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On the irrationality of the death penalty

September 10, 2017

Last month, Mark James Asay, 57, was put to death by the State of Florida.  So much of his execution underscores the utter irrationality of the death penalty.

For one, it had been 29 years since Asay was convicted of the murders for which he was killed. For another, it was the first execution since Florida required that a jury be unanimous in its recommendation of the death penalty.  In Asay’s case, as it happens, the jury had voted 9-3 for the death penalty, but the new law was not retroactive.

Additionally, it was the first execution in the U.S. in which one of the drugs used was etomidate, an anesthetic manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, which harshly criticized the State for using it.

Finally, the execution of Asay marked the first time in modern history that Florida had imposed the death penalty on a white man for killing a black victim. Since Florida reinstated the death penalty in 1976, at least 18 black men have been executed for killing white victims there.

Meanwhile, a Marshall Project examination of 400,000 homicides committed by civilians between 1980 and 2014 revealed that, while police classify fewer than two percent of homicides committed by civilians as justifiable, that figure skyrockets to almost 17 percent of cases when a black man was killed by a non-Hispanic white civilian.

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