by Sam Hieb
“I truly believe that on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011, the United States of America allowed an innocent man to be put to death,” said Hunt, who was released from prison 19 years after being wrongly convicted of the murder of Winston-Salem newspaper copy editor, Deborah Sykes. “It is most disheartening that only a short time after we commemorate the tragedy of September 11, 2001 we would participate in such a heinous act.”
Another execution took place yesterday —- Lawrence Russell Brewer—convicted of brutally murdering James Byrd by dragging him behind a pickup along a Texas road—– was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m. after receiving a lethal injection.
Protesters assembled outside the Huntsville prison where the execution was to be carried out. Among them was comedian and activist Dick Gregory, who said “(a)Any state killing is wrong…..If Adolf Hitler were to be executed, I would be here to protest … I believe life in prison is punishment. Execution is revenge.”
While Byrd’s murder sparked hate crimes legislation, the question of how to punish those convicted of hate crimes arose during the 2000 presidential campaign, when George W. Bush was asked about his position on hate crimes. I’ll never forget Bush’s response —–“The three men who murdered James Byrd, guess what’s going to happen to them? They’re going to be put to death.”
The response supposedly “produced gasps among the audience,” but I don’t think at the time anyone could accuse Bush of being soft on hate crimes.