming from slave holders. Americans, in turn, sought to delegitimize England by representing it as a country with Tyburn as its iconographic centerpiece. According to this argument, England’s reliance upon capital punishment suggests a social order badly in need of a repressive apparatus. Mid-century colonials praised English due process in contrast to minimal French protections. But now Americans compared England’s legal system unfavorably with an idealized version of their own. Steven Wilf, Law’s Imagined Republic: Popular Politics and Criminal Justice in Revolutionary America, (2010) (Kindle for iPad version at location 153-161) (emphasis added).
Americans thought they were better than the British because the British relied so heavily on the death penalty, allegedly to deter criminals. In fact, Americans recognized that the British were having trouble adjusting to the changing world. Societal norms upon which they’d come to depend began to feel as if they were spinning out of control as the world expanded and they encountered new cultures and traditions. The social order they valued was breaking down and those who longed for the good old days found themselves badly in need of a repressive apparatus.
Today, it is Americans who are coping with changes most people find disconcerting. Our country is being “invaded” by People like our forebears who come here longing for a New World and a New Life. We don’t understand their customs; we’re not appreciative of the changes. Many of the newest of the newcomers even practice different religions, inspiring a resurgence of the most fervent of America’s own home-grown sharia-loving Bible-thumping Repressives.
In the midst of this, the clamoring for and against the death penalty increases. The Forces of Death, who wish you think they are driven hard by their thirst for Justice, press on in the face of growing evidence that America kills innocent people. As Jeff Gamso points out regarding hearings currently in progress now aborted on the unconstitutionality of Texas’s death penalty, despite the fact that no rational human being can believe we have not killed innocent people, the prosecutors do not want to hear it. Like children plugging their ears and yelling, “Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na- I can’t hear you!,” the prosecutors stand in court and proclaim, “We are standing here mute. We are not participating.” As Jeff notes,
Just ask Hank Skinner about how much they don’t want to know. Or ask Gov. Perry or John Bradley how eager they are to figure out whether killing Cameron Todd Willingham was an oopsie. Or ask the prosecutors in Ohio who refuse to allow DNA tests even when asked by the Governor and Attorney General (admittedly, both about to be out of jobs, but they hadn’t lost the elections at the time).
Ignorance, they say, is bliss.
Keeping the public ignorant?
For those not as fortunate as Ron Keine, the goal is to make it harder to avoid an unfortunate death. To achieve that goal, they have to kill the American Spirit — the Spirit that proclaims Freedom, the Spirit that yearns for Justice. We must silence not only the innocent men who strive to be allowed, though wrongly convicted and imprisoned, at least to live: we must also silence Truth.
|Steven Wilf, Law’s Imagined Republic: Popular Politics and Criminal Justice in Revolutionary America, (2010) (Kindle for iPad version at location 153-161) (emphasis added).