The death penalty is one of the most horrific aspects of the criminal justice system as the government legally allows states to murder incarcerated people in an effort to “punish” people for their actions and/or reason that killing someone is wrong. In short, America (and most other countries) murders people to show that murdering people is bad. And while executions are disgustingly barbaric and problematic for people who are guilty of violent crimes, the penalty is even more reprehensible when the imprisoned person is innocent. I recently wrote about George Stinney Jr. who was the youngest person legally executed in the United States 75 years ago (and innocent) and I also briefly argued against the death penalty in my prison abolition essay, which I hope reveal some of the most appalling parts of American history. Today, the state of Georgia executed Marion Wilson who consistently claimed he was innocent of all crimes. He was the 1,500th person executed in the United States since 1976.
In 1996, Marion and Robert Earl Butts Jr. were convicted of murdering Donovan Corey Parks outside of a Milledgeville Walmart in the same state after asking him for a ride. Although Marion repeatedly held his innocence and Robert confessed to the crime while in prison, the former was still held accountable for Robert’s actions. Before the trial, the district attorney doubted Marion’s involvement in the murder, but offered him a plea deal if he confessed to killing Parks, but Marion refused the offer because he didn’t want to admit to doing something he didn’t do. Because of his refusal, the DA argued for the death penalty for both Robert and Marion, even though only one of them shot Parks in the vehicle. Whereas the prosecutor told the jury that “the State cannot prove who pulled the trigger in this case” during the trial, he later walked back that statement and instead said there was evidence proving Marion definitely fired the fatal shot. During Robert’s trial, the prosecutor told the jury that he was the one who had killed Parks. Last year, Robert Butts was killed by the state and tonight, Marion was murdered as well. After their trials, the DA admitted under oath that he believed Robert was the person who killed Parks, not Marion. Despite all of the arguments that were presented in Marion’s trial, the DA did not give the jury an accurate or full representation of what his life was like growing up with a drug and alcohol-addicted mother whose boyfriends repeatedly abused him as a child.
When Marion was born in July of 1976, his 20-year-old mother was a sex worker who repeatedly used drugs and drank alcohol during her pregnancy. She was disowned and left on her own by her white family after they discovered Marion’s father (whose identity was unknown) was Black. Marion’s mother’s many boyfriends helped her abuse drugs and alcohol while they hurt her son. One of her first boyfriends repeatedly beat Marion to make him stop crying as a small boy. The man left loaded guns all over the house, which Marion often picked up and once shot while he was a toddler. Their house was cold and dirty and his mother’s boyfriend left his urine in water bottles all over the rooms. It wasn’t until the man held Marion’s mother at gunpoint while the little boy watched did she leave him. The second man she dated provided her with more influential paraphernalia and while they were under the influence, Marion was hit twice by cars after leaving the house to search for food. His own grandfather beat him multiple times with a leather belt because the boy was mixed race and he was constantly made fun of by classmates for his identity. However, Marion’s teachers referred to him as a “sweet, sweet boy with so much potential.” After he ran away at age 12 once he realized the man who abused him and threatened him with a knife wasn’t his father, Marion grew up on the streets and learned how to survive by way of crime.
Marion Wilson never had a chance from the moment he entered the world. His destiny was determined by his race, socioeconomic status, and lack of love and parental support. Had he been allowed to just be a boy with a caring and loving family, Marion probably wouldn’t have been in the situation that sent him to his grave. But the state of Georgia didn’t care about Marion and instead, they executed him. Before he was killed, Marion said “I ain’t never took a life in my life. I love y’all forever. Death can’t stop it. Can’t nothing stop it.” Marion only ever knew a life of pain, suffering, and injustice. I hope we never stop fighting to create a more peaceful and kind world without prisons and executions where kids don’t have the same experiences as Marion and maybe, then we’ll find peace.