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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Washington Post Columnist Picks Mentally Ill Death Row Inmate As Person of the Year

From washingtonpost.com: Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen picks  mentally ill death row inmate Gregory Thompson as his person of the year to call attention to the madness of the death penalty. Here is an excerpt from the article: 

"Thompson, 45, is delusional. He is also paranoid, schizophrenic and depressed. For these ailments, he receives daily doses of drugs and, twice a month, anti-psychotic injections. The state of Tennessee wants very much to put him to death for the horrendous 1985 murder of Brenda Blanton Lane, of which there is no doubt about his guilt. There is grave doubt, though, about the constitutionality, not to mention the decency, of executing an insane man. Thus the 12 pills Thompson takes every day. The idea, according to a recent account of his case in the Wall Street Journal, is to make him sane enough to be put to death.

Shortly before Justice Harry Blackmun retired from the Supreme Court in 1994, he reversed himself on the death penalty. Blackmun had been a lifelong supporter, but finally had had enough. In words that were to become famous, he wrote, "From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death." It's as if Blackmun had Thompson in mind, for in his case the tinkering occurs on a daily basis.

Blackmun was not the only Supreme Court justice to change his mind about capital punishment. Lewis Powell did something similar. He never got to the point where he considered it unconstitutional or immoral -- he just concluded there was no way to get it right.

Now, from Powell's point of view, matters have even worsened. The death penalty has become so necessarily cumbersome to implement, so full of essential safeguards, that it not only sometimes cannot be done -- note the recent suspensions of executions by lethal injection -- but it takes forever to do it. Thompson, you might have noticed, has been awaiting execution for nearly 22 years -- arguably cruel and unusual punishment in itself." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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