States of Death

States of Death September 21, 2011

While the imminent execution of Troy Davis by the State of Georgia has gained worldwide attention and generated a firestorm of protest, he isn’t the only American facing capital “justice” tonight. In Texas, Lawrence Russell Brewer is scheduled to receive what Michelle Bachmann calls a “government injection” sometime after 6:00 pm. Only this one will truly be lethal.

Brewer was convicted along with two of his white supremacist pals of lynching James Byrd Jr., a black man, in 1998. You remember the case: Byrd accepted a ride from the men, one of whom he recognized. But instead of being taken home, he was driven to a remote location, beaten, urinated on, then chained to the back of a pick-up truck and dragged over an asphalt road until his body literally came apart. The murderers then dumped his torso in front of an African-American cemetery. So horrific was the crime that even Texas Governor Rick Perry was forced to sign into law the James Byrd Jr. Act, which strengthened penalties for hate crimes in Texas. Brewer and his friends, Sean Berry and John King, were convicted. Berry got life. King and Brewer got the needle. Brewer goes first tonight.

From his Georgia death row cell, Troy Davis has managed to convince half the world, if not the Georgia Clemency Board, that he was wrongly convicted, and he may well have been. But no one thinks Lawrence Brewer was wrongly convicted. By the lethal logic of capital punishment, Lawrence Russell Brewer deserves every ounce of the ‘Jesus Juice’ he’ll receive sometime this evening. Such luminaries as Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, and Kim Kardashian have joined in calling for Troy Davis to be spared, but considering the nature of Lawrence Brewer’s crime, and in light of the scant national coverage his impending execution has received, one might think that no one is standing up for him.

But in fact someone is pleading for clemency on Brewer’s behalf. Ross Byrd, James Byrd Jr.’s son, who says, “You can’t fight murder with murder.” Martin Luther King III is asking for mercy, too, as is Dick Gregory, the civil rights activist, who will be holding a vigil in Huntsville, outside the prison where Brewer is scheduled to be put to death. Unlike those who cheered capital punishment during a recent Republican presidential debate, these men see the organic connection between the act of senseless violence that occurred on a rural road in Jasper, Texas, and the act of bureaucratic violence that will take place tonight. Gregory, Byrd and King know the Culture of Death when they see it, and this is it.

“I hope they will stand back and look at it before they go down that road of hate,” said Ross Byrd in a recent interview. “Like Ghandi said, an eye for an eye, and the whole world will go blind.”

UPDATE: Both Davis and Brewer were put to death this evening. May God have mercy on them, their victims, and the nation that put them to death.

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