The U.S. rulers have opened the new year with a record month for barbarism. In Delaware, Billy Bailey was hung on January 25 in the nation's third execution by hanging since 1965. The next day, a firing squad murdered John Taylor in Utah, the first execution of that kind since Gary Gilmore's death there in 1977.
Just before these two state-sanctioned murders took place Richard Townes was put to death in Virginia by lethal injection. This was almost a non-story except that death chamber technicians needed 30 minutes to locate a suitable vein to inject the poison.
Taylor, who maintained his innocence in face of his conviction for rape and murder, said he chose the firing squad to make a statement that Utah was sanctioning murder. Taylor spoke the truth.
While touted by various big-business politicians as a crime deterrent, the death penalty has nothing to do with decreasing crime. It is simply a weapon of terror used disproportionately against Blacks and other oppressed nationalities, and aimed at the working class as a whole.
Capital punishment is used to dehumanize and humiliate working people. John Taylor told his lawyers he preferred death to life under prison conditions. A month earlier in Illinois, Guinevere Garcia - who "sought" to be only the second woman executed in the United States since capital punishment was resumed 20 years ago - told her friends she would rather die than spend the rest of her life in prison.
The barbaric rulers of capitalist society have no moral authority to order the execution of any human being. Their cops brutalize and frame up hundreds of working people every day. They continue to maintain sanctions against Iraq which have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children.
As the world capitalist crisis continue to deepen, the rulers will resort to rougher measures to intimidate working- class fighters when they go into motion to defend themselves against the bosses assaults. The prison system is filling up with working people faster than ever. The Justice Department reported at the end of 1995 that the nation's prison population was at a high - 1.5 million inmates, up from 1.4 million in 1994.
Activists opposed to the death penalty say a surge in the number of executions is expected in 1996.
That's why supporters of democratic rights, opponents of capital punishment, and all working-class fighters must step up our efforts to oppose the death penalty. We should join in the effort to demand a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose fight against a cop frame-up and death sentence has put a spotlight on the injustice of the "justice system" and its death chambers. The working class has more at stake than any other group in fighting this savage practice and demanding that it be abolished.
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