The ‘stepchild of lynching’: How the death penalty targets Black people

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In 1904, a violent mob takes over the first floor of the prison in Huntsville, Alabama, demanding the release of the jailers Horace Maples, a black man accused of murdering an elderly white farmer named John Waldrop. When the police refused, the mob set the prison on fire for making him smoke.

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Armed men prevented the fire brigade from dousing the fire. A sheriff eventually forced Maples to jump down a second-floor window into a crowd of people estimated to be around 2,000 people. Lynch’s mob soon tied a rope around Maples’ neck, and dragged him across the county courthouse lawn.

Waldrop’s son confronts the terrified man. Maples confessed to the murder, though it’s hard to imagine the confession being more compelling. He was hanging on a nearby tree. The mob filled his body with bullets, then took his fingers and clothing as a memento.


Seven alleged members of the mob were later tried and all were acquitted.

one year After Horace Maples was lynched, a local chapter of The Daughters of the Confederacy was established A monument to Confederate soldiers in front of the courtyard, Reminiscent of the Meaning of Justice for a Black Man in Huntsville, 1904. this was it replaced with a replica in the 1960s, during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

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A historic black-and-white photo of the Madison County Court House in Huntsville, Alabama.

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A historic black-and-white photo of the Madison County Court House in Huntsville, Alabama.

Lynching may no longer terrorize the South in such great numbers, but America has never stopped feeding black people through a system of harsh justice that often uses public, extravagant violence to end their lives. Is.

In the present day, the death penalty alienates people of color by almost every measure. However, more than just a passing resemblance, the history of capital punishment in America is tightly bound by rope and tree. both of AmericaWeird“Institute.

Black people are overrepresented on the death penalty. Blacks make up about 13 percent of the US population, according to census data, while the black population on death row was almost triple compared to this spring. gonna kill white people 17 times more likely According to a milestone, black people to get the death penalty than those who killed 2020 study. Meanwhile, people of color made up 63.8 percent of modern wrongful death sentences, according to an analysis.

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From the first executions in the British colonies in North America to the present, the death penalty has always been applied unevenly, according to Elizabeth Semel, a law professor who heads the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley.

“From its inception, in this country, the death penalty and racism were inseparable,” she said. Granthshala. “That history is defining. It’s just defining.”

Inequalities are found in almost every aspect of the process, with the death penalty still in place in every place in the country, he said: who is charged with capital crimes; who enjoys good legal representation; who is sentenced to death; Who else is able to appeal epidemic of misconceptions. Juan Melendez, 70, believes racism played a major role in sending him to Florida death row for a murder he did not commit. He was imprisoned for 17 years before being acquitted in 2002, then shown to prosecutors concealment of evidence of another person’s confession.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in his family’s native Puerto Rico, Juan moved back to America at the age of 18 in search of adventure and opportunity and went to work on American fruit farms on an agricultural visa program.

“I was one of them looking for the American dream, and it turned out to be an American nightmare,” he said.

In 1983, he was charged with the horrific murder of a white man, Delbert Baker, at a cosmetology school in Florida. His trial lasted a week, and he had neither the money to hire a lawyer nor to know what was happening in the courtroom.

At first he thought that the legal system might catch its fault and he would be set free. Then the jury, 11 of 12 of whom were white, were shown photographs of the crime scene where Delbert Baker lay, with his throat slit, in a pool of his own blood.

A juror said that a photo of Juan Melendez with an African convinced him that he was guilty, sending him to the death penalty for a crime he did not commit.

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A juror said that a photo of Juan Melendez with an African convinced him that he was guilty, sending him to the death penalty for a crime he did not commit.

“I knew there and then I was in big, big, big trouble. I got scared,” he said. “If he had got the chance there and then, I would have been hanged and killed.”

One of the jurors reportedly said that a photo of Juan, where he had a large Afro, found him guilty. He eventually learned English while on death row. Juan now travels the country speaking with Witness to Innocence, an ex-led criminal justice advocacy group.

Juan Melendez now travels the country speaking with Witness to Innocence, an ex-led criminal justice advocacy group.

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Juan Melendez now travels the country speaking with Witness to Innocence, an ex-led criminal justice advocacy group.

It should come as no surprise that the death penalty falls so heavily on black and brown people. It shares its roots with lynching, an explicit form of racial violence.

Before the Civil War, black people were executed for many crimes, with only minor punishments for whites. Wherever American armed forces expanded, whether against the Mexican border areas or indigenous communities of the Midwest plains, mass executions followed.

Following the end of the Reconstruction period, in which Confederate troops occupied former Confederate states and imposed new legal and constitutional protections for black people, lynching increased in the late 1800s, until it became a daily occurrence across America. Went.

Lynchings sometimes involved government officials such as local law enforcement, and government officials began to argue for the death penalty as an alternative. This would still sate the public’s appetite for violence against black people, but under the auspices of legislation, which at the time allowed clear racial segregation in all walks of life. Public legal executions continued into the 20th century.

In 1906, for example, US President Theodore Roosevelt criticized an “epidemic of lynching and mob violence”, while upholding the most central lie of its mob telling itself, that black men were uniquely violent, sex offenders. .

Roosevelt called for “even-hands justice” and treated rape as a capital crime, saying “the biggest current cause of lynching is the heinous crime of rape, especially by black men,” Mr. Roosevelt.

During 1919″red heat, “Local soldiers and outposts kill 200 or more black people in Phillips County, Arkansas, many of them African-American soldiers returning from World War I, meeting in hopes of organizing better pay for sharecroppers. None of the white men who opened fire at the meeting in the first place were not prosecuted, but dozens of black people were charged with murder. The officers tried to kill those people. Promises led the second lynch mob who had survived the first.

Eventually, the lynchins faded, but their dynamism—white resentment, swift judgment, black death—remained. Between 1945 and 1965, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina and Tennessee combined convicted 823 black men of rape, and killed 13 percent of them. In the same period, only 442 white men were convicted and only 2 percent were killed.

Renowned capital defense attorney and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative Brian Stevenson called the death penalty “stepchild of lynching

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Currently, the former Union States complete 80 percent all current day executions, and data visualization show The sites of historical lynchings closely reflect the present-day executions of black people. The proportion of people of color on death row has been increasing since the 1980s.

Gradually, advocates of criminal justice have been able to link the current legal system with the worst excesses of these heavy historical trends. In 2003, Illinois Governor George Ryan clemency granted to 163 men and women on state death rowChicago Police Commander John Burge and his lieutenants tortured more than 100 black suspects into making false confessions, citing disproportionate punishments and mounting evidence.

“Race plays a big part in all of this,” said Lauren Myerskoff-Mueller of the University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project. “John Burge and his subordinates, young black men, were doing this to the vast majority. It was like…

Credit: / The Granthshala

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