Thursday, 20th September 2018
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Life And Death Row

This documentary was about the mass execution of a number of death row inmates in Arkansas who were scheduled for execution by a certain date because one of the drugs that was going to be used was reaching it's judicial expiry date. Midazolam was the drug in question and the reason why its use was being cancelled was because it was deemed to be a form of 'cruel and unusual punishment' in the execution of death row inmates. There was no narration of the documentary and most of the contributors were people who definitely had a dog in the fight over the whole issue of judicial executions.

There were the families of those who had been murdered as well as the families of those were set for execution. It comes as no surprise that with an issue as contentious as the death penalty there were no people who were adopting an in between stance, people were either for it or against it. In this particular documentary there were the stories of two men who were up for execution. Both had been on death row for over 20 years and the first of the two men was still claiming to be innocent after all of these years. At first he came across as being a sympathetic character, especially when the documentary team spoke to his wife and step daughter but then you found out more about the man and you weren't so sympathetic any more. Even one of the eight men up for the mass state execution talked about what a horrible person he was and how he had had to get the authorities in prison to move him from the cell alongside his to another area in the prison because he was such an awful presence to have so close to him. The other man that was up for execution you realised didn't have much chance of a stay of execution as the first inmate due to the fact that he was a convicted serial murderer and rapist. The first man who still maintained his innocence had a number of avenues open to him to try and stay his execution and most of them revolved around the DNA evidence that wasn't produced at his trial. In the end he got his stay of execution but the second inmate wasn't so lucky and was duly executed after all of the legal avenues for his stays of execution were exhausted. As you might expect there was a huge media presence in Arkansas surrounding the executions and that was mainly to do with the use of the drug Midazolam which had been used in several botched executions and was being retired because of those reasons.

Other than a small presence of anti death penalty protestors outside the prison there was no huge outcry over the issue of the death penalty per se.

Interestingly the documentary did cover a previous death penalty case where three young men were accused and convicted of the murder of three young boys. One of those young men was given the death penalty, mainly because he looked like a goth and had an interest in satanism.

The fact that the three young men never committed the crimes didn't come into it and they were convicted in the court of public opinion backed up by a legal and political system that thought it was convenient to sacrifice them. Thankfully the young men were acquitted but only years later after serving a large amount of the their young adulthood in prison. One of the men spoke against the mass executions at a rally and interestingly enough had Johnny Depp the Hollywood actor there as a friend. Depp did speak a little but it was enough to see that without a script he isn't a natural speaker. All of this made it seem as if there was a concerted effort to end the death penalty but nonetheless it is small and by and large ineffectual. It was an interesting documentary particularly to view from this side of the Atlantic where even the idea of a death by execution is alien.

It just seems that there are so many forces at play that the issue over whether the death penalty is a fundamentally right or wrong thing isn't even fully considered.


Letters to the Editor

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