A loophole for the rich, a noose for the poor
Published Nov 17, 2006 12:06 AM
This article was written before Willie Shannon was executed
on Nov. 8. A lively and angry protest was held outside the death
house in Huntsville, Texas, as Shannon’s special friend
Regina Schmall and three others witnessed the execution.
Shannon’s funeral was held Nov. 11 in Columbus, Texas,
where Shannon grew up. The church was packed with family, friends
and the community.
Shannon had been a member of PURE —Panthers United for
Revolutionary Education—and as requested, was buried with a
black beret, a black jacket and boots. His coffin was covered
with a red, green, and black African Liberation flag. In his hand
was a beautiful, simple light blue origami flower, made by
Shannon’s comrade and the author of this article. Muenda, a
founder and leader, of PURE Muenda has spent the last 30 years on
death row and continues to be a political influence
On Nov. 8, Willie Shannon, a Texas death row prisoner, is slated
to die. And if no authoritative hand intervenes—judge,
governor or God—he will be put down by a law designed
specifically to bring finality to death penalty cases.
To keep cases moving through the different layers of appeal, the
state legislators designed a time limitation rule, commonly
called procedural bar. It requires that all legal motions be
filed in a timely fashion. Failure to meet a single deadline bars
the defendant from filing anything further. All rights to appeal
are instantly waived—thus the name procedural bar. The
defendant is then executed by default.
To say this rule was put into effect without genuine sentiments,
that it was devised expressly to hang the poor and let loose the
rich, is indeed grave and extreme. It can neither be proven nor
disproved. But genuine sentiments or not, the class that’s
exclusively affected by this rule is well established.
In nearly 30 years of reading case law, never once have I come
across a case involving a rich person who had been procedurally
barred. Well-paid lawyers hired by the affluent never, for any
reason, miss filing deadlines.
So why is it that the poor and the poor alone, represented by
court-appointed counselors, are consistently hit with the
The answer to this single truth can only be conjectural. But
being that it adversely affects the poor unilaterally and people
of color disproportionately, race and class bias must be
The great American pretense is that we’re all one people,
representing a single national interest, with the fairness of
democracy extended to all. But the truth is that democracy is not
extended to all, and we do not share and can never share the same
As long as we live in a nation where one culture dominates all
others; where there is racial favoritism; where a small few
appropriate a disproportionate amount of the nation’s
wealth to itself; and where some live inside the mainstream while
others live on the margins, we have no common interest.
When this myth is exposed, we see clearly a country of
antagonisms. So why the myth? What is this supposed national
interest, anyway? And, more important, by whom and against whom
is it defended?
A good place to start is with the Republicans and the Democrats.
They are the two controlling parties. When it comes to lawyers,
judges, prosecutors and politicians, nine out of 10 belong to one
or the other party. They control, believe in, and defend the
capitalist system. They will tell you themselves that their
values “are American values,” that their interests
represent the national interest of the country.
In fact, they are literally offended by things and images
perceived to be uncouth or un-American: saggy pants, rap music,
gays, lesbians, Muslims, poor whites who are considered trash,
Chicanos from the barrios, Blacks from the ghettos, socialists,
radicals, and people who protest against the war.
When it comes to officers of the court, a mistaken notion is that
defense lawyers are for you, prosecutors are against you, and
judges are neutral. They are all of the same class and support
the system, whether they are Republican or Democrat, and the
greater number of them is conservative.
Therefore, they are unavoidably politically biased, but not
necessarily with malice. They are against crime, as they should
be. They are also against all images stereotyped as criminal, and
they shouldn’t be.
So when a youngster goes on trial and fits the stereotypical
image of a thug, then nobody in that courtroom wants to see him
go free. Not even his lawyer.
In the event that it’s a capital murder case, the lawyer
works to get a life sentence rather than the death penalty. And
sometimes they don’t even do that. They miss filing
deadlines or fail to preserve their client’s right, which
in effect amounts to killing the client themselves.
Again, this is something that could never happen to a person of
clout and station in this country. For this reason, this
particular rule of law is a loophole for the rich and a noose for
So, come November 8, barring a miracle, another poor man from the
working class will be hanged in Texas.
Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World.
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