Ending the Reign of Death

Requiem for Odell and All Murdered Innocents

Odell Barnes is dead. He was cold-bloodedly murdered in Texas under the watch of Governor George W. Bush, friend of state-sanctioned assassinations.

It has been said that no garden-variety murderer can match a killing by the State, for it would involve keeping the victim locked up for years, punished, sometimes even tortured and robbed of sanity, and then finally killed in a celebration of death.

Odell Barnes may have proved his innocence if given enough time. My deepest hope is that someday those who have innocent blood on their hands, as is true of every Governor who reads reports about the great error rate in executions by the state, will be tried as criminals themselves.

It takes what amounts to superhuman effort to free even one wrongly convicted person. This should never be so -- especially in these times when so many wrongs in the justice system are being exposed. The widespread corruption of the police department in the Los Angeles Rampart Division may seem unique, but its only claim to that niche is that so many were involved in the wrongs.

In other parts of the country, the wrongs are on a smaller scale, but no less deadly to the innocent and even to the guilty who are overcharged. Our justice system is fatally broken, and nothing less than a complete overhaul will ever make it work properly again. It is bankrupt.

There are those who say our system is still the best in the world. We wonder how anyone can say that with a straight face when we're repeatedly killing innocent people, imprisoning people for life on a third strike that may be absolutely minor, and when our prisons are cesspools of brutality and cruelty. The world condemns us for our blood thirst. Rightly so. We must change. We must stop killing.

So far only the Governor of Illinois has been courageous enough to halt executions after being clearly shown that many innocent people were headed for the death chamber.

We have heard that the execution of Betty Beets, and now that of Odell Barnes may dearly cost bloodthirsty politicians who still posture about being tough on crime. The day may be coming when Americans can no longer stomach the blood flow staining the collective conscience. It will be too late for Odell, and it may be too late for others who will die as innocent martyrs to our sickening dance with death. They will not have died in vain, however, because the American conscience is being pricked as never before.

We now know beyond the shadow of doubt that innocent people have been killed, and more will be killed. It has taken a long time to get this message out, but we are finally catching on. Our awakening will only be complete, however, when we vote the blood hawks out of office and demand sanity in the halls of justice.

The wall of death must fall. Many of us alive today have witnessed great changes where there was once no hope. The fall of the Berlin Wall is the beacon of hope for all of us who believe that sanity can triumph, though it be long in arriving. We must not falter in calling an end to the death penalty, whether for innocent or guilty. We will prevail because we must if we are to salvage our humanity and reason.

We extend our deepest condolences to Odell's father and all his closest friends and family on behalf of Justice Denied and all the staff. We have all watched the events leading up to this execution with hope mixed with dread.

We hoped something would happen to stop it, and now we mourn with you.

It is hard, perhaps even impossible, to forgive such a great wrong. Whether or not we can forgive, I believe, as Ralph Waldo Emerson did, that there is an economy in the universe that will balance the scales in ways we can't imagine.

Odell Barnes was not the only probably innocent person we killed over the last few weeks. He is not yet the last. There will, however, come a day when we forsake the death penalty, and making godlike decisions without godlike wisdom.

For those of you who want to take an active part in bringing this reign of murder to an end, please write to your senators asking them to support the "Innocence Protection Act S.2073. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), a former prosecutor introduced S.2073, the "Innocence Protection Act," a bill addressing mistaken executions to provide new safeguards in capital cases.

Clara Alicia Thomas Boggs and
The Staff of Justice Denied

Odell's memorial webpage: http://www.feastofpan.com/odellbarnes/memorial.html

Please read Odell's original story in JD.

Justice Denied