“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote in his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in August 1963. His words transcended his era, for even today, we still have to deal with the fact that one instance of oppression could lead to oppression for us all.
When we tackle current issues, such as terrorism, health care and Wall Street accountability, we are still acting in the framework described by King, that “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”
As we remember King’s legacy — not just on the third Monday of January every year but every day — we cannot remember him as just an important figure in the history of American civil rights. We must remember him for his dream of unity and his belief that one day we can all treat each other as we would like to be treated. King knew this. We must not forget it.
Death penalty moratorium needed
The state of Alabama executed six people in 2009. Two hundred sit on death row. That could all change if state Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, gets his way before he retires.
Sanders has introduced legislation many times in his career that would put a moratorium on the death penalty. The bill has failed every time. This is the last chance Sanders has to pass this legislation, and we believe passing it is essential to promoting justice in Alabama.
The death penalty is not a matter where there is a second chance at justice. Once the sentence has been carried out, all of the “mea culpas” in the world cannot bring that person back if something in their trial was wrong. This is why Alabama needs to give the death penalty a break: The system cannot fix any mistakes.
Alabama is the only state where a judge can give a death sentence if the jury does not. Matters this important should not be left to one person, especially if 12 of that person’s peers disagree. The moratorium would also allow the state to reevaluate policies such as the use of DNA evidence, providing defense attorneys to defendants, the sentencing of juveniles and the mentally disabled to death row, and the racial disparity in death row inmates.
Six death row inmates have been proven innocent in Alabama since 1976. That’s as many as have been executed in any single year in that time. If just one of those innocent inmates had been executed, there would have been no way to turn back the clock to correct that injustice. A moratorium on executions and reform of the death penalty would help Alabama carry out justice instead of denying it.
Our View is the consensus of The Crimson White’s editorial board.