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What we can learn about the death penalty from two people scheduled to be executed today


The United States will add two names on July 20 to its list of criminals who have been executed. The execution of James Barber, in Alabama, was widely publicized. The other, Oklahoma’s execution of Jemaine Cannon, has attracted less public attention.
But together they illustrate the continuing injustice and cruelty of America’s death penalty system.
The Cannon Case highlights the type of people who are sent to death row. It reminds us that we are not executing the “worst of the worst.”
The people who are executed in the United States usually have a history of abuse of children, violence, or neglect. This is the type of trauma which explains violent crimes. It is because their lawyers are not up to par that they receive death sentences.
The Barber case brings to light another aspect of the death penalty: the methods used for execution and the threat that they will be botched. The United States has not had a foolproof method of execution, nor is one on the horizon.
Let’s start with the Cannon case.
In 1996, he was convicted of stabbing to death a woman aged 20 named Sharonda. He…

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