Claudine Clark

The forgotten victims

February 23, 2023, will be remembered as a dark day for the state of Florida and its justice system. On that day, the state executed Donald Dillbeck. However, Dillbeck’s execution was not simply an act of execution, but a sick spectacle created by local politicians and media. When you read all the media coverage of this and other executions, it really seems like the goal is to make it an entertaining spectacle, when you look at the way everything was orchestrated, it’s just how sick it is!

Let’s put things in context: a human being wakes up knowing that he is going to be murdered at 6PM this day, to serve the political interests of a group of people who have only one goal: to enrich themselves with money and power, not hesitating to pile up corpses to build their stairway to glory. During this last day, Donald Dillbeck’s every move was recorded, from his activities, to his movements, to his last meal, and this information was then broadcasted in the media for all to read. But what is wrong with us? How can we be entertained by reading about the last day of a death row inmate?

But it doesn’t stop there, no, once this man is taken to the death chamber where he will lose his life, he is strapped to a gurney, infused with surgical precision for the sole purpose of preparing him to be murdered. Once the last details of the show are settled, the witnesses take their places. Yes, the morbid obsession culminated in the room where he was executed, where the witnesses witnessed his murder as if they were attending a tourist attraction. In 1834 Ambroise Rendu wrote in his Traité de morale “Revenge is a confession of pain, it is the sad pleasure of a small mind and a sick soul. There is greatness and nobility in imitating this proud lion who listens without any concern to the barking of a pack of small dogs.” There are no truer words than these, and the death penalty is the frankest expression of the baseness of our civilization.

Back to the last day of Donald Dillbeck’s life, once infused and staged the show can begin. A combination of 3 products, Etomidate to sedate, Rocuronium bromide to paralyze and potassium acetate to stop the heart will be successively injected into the veins of this man, after he has pronounced his last words. Florida is the only state to use this experimental and controversial cocktail, which in no way guarantees a pain-free death. But then the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee a prisoner sentenced to capital punishment “a painless death”. Yet popular support for the death penalty remains high in Florida, reflecting a twisted and sick society that tolerates the torture and execution of human beings in its name.

By Bicanski, Copyright Free

Some of that society is struggling to oppose it, but more needs to be done, WE can do more; Take the example of the laboratories that “oppose” the use of their drugs in an execution. To do this, these laboratories simply release a statement to affirm their opposition. Why don’t these laboratories simply make sure that their drugs are not in the hands of people who will misuse them? Why didn’t these companies lobby legislators to ensure that laws such as SB1204, “Providing an exemption from public records requirements for information or records that identify or could reasonably lead to the identification of any person or entity that participates in an execution”, were not passed? For the same reasons that the state commits these murders, corruption and money.

In the midst of all this are what I will call the forgotten victims. The families and relatives of the executed prisoners, who will have to survive the death of a family member, murdered by the state in inhumane circumstances, and who are almost not allowed to mourn. The lack of respect of the media, politicians and part of the population towards these women and men is a real steamroller that falls on families destroyed by an execution.

Hateful comments on social media are commonplace, but they take on a particularly cruel dimension when the families of executed prisoners are the target. Imagine being in mourning after the loss of a loved one, and having to read public abusive comments under a photo of her/him on social media. A lack of respect that also extends to the media and politicians, who often do not bother to mention the relatives of executed death row inmates.

This disregard for the families of death penalty victims is in some ways a second blow to people already broken by execution. Politicians, justice leaders, and even the media do not seem to take into account that these people have also suffered a tragic loss and deserve to be treated with respect and compassion. And worse, they brag about it publicly, like Attorney General Ashley Moody announcing on a public channel in front of thousands of people that justice has been served without uttering a word of compassion for Donald Dillbeck’s loved ones. This same Attorney General concluded a few weeks before that Donald Dillbeck could have avoided execution because of the brain damage related to his fetal alcohol syndrome if and only if his lawyers had raised this argument at an earlier stage of his case.

So this is what the state of Florida’s regard for human life comes down to? Dates, numbers, administrative procedures. Of course the law is meant to be obeyed, of course prisons exist for a reason, but when it comes to taking someone’s life and hypocritically acknowledging that if things had been done differently that person’s life could have been spared is absolutely insane! It is abhorrent for the court to point to Dillbeck’s inability to prove his brain damage, we know the system, we know that prisoners are tied hand and foot and that their defense is hanging by a thread especially in the first stages when the lawyers appointed are either incompetent or lacking funds. We also know how difficult it is to obtain a medical diagnosis and expertise in a capital case, especially when one does not have the means! Yes, in this icy vengeance, no consideration is given to the victims of the state.

Donald Dillbeck was executed on February 23, 2023, leaving behind him people who loved him, people guilty of a single crime, that of having continued or learned to love a human being beyond his situation. And for having given him this love, they are today condemned to suffer in silence and to be judged for the love they gave him. Like murder, the death penalty also leaves deep scars on those who have been indirectly affected by its application. It creates new victims and fosters hatred in our society, showing an archaic pattern to the younger generation. It gives the families of the victims a very short-lived relief, which will dissipate as quickly as an autumn fog, giving way to a gnawing guilt, which will never leave them and will stain the memory of their lost loved one with blood. Only the real criminals take advantage of this, the crooked politicians for whom everything I just mentioned is of no importance, ready to do anything in their frantic race for fame and money, ending up losing themselves among the shreds of the little dignity they have left.

Whatever one thinks of it, the death penalty is an archaic and barbaric practice that cannot be justified in the name of justice or deterrence. The United States must join the many other countries that have abolished the death penalty and end this heinous and inhumane practice.

About the Author
Claudine Clark is president/founder of the French Coalition Against the Death Penalty. An abolitionist, paralegal and human rights consultant, her passion stems from her origins as the granddaughter of Warsaw ghetto survivors. She defends human values of forgiveness and tolerance through numerous actions.
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