My state of Arkansas did move ahead to execute a man named Ledell Lee last night. Our state Supreme Court cleared the way for this execution and for what Ed Pilkington and Jacob Rosenberg rightly call a "killing spree" on which the state has now entered under the leadership of its current Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson, its Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, and its Republican-extremist legislature dominated by "pro-life" white evangelicals — who also predominate on the state's Supreme Court.
Pilkington and Rosenberg's article is in London paper The Guardian. It tells the whole world about the barbarism of my little white evangelical "pro-life" corner of the world. The whole world is now reading the news that Arkansas is on a "killing spree" now that Donald Trump is in the White House.
This killing spree is directly related to the jubilation of Arkansas' political leaders and many Arkansans that Mr. Trump is in the White House, and was placed there by "pro-life" white Christians, who predominate in Arkansas.
"Pro-life" white Christians mounting a "killing spree" to celebrate, well, life — so they claim. And a new president who was elected because he stands for life. So they claim.
So "pro-life" white Christians assert — as the bodies start piling up.
It's astonishing. And deeply shameful. And utterly dishonest. But saying any of those things will not stop it, because what many white American Christians mean by the term "Christianity" is enemies, attacks on minority groups, disdain for those who are different, the refusal to love and embrace those on the margins of society. And, in the week after Christian churches have remembered Jesus' unjust capital execution by a state with blood on its hands, capital punishment.
America: where we believe a talking snake was literal fact but 'love your enemies' was just Jesus bein' all metaphorical.— John Fugelsang (@JohnFugelsang) April 18, 2017
Meanwhile, the Arkansas Supremes have removed Judge Wendell Grifften from hearing any cases related to the death penalty, due to his public opposition — as a Christian pastor — to the death penalty. The claim is that a judge who has stated such public opposition to the death penalty is not impartial.
Until something like this controversy involving Judge Wendell Griffen brings them out of the woodwork all over again, I forget all those semi-literate blowhard white male bigots are out there — their name is Legion; they're everywhere in our society. They've learned to leave my Facebook and Twitter feed alone, and following Donald Trump's election, many of them have gone back into the woodwork on Twitter, in particular, because they were either Russian bots paid to influence the U.S. elections by trolling Twitter feeds or just garden-variety white-supremacist trolls.
Because of what's happening with Judge Griffen now, because he's my friend and because I have been outspoken about the barbaric moral horror show Arkansas' "pro-life" white "Christian" community wants to stage in killing 8 men in 11 days, they're baaaack. With a vengeance.
And as ignorant, bigoted, and determined as ever to blow hard about matters they know nothing at all about . . . . Their big hue and cry right now: judges can't have commitments. Judges must be impartial.
The fact that they think they can credibly push this argument right on the heels of Gorsuch's Supreme Court confirmation tells you how unintelligent and dishonest these bigoted white males are. Their man Gorsuch was nominated to the Supreme Court because he has clear, publicly stated commitments and is anything but impartial.
They wanted a partial judge sitting on the Supreme Court to fill the shoes of another wildly partial judge, their man Scalia, who died while on a vacation paid for by people involved in litigation that was before his bench. These semi-literate blowhard bigoted white males uttered not a peep about the need for judges to be impartial during any of this recent history. They're glowing with pride that, for wildly partial reasons, the Republican party blocked the attempt of a sitting president (a black man) to do what any sitting president has a right to do and fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court bench. They're glowing with pride that their very partial party then stole that Supreme Court seat and filled it with the wildly partial man they wanted in Merrick Garland's stead — with Gorsuch.
These fellows embarrass themselves, royally so, as they attack Judge Griffen for his "partiality" while remaining oblivious to the partiality of Scalia, Gorsuch, and their ilk — though I doubt many of them have the acumen to see just how much they're embarrassing themselves. The long and short of it is, they are baying for blood now because a highly principled black man in a position of responsibility has spoken out.
And no one with eyes open fails to see this.
Wendell Griffen has posted an excellent defense of his actions on his blog. As he notes, our judicial system is set up to reinforce both the right (and obligation) of judges to perform their judicial duties, and the right to hold and practice their religious beliefs as persons of faith, or, if they do not have religious commitments, to hold and enact their philosophical commitments divorced from faith. As he notes, his decision in the matter of the drugs used to execute prisoners in Arkansas was a judicial decision based on property rights. The law about property rights is clear, whether one agrees or disagrees with it, and judges have an obligation to respect that law.
Judges also have a right to hold and practice religious beliefs. No one argues that the majority of justices on the national Supreme Court who are Catholic should be denied the right to sit on that bench because they hold Catholic principles and beliefs, and might be swayed by their Catholic beliefs in how they hand down decisions. The religious commitments of right-wing Catholic Supremes were glaringly evident in the Hobby Lobby case.
This is how the court system of the U.S. works. Judges hand down rulings based on their respect for the law; but judges also have the right to freedom of religion accorded to all other citizens, and have the right to hold their own religious beliefs or not, just as all other citizens do.
In the matter of Ledell Lee, the man Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson killed last night to start his "killing spree," there's abundant evidence, as ACLU has noted, to cause us seriously to doubt the impartiality of the legal and judicial proceedings that resulted in his capital sentence. As Martin Clancy recently pointed out,
Is the death penalty moral? Put that question aside. You don’t even have to go there: the death penalty is patently arbitrary and unjust. Whether a defendant is to live or die depends not on Lady Justice, but Lady Luck.
For two hundred years, the best legal minds in America have tried to come up with an equitable way to administer the death penalty — and they have failed. "Justice" depends on the vagaries of race (victim and perpetrator), location, and economic status. Add to that the ambition of prosecutors, the competence of defense counsel, the human variables of judges.
Oh, yes, there’s that other pesky possibility: deadly error. DNA results have exonerated 18 condemned murderers over the last two decades. What errors might have occurred before DNA? And what happens when the government accidentally convicts and executes an innocent person? That has happened, too: check out the 1989 Texas execution of a 27-year-old Hispanic named Carlos DeLuna.
The people slated for execution in the current killing spree of Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, and the Arkansas Supreme Court are uniformly poor. They are people never afforded the opportuntity for much education, for the most part.
While they move towards execution in my state's current killing spree, which is being applauded and engineered by white "pro-life" Christians, many of our society's most egregious criminals who have access to power and money never see the inside of courtrooms. They are paid big golden-parachute pay-offs when their crimes become so glaringly evident that they lost their jobs.
Or they're elected to high office, for that matter.