death-penalty.jpgCHICAGO – The U.S. Supreme Court this week authorized the resumption of the death penalty, permitting the country’s first execution in 17 years, leading State Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) to call for capital punishment to be abolished at the federal level.

“Is this the way we want to use the power of the state, in the middle of a global pandemic: to kill people?” Van Pelt said. “There can be no true exoneration after the death penalty. People like George Stinney can never be brought back.”

In 1944, George Stinney Jr. became the youngest person in the modern era to die at the hands of capital punishment. The 14-year-old Black boy was falsely accused of killing two young white girls and executed, only to be exonerated 70 years later.

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional because of its similarity to lynch law, but reneged on this decision in 1976. Since then, more than 1,500 people have been executed in the United States.

While capital punishment is legal in 28 states, Illinois officially abolished the death penalty in 2011 under the Quinn administration, then becoming the 16th state to do so. Since 1973, 170 people were exonerated from death row, 21 due to DNA evidence.

Black people account for 42% of people on death row and 34% of those executed, despite being only 13% of the population.

“Think of how many more died unjustly before DNA evidence could prove their innocence. How many were sentenced to death because they were not the right skin color or social class?” Van Pelt said. “It saddens me that the policies of the Jim Crow era still haunt us today. There is no argument for this barbaric practice beyond vindictiveness. It doesn’t reduce violent crime. It doesn’t make this country safer. Not that it should matter, but it is no less costly than life imprisonment. The death penalty needs to be abolished, nationwide.”

Thursday morning, a second federal inmate was executed in Indiana.

Category: News

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