This column, posted initially on prisonradio.org, first appeared on workers.org on Jan. 4, 2017.
For Dylann Roof, the next few days and weeks of his young life will prove his most memorable. That’s saying something, considering his slaughter of nine sweet souls in a Black Charleston church.
For, in the next few days and weeks, a jury will convene to decide whether he gets a death sentence or life.
As someone who lived a lifetime on Death Row, my opposition is unequivocal. Even in a case such as this, my opposition to the State taking life doesn’t falter. Even in this case, of a witless white supremacist, a killer of nine Black Christian souls.
If I know anything, it’s Death Row. I’ve seen it drive men stark raving mad.
That said, my one opinion carries no real weight in this case, for unless I miss my guess, no juror will ever hear these words. They will decide Roof’s fate after he delivers his own closing arguments, which will hardly endear him to his jurors.
A death verdict for Roof strengthens the repressive powers of the State and gives it the false patina of “justice.” If a death sentence fails, it helps show the inherent injustice of the death penalty. It would help all the men and women on Death Row.
My decision to oppose death for Roof wasn’t an easy one, but I believe it’s the right one.
No matter his beliefs, decades on Death Row, as well as in solitary, are mind-frying experiences. Nothing he has experienced in his brief life can prepare him for such outcomes.
For life, in prison, is no picnic.