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Fundamentally Flawed: Capital Punishment Follow Up

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There are two sides to every story. On one side you have a 14 year old girl, Tryna Middleton. An innocent girl who grew up a couple blocks from where my house is in East Cleveland, Ohio. Tryna Middleton attended Shaw High School, the same high school that I graduated from. A girl who literally was taught by one of the same teachers that taught me in high school. According to the attorney general’s office on September 21st 1984, Tryna was raped before being murdered by 7 stab wounds to her chest.

Bessye Middleton holds a portrait of her daughter Tryna

Bessye Middleton holds a portrait of her daughter Tryna

There are two sides to every story. On the other side you have Romell Broom. A man who committed actions that cannot be justified in anyway. A rapist who deserves to be punished. A murderer who should very well face the penalty of our laws.

East Cleveland (the neighborhood where I went to high school) is a poverty stricken area, and was hit with a mortgage crisis before the recent recession became so popular to talk about (decades before). When you walk around my neighborhood it is no surprise to walk down streets that are filled with a majority of boarded up houses. I talked to an elderly man in my neighborhood about the botched execution and he said “There wouldn’t of needed to be no damn execution if a man killed my daughter, and it wouldn’t of took 25 years to do it, I would of shot him right away” (You have to love the double negatives). The community I live in obviously feels passionate about crimes like this, and most people I talk to say he deserves to die. As I survey myself, while struggling to keep an unbiased perspective, I realize the fact still remains that I don’t want the convicted Romell Broom to be killed by the state. He was wrong, very wrong, and didn’t care about Tryna’s life, yet, the thing I still believe in most is that 1000 guilty men dead, is not worth the life of 1 innocent man. And innocent people have already died at the hands of capital punishment.

Brooms execution was originally re-scheduled for September 22, 2009 (yesterday), but that day was postponed due to a court order by U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost.  Broom’s attorney will begin to litigate U.S. Constitution, Ohio Constitution, and Ohio statutory claims on his client’s behalf. “Broom should not be executed because the state tried once and failed,” said Tim Sweeney, Broom’s defense attorney. Sweeney is trying to get Romell Broom’s prison sentence to be changed to life in prison.

There is two sides to every story, and many times there is never a clear right and wrong answer. In this case I think it is best to look at what our constitution says. And not allow our anger for a man’s actions to compromise the freedoms and civil liberties that all human beings will still need after Romell Broom is long gone. Tim Sweeny said it best, “There is no question that poor, beautiful girl did suffer, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Constitution applies to everyone. Even people who have been convicted of crimes”

In my initial blog on this issue last week, I gave a brief description of why I am against the death penalty. But I would like to conclude my thoughts by elaborating and use the ACLU’s seven reasons why they are working to end capital punishment:

1. In the last 30 years more than 100 prisoners that have been convicted of capital crimes and sentenced to death were released from death row with strong evidence of their innocence.

2. If serious mistakes occur in charging someone with a capital crime, or if there are errors in sentencing or in the appeals process, there is no recourse when an innocent person is executed.

3. Because most people are poor, too many defendants are forced to depend on incompetent or token representation. In fact, one lawyer fell asleep while defending his client. Other lawyers have appeared drunk during trials.
4. Racial discrimination taints capital cases. Those who kill white people are far more likely to get the death penalty, than those who kill black people.
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5. Prosecuting a death penalty case is enormously expensive for a state. It cost much more than sentencing a prisoner to life without parole.

6. The death penalty has never been applied fairly across race, class, and gender lines. Who is sentenced to die often depends on the attitudes of prosecutors, the prejudices of judges and juries, and the skills of the defense attorney.

7. The death penalty is not a deterrent to crime.