Death Penalty Protest Below Governor's Window Leans On Wrongful Conviction, Jesus' Crucifixion
Monday the state begins executing death row inmates. Seven in all. But today, as Christians everywhere marked the Passion of Jesus, an anti-Death Penalty throng converged on the steps of the Capitol.
Little Rock Diocesan Bishop Anthony Taylor reminded the crowd — those who stood in judgment of Jesus were pretty sure he deserved to die. For that matter, Moses too. He’d murdered an Egyptian.
"If God could use a murderer to set his people free and lead them to the promised land, then there is hope for everyone."
The rock star of the rally was Damien Echols, despite being joined by supporter and bona fide Hollywood star Johnny Depp.
"But the state wants you to praise them for executing people with an IQ fo 69. They want you to see that, and see how tough on crime they are. So see 'em. Witness what they're doing. And then in return, let them know how tough on corruption you can be."
In Echols case, exculpatory DNA evidence was discovered more than 15 years after he was incarcerated.
"The local politicians tried to execute me even when DNA testing came out that excluded me and the other two men from the scene of the crime. They still kept trying to kill. After DNA testing came out I sat on death row for two years while they tried to figure out how they could kill me and not have to admit they made a mistake."
There were no counter protests. The rally took place beneath the Governor’s office. From his window he could look down on the event, though it didn't appear he did so.
Furonda Brasfield, director of the Arkansas Coaltion to Abolish the Death Penalty, said he was there, and that she planned to deliver thousands of petition signatures afterward, asking him to stop the executions.
Diane Hanley said for her, it’s a sanctity of life issue.
"I’m stridently pro life all across the spectrum, and I feel very strongly that the death penalty is an evil just as abortion is an evil. For consistency, we should be respectful of all human life."
This story is produced by Arkansas Public Media. What's that? APM is a nonprofit journalism project for all of Arkansas and a collaboration among public media in the state. We're funded in part through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with the support of partner stations KUAR, KUAF, KASU and KTXK. And, we hope, from you! You can learn more and support Arkansas Public Media's reporting at arkansaspublicmedia.org. Arkansas Public Media is Natural State news with context.