Close Your Eyes and March Forward

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps say they’ll be pushing for “speedier executions” down there.

As I’ve explained before, though Mississippi’s death chamber has been surprisingly inactive over the years, it isn’t for a lack of trying. The problem is that the state has been so eager to pick inmates off death row that the federal courts have repeatedly chastised Mississippi for transgressions like giving indigent defendants inadequate counsel,  or clinging to jury instructions that were long ago ruled unconstitutional, consequently ordering dozens of new trials.

Still, given the recent exonerations of two men—one of whom came perilously close to execution—and the serious questions that have come up about Dr. Steven Hayne (who has testified in a healthy majority of the state’s Death Row cases), you’d think Mississippi’s public officials would be a bit more cautious about rushing forward with executions.  I know of at least three men on Death Row in Parchman right now whose guilt is enough in doubt to merit a new trial (Devin Bennett, Jeffrey Havard, and Eddie Lee Howard).

Maybe Hood and Epps should spend more time correcting the problems with Mississippi’s criminal justice system that have come to light over the last nine months than releasing media statements about how eager they are to ratchet up the killing.

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5 Responses to “Close Your Eyes and March Forward”

  1. #1 |  Pamela | 

    Do you get the feeling they just don’t care?

  2. #2 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Seems like one of the favorite pro-death penalty arguments is that no one who was executed was ever later proven to be innocent. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but by getting rid of them sooner, the state is less likely to suffer the embarrassment of having them exonerated. Not a lot of resources are dedicated to defending dead people.

  3. #3 |  Lloyd Flack | 


    The American legal system has never admitted that it executed an innocent man. It has no system in place for reexamining such actions. In fact it does its best to avoid admitting substantial mistakes. (So do the other common law countries.) It admits procedural mistakes. It will admit substantial mistakes if new evidence is presented. (Though it does its best to stop this happening.) What it does not do is admit that all the correct procedures were followed and it still got it wrong.

  4. #4 |  Adam W. | 

    I don’t know how I feel about human cloning, but I’d be in favor of cloning Dallas DA Watkins.

  5. #5 |  EgoNarroVerum | 

    The problem I have with the death penalty, is that it is clearly the one punishment that you cannot “undo”.