Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Supreme Sacrifice

by ELAINE CASSEL

Memorial Day is the day we set aside to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms of life that the Bush Administration is taking away. In that respect, this Memorial Day is most poignant. Can it be that those hundreds of thousands of sacrifices have now been in vain? because one Administration, drunk on power and ruling by fear, will dismantle the Constitution to promote the interests of wealth and privilege?

Never have I thought more about the significance of Memorial Day than on this day. Spending so much time reading and writing about the loss of freedom put this day in a new perspective. Sad as I was upon waking this morning, I even more so as I read about yet another young man (African American, of course) about to be put to death by the machinery of my state, Virginia.

Then it came to me?. Why not add a new category of people to honor on Memorial Day–all people that our local, state, and federal governments have killed? They, too, make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of “freedom.” Law enforcement and justice systems tell us that by killing the innocent? and the guilty they are making our communities safer. They are saving us from fear and ridding the state of undesirables (as Bush says he is doing in the war on civil liberties).

At the top of the roll call of honored dead would be the two innocent, hard-working, law-abiding citizens who died at the hands of New York City police officers (NYPD) last week. One, an immigrant from Africa whose specialty was restoring African art, was killed in a ambush when NYPD were looking for people who are pirating CDs (ask yourself why, even if he were doing that, it would merit a shooting). Then there was the woman whose apartment was stormed by SWAT team members looking for criminal activity. Wrong place, wrong person. She died of a heart attack in the melee.

We could add all those, known and unknown, who have been executed by the state for crimes they did not commit. We could add all those who have been executed for crimes they did commit?, for a state that kills its own is a sad, sick government that relishes in the ultimate act of power?–taking life away in the pretext of doing “justice.”

Then we could add those whom the state executes who are so mentally ill that their murder by the state rises above the “normal” execution. I am talking about 24-year-old Percey Levar Walton, whom Virginia plans to execute (yes, Virginia, there is an electric chair in the Commonwealth) this coming Wednesday night.

Percey was 18 when he killed three of his neighbors in a senseless violent rampage. His senselessness was born of schizophrenia, that brain disease in which causes its sufferers to be cut-off from reality, and to live in a world of delusions and hallucinations. One wonders what kind of representation Percey had. Why was he convicted, given that his mental illness was unquestioned? But, Virginia is second only to Texas in the number of people it executes, and Virginia is a fraction of the size of Texas. Virginians love their guns, and love to kill. The state death machinery only mirrors its citizens’ sick obsession with taking life.

In order for Percey’s life to be taken Wednesday by shocks of electric current frying his already sick brain, it has to make a minimal showing that he is “competent” to be put to death. Now there is a sick concept for you?: state psychiatrists have to say that he knows he is about to die and that he is doing so to expiate for his sins against the Commonwealth. Psychiatrists have already done their part. They are not partial, mind you. They work for the state. Their jobs depends on telling the warden what he wants to know?–that the man is ok to die. They have already so reported in Percey’s case.

Last year the Supreme court ruled in another Virginia case, Atkins v. Virginia, that the mentally retarded should not be executed. But that logic has not extended to the mentally ill, some of whom, like Percey, are so deranged that they think they are Jesus Christ, Batman, Superman, or, the King of Hearts. Go figure out that atrocity; and, while you are at it, think of the triad of hatred in Justices Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas, all of whom lust for blood and death. They rail against any mention that anyone should not be put to death, including, in Scalia’s case, a belief that “horse thieves” should be hung today because they were in the early days of the country.

So look no further than sickness in the high court to wonder why men like Percey are executed. The bean-counting governor, Mark Warner, is not likely to risk his future political ambitions (though Virginia governors serve only one term, they all aspire to higher office; former governor George Allen is now, sadly, a U.S. senator, and former governor Gilmore was once the head of the Republican National Committee and now has some cushy job in Homeland Security) by speaking out for a man who represents no constituency.

Prosecutors, with blood on their hands, say that mental illness should be no defense to execution because then convicted inmates could “fake” illness to escape dying in the chair or by injection. Like a state psychiatrist could not tell the difference? And if he or she could not, that means that they are not qualified to render a condemned man or woman competent to die, either. Seems like this logic could cut both ways.

Baring some relief from the federal courts, and you can imagine the likelihood of that happening, Percey Levar Walton, age 24, will become another statistic in the state record books. And proof that we have no shame as a society when we would take pride, joy even, as Scalia does in the death penalty, in killing the sick, the deranged, and the demented.

So, on this Memorial Day, let’s remember those who, by reason of birth, nationality, ethnicity, race, age, geography, social status, and bad luck, die at the hands of a government who could, if it would, show compassion and decency. But which won’t, because those traits don’t buy votes. And dead men can’t vote.

ELAINE CASSEL practices law in Virginia and the District of Columbia and writes about psychological and legal issues for CounterPunch and Findlaw. She keeps an eye on the Bush Administration’s shredding of the Constitution at Civil Liberties Watch, hosted by City Pages. She can be reached at ecassel1@cox.net.

 

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
Pepe Escobar
Afghanistan; It’s the Heroin, Stupid
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Julian Vigo
“Ooops, I Did It Again”: How the BBC Funnels Stories for Financial Gain
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Uri Avnery
Abu Mazen’s Balance Sheet
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]