This Tuesday, Lisa Montgomery. Thursday, Corey Johnson. Friday, Dustin Higgs. A few days before his departure from the White House, Donald Trump’s execution book is full. In December, he had already filled it with two more names: Brandon Bernard and Alfred Bourgeois. As the number of executions decreases year after year in the United States, the outgoing president ensures that the federal state becomes the main executor of the country: 10 death row inmates received a lethal injection in 2020 . By comparison, “only” seven executions were carried out by the federal states (all in the south of the country, including three in Texas).
A signal sent to the Trumpist base
The federal state had not executed any death row inmate for seventeen years. By establishing this quasi-chain death job until the last day of his mandate, the nationalist president also breaks with the tradition which wants reelected outgoing presidents to suspend executions.
The calculation is obviously of the greatest cynicism: to send a signal to the Trumpist base that he will badly need when he leaves the White House. Even more after the terrible episode of the invasion of the Capitol which definitely discredited him with many Republicans (elected, but especially voters.) In terms of the death penalty, Donald Trump is faithful to his “function”: to thwart developments slow but some of the company.
Texas is responsible for 36% of executions
The United States is wrongly seen as the land of the death penalty. A ” Received idea ” and an ” false idea “, considered in 2010 David Garland in his book Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition. In reality, only part of the territory continues this practice. A third of states have abolished it. The pioneer was Michigan… in 1847. Another third of the federated states are no longer “observant”, even if the provision is still contained in their law. Finally, the last third that executes is geographically and politically localized: it is about the southern lands of the old Confederation. The country had however almost reached the goal with a moratorium decreed in 1967, then the decision of the Supreme Court, considering, in 1972, in the case between William Furman and the State of Georgia, that the death penalty violated the Constitution. . In 1977, in the midst of the “conservative revolution” that would bring Ronald Reagan to the White House, the legal killing machine was revived.
The number of convictions increased from 312 in 1995 to 18 in 2020
Since that date, 1,529 executions have taken place. 82% of them took place in states that practiced slavery. Texas alone is responsible for 36% of executions. After the peak of 1999 (98), the curve tends towards zero without however touching the goal. In 2020, however, the number of executions carried out by the federated states has never been lower (seven). The number of death sentences by juries also fell, from 312 in 1995 to 18 in 2020. As judges are elected, there is also an indication of the evolution of the “demand” much less strong of their constituents. Even if the polls show a divided “public opinion” on the subject, the attraction for the death penalty is receding, the demographic dynamics playing in favor of the abolitionists. The death penalty remains a “totem” for white men over 50, who are also the most politically active, especially within the Republican Party, but young people and minorities, ascending social forces, are generally opposed to it. .
If the New York Times has considered, for several years, that the situation falls within the “De facto abolition”, the last step towards legal disappearance seems the most problematic. It is primarily the responsibility of each state: Texas and a few other southern states do not seem to be heading down this path. With the arrival of Joe Biden in the White House, the fight for abolition could win a resounding victory. In his program, the former vice-president of Barack Obama promised that he “Would work to pass a law that eliminates the death penalty at the federal level and encourages states to follow the example of the federal government.”
Lisa Montgomery’s case moves and revolts part of the country
The slim majority that Democrats hold in both Houses could make it difficult to pass such a bill. There will be, in the House of Representatives as in the Senate, some Democrats in favor of the death penalty, even if their number has been drastically reduced in recent years. In any case, if the elected president keeps his promise, it will be the occasion for a great public debate on the subject. The executions scheduled for this week will certainly help. The case of Lisa Montgomery moves and revolts part of the country. She would be the first woman executed since 1953. On January 5, she sent a request for pardon to Donald Trump, which has remained unanswered to this day. “We do not apologize for his actions (the murder, in 2004, of a pregnant woman in Skidmore, Missouri – Editor’s note). Everything in this matter is extremely sad ”, write his lawyers. Victim of violence and sexual abuse by members of her family during her childhood, she suffers from psychiatric problems “Important and incurable. “ “Society has abandoned Lisa and, by extension, her victims”, add the lawyers. And, from now on, the company will execute him to pretend to do justice to his victims.