Thursday, December 01, 2005

Claiming victory

Friday in North Carolina in the name of retribution and justice the Tarheel state will kill. Keneth Boyd is set to be killed by lethal injection at 2:00am (0700 GMT) on Friday. In so killing, the 1000th execution of the modern era will take place, with numbers 1001 and 1002 to follow quickly behind it.

As the wires note, statistics show a 50 percent decline in the number of death sentences since the late 1990s, and a 40 percent drop in executions since they peaked at 98 in 1999. Private forecast and discussions among friends both in the defense bar and the abolitionist movement predicted that year that by 2005 we could well be in the 150-250 execution a year range, meaning thathad those predictions proven true we now be closer 2ooo than 1000. There were just 59 executions last year.

One reason is the incredibly hard work of people like John Blume, Tim Ford, John Gibbons, Kevin McNally, Dick Burr, Liz Semel, Eric Freedman, Steven Hawkins, Diann Rust-Tierney, Ron Tabak, Rick Halpein and more names than time permits.

In the last 32 years, 122 death row inmates have been exonerated and released. The Innocence Project and the work of Scheck & Neufeld, and all those that they have inspired has substantially eroded public confidence that our criminal justice system is good enough to kill.

Poll numbers and the ballot box regularly indicate a continuing erosion of the support for state killing that saw its high water mark in early 90s.

The tide has turned. This is not the 2000th execution that so many had feared just a few short years ago, but merely the 1000th atrocity. Each time the state kills it is a historical tragedy as executioners, domestically and globally, are going the way of the dodo. The question now appears not when we reach 1000, or maybe even 2000, but when does this country abolish state killing the same way it abolished slavery, child labor and debtors' prisons.