Outrages New and Old
He went and did it: Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, ordered his first execution just three months after taking office.
During last year's campaign Strickland said that he favors the death penalty. But the former minister and prison psychologist kindled hopes that he'd order a moratorium on executions until a study determines whether the death penalty is fairly applied. In the case of James Filiaggi, 41, who was poisoned by prison guards April 24, the question was even more fundamental: Does the state's execution method cause a torturous death? Filiaggi's last hope was to stay alive by joining a lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of the way Ohio handles lethal injections.
"Ohio has the sad distinction of being the only state out of the 11 with legal challenges to the lethal injection procedure to proceed with execution," says Sister Alice Gerdeman of Cincinnati, chair of Ohioans to Stop Execution.
As if to demonstrate the caprice that governs the death penalty, last month the courts ordered the postponement of another Ohio prisoner's execution because he's a plaintiff in the same lawsuit that Filiaggi wanted to join.
Filiaggi's error? He failed to follow proper procedure. It's a shocking way to handle a matter of life and death -- and a tawdry performance by Strickland.
Ohio has a chance to change a different kind of injustice, according to Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge William Mallory. He wants state legislators to authorize a statue of a black hero for the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. Each state has two statues in the hall, honoring people of the states' choosing.
Confederate President Jefferson Davis has a statue, but not one of the statues represents an African American. Mallory wants Ohio to take down a statue honoring former Governor and U.S. Senator William Allen -- a vocal critic of President Lincoln during the Civil War -- and replace it with a statue honoring either Jesse Owens, the African-American runner who embarrassed the Nazis by winning a gold medal in the 1936 Olympics, or John R. Fox, a World War II Medal of Honor winner from Ohio.
"Ohio could send a powerful message to the world by choosing to become the first state to honor a notable African American with a place in the U.S. Capitol," Mallory says.
Judge Mallory is the brother of Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory. Gilbert E. Mallory, shot by police last week in the West End, is no relation to the mayor -- as city officials went to lengths to explain after he was shot. Separate announcements came from the police department and from City Hall saying the wounded man isn't one of those Mallorys. Gilbert Mallory allegedly reached for a gun after running from police.
Educating Racists and Others About Liberty
Contrary to myth, the U.S. Constitution doesn't confer rights upon a person when she becomes 18 years old. Students have legal rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) wants students -- and parents and teachers -- to know what they are. The ACLU's booklet, Students! Know Your Rights, is now available online. Topics include freedom of speech, religious freedom, discrimination, military recruitment and student records. For a free copy, visit www.acluohio.org.
The ACLU also has a speakers bureau. Arrange for a speaker to discuss students' rights at your school -- it will drive the administration crazy.
Just when you thought the neo-Nazis couldn't be any more ignorant, they proved it last week with their commentary on the Unity Rally organized by the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission (CHRC). About 75 people turned out April 20 for the reading of a Statement of Unity at Washington Park, where the neo-Nazis had planned to rally before they chickened out (see "Nazis Back Down," issue of April 18). Bill White of Roanoke, Va., commander of the American National Socialist Workers Party, issued a statement showing he had no idea what the realities were on the ground.
"It is very easy to organize a government-sponsored rally," White said. "Everyone there is being paid, either directly or through the welfare dollars and donations their organizations receive regularly from the government tit."
The Unity Rally was neither easily organized -- there wasn't even a microphone or loudspeaker so the small crowd could hear clearly -- nor staffed by people who'd been paid for their time. Most of the signatories to the Statement of Unity were rabbis and ministers.
CHRC Chair Will Thomas said the participation of Muslims, Jews, Christians, whites and blacks showed how firm was local opposition to the neo-Nazis. But he didn't gloss over the need for continuing struggle to support human rights.
"While today's rally no-show by the neo-Nazis eliminates the initial crisis," he said, "it does not eliminate the conditions that make us vulnerable to outside agitators."
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