2015: a record but shameful year

The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice has released a report that states the US had the lowest number of executions in 25 years in 2015.

There were just 28 people executed.

But seven of those 28 had a brain injury or other intellectual impairment; five had endured extreme childhood trauma; two were potentially innocent; and a further seven suffered from serious mental illness. Two were executed despite doubts about their guilt.

Walter Storey, who was executed in Missouri, had a stepfather who beat him with a variety of objects; placed him in a nest of fire ants; taped his hands to his crib and taped his mouth shut. He also forced Walter to box with his brother until they were both bleeding and crying. Storey was found guilty of cutting the throat of a female special needs teacher in 1990.

Georgia executed Andrew Brannan, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran; he was diagnosed with both post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder. The Department of Veteran Affairs categorised him as 100% disabled. He shot and killed a policeman in 1998 after a routine traffic stop.

Georgia also executed Brian Keith Terrell by lethal injection, that took more than an hour to administer as he winced in pain. His case was “rife with doubt” according to the report. Terrell’s cousin was given a plea deal in exchange for testifying against him. He later said he was pressured to do so by police. Another witness said that she did not see Terrell at the crime scene, even though prosecutors presented this information at trial. Terrell’s final words were: “didn’t do it.”

30 states, along with the District of Columbia, the federal government, and the US military, have either formally eliminated the death penalty or have not carried out an execution in the last nine years.

Death sentences also fell in 2015. In Texas, the state traditionally keenest on executions and death sentences, the number of death sentences this year fell from a high of 48 in 1999 to two sentences confirmed by judges, a 96% decrease.


Picture source: Flickr