When Rodney Reed’s case started gaining more attention, I wrote about him, his innocence, and how he’s going to be murdered in seven days if SCOTUS or Texas Governor Greg Abbott don’t stop the execution. Not long after I pressed send on that post, more articles were written and published about this innocent man who will be legally euthanized by the state and the campaign to save Rodney Reed spread like wildfire. Bipartisan coalitions of Texas state lawmakers, congresspeople like Ted Cruz, celebrities, and organizers have all urged Abbott to delay the execution until DNA evidence proves that he raped and murdered Stacy Stites. And while I’m overjoyed that Rodney’s case has gained such widespread attention, I’ve struggled with the fact that society now likes to pick and choose who should be saved from these killings.
Tonight, Ray Cromartie was executed in Georgia despite the fact he maintained his innocence for 25 years. Barely a peep was made over this innocent man’s fight against injustice, while the petition to save Rodney’s life has reached around 3 million signatures. This disparity reinforces my idea that the masses pick certain people for whom they advocate instead of working to dismantle the systems that brutalize and murder thousands every year. Ray Cromartie was innocent and Rodney Reed is innocent, but both have faced and are approaching murder dungeons in which they’re strapped to a gurney and injected with poison while people watch on.
When discussing Rodney Reed’s case, Ted Cruz tweeted “This is a remarkable bipartisan coalition. Having spent yrs in law enforcement, I believe capital punishment can be justice for the very worst murderers, but if there is credible evidence there’s a real chance the defendant is innocent, that evidence should be weighed carefully.” What he’s essentially saying is if Rodney is innocent, his life should be spared and if he’s guilty, he should be put to death. Celebrities like Gigi Hadid have made similar statements that because Rodney is innocent, he should be free. While I agree with that point, I have such glaring issues with everything these public figures have said about cases like Rodney’s.
First, they tend to pick one person out of the masses who has faced injustice and who hasn’t done anything bad enough to warrant scrutiny, and they advocate heavily for that someone. For someone like Rodney Reed, this type of support is crucial in guaranteeing public support for a person whose case has seen as much racism and maltreatment as he has. Second, they ignore the systemic issues that affect people all across the country on death row and instead of fighting for the abolition of the death penalty, they want to save just this one person from it. In contrast, their voices are lost in the crowd when it comes to those who actually have committed crimes and are going to be killed by the state. As soon as the person isn’t “innocent” and becomes a murderer or a rapist, their life is no longer worth saving, and I am baffled that this is the case. Executions are state-sanctioned murder. They consist of injecting people with cocktails of drugs with unknown effects that torture them until they’re screaming and writhing and die. No matter what any person has done, and I say this with my whole being, no one should ever be executed. States should never have the power to take someone’s life away. Famed lawyer and author Bryan Stevenson often says we must think not “Do people deserve to die for the crimes they commit?” but rather “Do we deserve to kill?” I wrote an entire post about the reasons why the death penalty should be abolished because I think we as a society need to stop advocating only for the people we pick because they “deserve” it and instead spend our time working to dismantle systems like the prison industrial complex and state and federal executions that perpetuate violence and murder against primarily Black and Brown people.
I once wrote “The modern era of executions began in the 1970s and since that time, 154 people who were executed executed, have been proven innocent after their deaths. 1,400 people have been executed within that time, which means, for every nine people killed, one innocent person was exonerated. With that astonishingly high rate of error, approximately 4.1% of people on death row were innocent of all crimes.” Ray Cromartie was one of these innocent people in the system and his life was taken by the state of Georgia. Rodney’s life hangs in the balance in Texas until November 20th. Both men should have lived 100 years free and happy and healthy. They were/are innocent and they deserve to live their lives as they are. However, those who aren’t “innocent” should also be afforded the same grace and mercy. If we can acknowledge that executions are preposterous practices for the innocent, they also must be for the guilty. It’s time everyone who has rallied around Rodney Reed do the same for people like Ray Cromartie and the rest of the death row population until we can finally end state-sanctioned murders forever.