Note: For my latest death penalty piece, go here.
The third state-sanctioned killing of an American prisoner in two days is set for tonight at Holman Prison in Alabama. It will follow the deaths last night of Troy Davis (who proclaimed his innocence to the end) in Georgia and Lawrence Brewer (who acted proud of what he had done) in Texas. Alabama’s governor has turned down a final request for clemency and promised not to intervene.
Derrick Mason, now 37, is accused of shooting 25-year-old Angela Cagle twice in the face during an early morning robbery. He is waiting to hear from a last-minute appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court challenging the competency of his counsel.
His plea to the governor included a letter from retired Madison County Circuit Court Judge Loyd Little, who sentenced Mason to death. Little said he now realizes the death sentence was not appropriate in this case.
[UPDATE: The execution did go ahead as scheduled. Another is set for Florida this coming week.]
Mason would be the fifth prisoner to die in an Alabama execution this year. That would match last year’s number. The state has the highest number of prisoners on death row per capita for any state: forty-three per every million in the population.
The inmate is black and his victim was white.
A Birmingham News editorial this week called for a sentence of life in prison instead:
…if the people of Alabama are going to allow the state to put murderers to death in our name, we must have a system of capital punishment that is fair and consistent. There are too many disparities in the way the death penalty is applied in Alabama, whether it is based on the race of the victim, the status of the accused, the quality of the defense for the accused, even the location of the crime.
It is worth noting that just this week, the attorney general’s office, which has pushed to execute Mason, had a different view of what makes for a suitable sentence for another murderer who shot someone in the head. In July, Pamela B. Terry pleaded guilty to the 2009 murder of her husband of two months, Steven Charles Slaughter. He was writing Terry a check to reimburse her for wedding expenses when she shot him in the back of the head at her Ardmore home, the AG’s office said.
Greg Mitchell co-wrote the classic anti–death penalty book Who Owns Death? with Robert Jay Lifton, His latest book is Atomic Cover-Up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Greatest Movie Never Made.