Murder Moves to a Larger Stage

The federal government, which has executed only 3 people since 1967, has decided to try to make up for lost time. Instead of mere states being guilty of homicide, the federal government now wants to be a leading culprit. Execution dates were recently set for three men, James Roane, Corey Johnson, and Richard Tipton. And the national government decided to do it all in one week, setting dates of May 8, 10, and 12 respectively. All three men, like 50% of those awaiting execution by the federal government, are black.

Roane, Johnson, and Tipton were sentenced under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 which allows for the death penalty in drug related murders. It should not come as a surprise to anyone who has observed the procedures of the death penalty that this act falls disproportionately on minorities, as does the federal system as a whole. In fact, of the three people that the federal government has executed, only one of them was white, Timothy McVeigh. And Timothy McVeigh certainly qualifies as a somewhat special case. For one thing, he was found guilty of the largest act of domestic terrorism (at that time) in America’s history. Moreover, he “volunteered” for execution, by foregoing all his appeals. The others have been people of color, a Hispanic man who was convicted of dealing drugs and murder, and an African-American convicted of murdering and raping a white woman. Roane, Johnson, and Tipton are now set to become the next victims of a racially biased system. Their only resort may be presidential clemency.

There are currently 42 people awaiting execution by the federal goverment. Five of them committed their crimes in states which do not have the death penalty. Allowing the federal government to circumvent the decisions of the people of Iowa, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

Maybe more shocking, the federal death penalty can be imposed for crimes other than murder, including treason, espionage, and (wait for it) trafficking in large quantities of drugs. Would anyone be shocked to find that such sentencing would be mostly used for people of color?

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