Damien Echols, the West Memphis Three defendant who spent 18 years on Death Row before his release, has joined those speaking out against the eight executions planned in April in Arkansas.
He released this statement today:
A few days following “Good Friday” – a day set aside to contemplate and reflect on an instance when bureaucrats put a man to death for challenging their social standing – the state of Arkansas will begin the killing of eight men on death row.
I stand before you as proof that the state of Arkansas does indeed sentence innocent people to death, despite how infallible these local politicians would have you believe the system is.
My life was completely destroyed and my soul shattered by 18 years of torture and abuse at the hands of the Arkansas judicial system. I will never recover from the damage or the trauma. However – at least I wasn’t murdered.
I use the word murder, because that’s exactly what it is. Execution is homicide. Look at the death certificate of those who have been executed and you will see the “cause of death-homicide.” The state has shown time and again that they have no qualms with carrying out murder, even of the innocent, if it prevents having to address the fact that they have made these horrible mistakes in order to climb the ladder of ambition.
The state plots and plans to kill eight men, all of whom I know. Some of them, I shared the death row with for 18 years.
Are they all innocent of the crimes of which they’ve been convicted? Of course, not. But, killing them to show that killing is wrong makes no more sense than raping to show that rape is wrong.
One of these men, Don Davis, was like a brother to me. He watched my back for 18 years. He saved my life. He fed me when I had no food, and no money to get any, even though the prison says that giving another inmate food is punishable by 30 days in the hole and loss of visitation rights for your family and friends. He stood up to abusive prison guards who were inflicting mental, emotional, and physical torture on me, to let them know that I was not alone.
I lived with these men for years. Two of them are stark raving mad, with no true concept of where they are or what is happening to them. What the state hopes to do by executing these mentally handicapped individuals instead of treating them for blatantly obvious psychiatric conditions is to show you how “tough on crime” they are.
What they are truly demonstrating is how cruel, manipulative, and willing to go to any extreme they can to gain a vote, and to justify this morally corrupt action with the false statement that somehow the death penalty is a deterrent to crime – but if that were actually true, why would we need to apply it over and over?
I speak out and stand in unity with The Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, with you, my brothers, sisters and all Arkansans. Let our presence be seen as a statement that we do not stand on the side of those who kill. We must show that killing is wrong.
We must not let this happen. We must not rest until the death penalty is abolished, for the innocent, for the guilty and for humanity.