ONE YEAR LATER
Justice Is a Verb!
©Wendell Griffen, 2018
April 18, 2018
One year ago I and other members of New Millennium Church took part in a peaceful and reverent Good Friday prayer vigil outside the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion to express our moral and religious opposition to capital punishment and our solidarity with Jesus of Galilee, the leader of our faith who was put to death by crucifixion at the order of Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Palestine. We remembered that Jesus was a subject of capital punishment.
On the following Monday (April 17, 2017), the Arkansas Supreme Court permanently banned me from all civil and criminal cases involving capital punishment, the death penalty, or the method of execution in Arkansas. So last October, I filed a civil rights lawsuit against each member of the Arkansas Supreme Court in federal court.
In that lawsuit, I challenged the permanent ban issued by the justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court as a violation of my First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and freedom to exercise my religion, and my Fourteenth Amendment right to due process of law (because I was not given notice nor a hearing before it was imposed). I also challenged the permanent ban as a violation of my Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law (because it is more severe than punishment imposed to white judges who committed notorious and illegal conduct such as accepting a bribe, drunken and reckless driving, and demanding and accepting sexual favors from defendants in exchange for issuing lenient sentences). And I challenged the permanent ban because it resulted from conspiracy by the justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court and others to deprive me of the powers of my elected office based on animosity against me because I am African-American.
On April 12, 2018, the federal court ruled that my lawsuit asserts factually plausible claims that the justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court violated my rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, freedom to exercise my religion, due process of law, and equal protection under the law. The federal court also ruled that my lawsuit asserts a factually plausible claim that the permanent ban issued by the justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court resulted from an illegal civil conspiracy to deprive me of my right to equal protection under the law. Now my lawyers will uncover and expose the facts that bear out my legal claims, facts that the justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court and others are desperate to hide.
I am as committed to the rule of law today as I was a year ago, if not more so. I am as committed to holding and expressing my moral and religious opposition to the death penalty as I was a year ago, if not more so. That is why I joined other members of New Millennium Church last night (April 17, 2018) in attending another peaceful and reverent vigil and demonstration outside the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. Again, I lay on a cot in silent prayer. Again, I had my Bible. Again, I wore a button calling for an end to the death penalty.
Arkansas law makes death by lethal injection one of two alternative punishments for capital murder (the other alternative is life imprisonment without parole). I followed that law before Good Friday, 2017, and I will follow it whenever my authority to preside over capital cases is restored. I took an oath to follow the law, including laws that I consider objectionable on moral and religious grounds.
My obligation to follow the law does not compel me to agree with every law. The First Amendment to the US Constitution protects my freedom to hold and express moral and religious opposition to the death penalty, including freedom to peacefully and lawfully question the morality of state-sanctioned premeditated and deliberate killing of people who have been convicted for the premeditated and deliberate killing of other persons.
If a person who has been convicted of premeditated murder is deliberately and premeditatedly killed, we should condemn that killing as murder. Murder is wrong, even when the state hires people to do it. Anger and bloodlust are not excuses for the state to commit premeditated murder of people who have committed premeditated murder for an understandable reason. Two wrongs don’t make anything right.
That was true a year ago.
It is true a year later.