Sister Helen Prejean on Trump’s Execution Spree

Sister Helen Prejean writes:

The Trump administration is engaged in a full-court press to execute as many people on federal death row as possible before Jan. 20. Attorney General William P. Barr has already overseen eight executions since July. Five more are scheduled before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, who has pledged to end the federal death penalty. This killing spree by a lame-duck president is unmatched in modern U.S. history….

Like Montgomery’s, the crimes of the four others scheduled to be executed in December and January are horrifying, yet their paths to the death chamber exemplify a federal death-penalty system that is beyond repair. Two of the men are said to have intellectual disabilities that should have made them ineligible for the death penalty. Another, Brandon Bernard, was 18 when he was involved in the murders of two youth ministers — a husband and wife — in 1999. Bernard would be the youngest person executed by the federal government in nearly 70 years. Still another was convicted in the shooting deaths of three women, but he didn’t fire the shots; the gunman received a sentence of life in prison without parole. Do these men deserve mercy? If they had been tried before a different judge or jury, would they have received life sentences instead?…

Since 1973, 172 wrongfully convicted death-row prisoners have been lucky enough to be exonerated. Our track record of mistakes is so abysmal that, for every 10 people executed since 1977, one wrongfully sentenced-to-death person has been set free. And, even as the federal government sets out to execute 10 people in the last six months of 2020, only seven state executions have taken place, the lowest number since 1983…

The recent spate of government-sponsored killings at the Trump administration’s direction reveals what is most flawed in our nation’s practice of the death penalty: No matter how terrible the crime, God-like decisions of life or death at the hands of government officials are too weighty and unwieldy for humans to handle.

It’s time for us, awake to the inviolable dignity of all human beings, even those who have committed terrible crimes, to remove that power from the hands of those who should never have been entrusted with it in the first place.