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Presidential candidate joins protest of execution

Published Nov 5, 2008 4:02 PM

Cynthia McKinney made history in Texas Oct. 30. Never has any politician or any candidate for public office been in Huntsville, Texas, on an execution night to join in with those protesting.

Green Party presidential candidate
Cynthia McKinney comforts Misty Smith,
stepdaughter of Greg Wright, executed
in Huntsville, Texas, Oct. 30.
Photo: Jon Axford

McKinney, the Green Party candidate for president of the United States, joined the ranks of protesters this evening, Oct. 30, and quietly introduced herself to the family and friends of Greg Wright, who was scheduled to be executed 45 minutes later.

As Wright’s stepdaughter stood outside of the death house holding a cell phone in one hand and a framed photo of Wright in the other, McKinney approached her and asked about the photo. “How long has your family been dealing with fighting this execution? Did you ever think that your family would ever have to deal with the issue of the death penalty in such a personal way?”

McKinney listened to Misty Smith explain that they had been fighting to prove Wright’s innocence for seven or eight years and that never did she think she and her mother would be going through this injustice.

Then McKinney was introduced to the crowd opposing Wright’s execution.

The candidate told them: “I am sad to join you tonight, those of you who have a conscience and who want the U.S. to join the community of nations that respect life, rights and the administration of justice. It’s one thing to feel politically, academically and intellectually opposed to the death penalty. It’s quite another thing to meet the family of someone who has maintained his innocence throughout his entire ordeal and yet they find themselves on the opposite side of justice.

“Most people in this country have believed in the justice system. They believe that they would never be the victims of injustice. And yet I am here in the very place where Shaka Sankofa was murdered by the state of Texas.

“Texas is the execution capital of the country. Why is it that the state of Texas wants the world to know that killing is wrong yet it engages in killing?”

McKinney continued: “Our president, George W. Bush, has engaged in killing. One million Iraqis are dead from war and occupation. How many Afghanis are dead from war and occupation? How many Pakistanis dead from war and occupation?

“The war machine is a death machine. It’s a killing machine. As a leader of the Green Party, I join with the families that are here right now and say that we must end all of this killing, including the death penalty, including the use of depleted uranium munitions, and including the interminable march of the imperialistic war machine.

“Misty, thank you for allowing me to be here. Thank you for helping me to understand how barbarically this country can treat people, people who believe in it still. Thank you.”

Greg Wright expressed his appreciation for the Green Party just hours before his execution when his spouse, Connie Wright, told him that Cynthia McKinney would be in Huntsville for the protest. “Well, now, you sure know who to vote for, don’t you?” he told Connie. “I can’t believe she will be here for me.”

Music that Connie Wright and Greg Wright chose for the evening played over the sound system outside of the death house as the prison clock chimed at 6:00 p.m. Then Connie and the four other witnesses to the execution walked into the death house for the 419th Texas execution, while “You are the Wind Beneath My Wings” could be heard for blocks around.

Some 1,125 people have been executed in the U.S. since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s. Over one-third of all executions have been in Texas and over 85 percent have been in the South. Texas has 13 more executions scheduled, including another likely innocent person, Eric Cathey. Over 65 percent of those on death row are African-American or Latino.