Help this blog survive--and keep it ad-free--by buying one of my books, below right.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Today's "Death Penalty Song": Springsteen Visits Death Row

As a longtime music maven (former editor at Crawdaddy etc.) and author of a new e-book probing the death penalty in the USA (Dead Reckoning), I thought it would be apt for me to post a video here every day with a song illustrating or commenting on executions in America.   Today:  Bruce Springsteen's "Dead Man Walking."  I should note that the first time I set foot in a prison it was with Bruce in December 1972, and the prison was Sing Sing.   See the first four picks in this series -- from Billie Holiday, Johnny Cash, The Band etc. --  elsewhere on this blog. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Herzog Hits Death Penalty in New Film -- And Interview

You may have read something recently about an upcoming documentary by the great Werner Herzog on a murder in Texas and the execution (under Rick Perry's watch) of one of the convicted perpetrators.  In the Abyss has been screened at the Toronto Film Festival and elsewhere.  Now here's a one-minute, eloquent statement by the director on why he is against all state killing, everywhere, every time.   For much more on this subject (and statements by other famous artists), see my new e-book Dead Reckoning.

Today's Death Penalty Song: Billie and "Strange Fruit"

As a longtime music maven (former editor at Crawdaddy etc.) and author of a new e-book probing the death penalty in the USA (Dead Reckoning), I thought it would be apt for me to post a video here every day with a song illustrating or commenting on executions in America. See the first three picks elsewhere on this blog.  Today: simply one of the greatest songs, and performances, of the century: Billie Holiday live, doing "Strange Fruit."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Today's "Death Penalty Song": Call up The Band

As a longtime music maven (former editor at Crawdaddy etc.) and author of a new e-book probing the death penalty in the USA (Dead Reckoning),  I thought it would be apt for me to post a video here every day with a song illustrating or commenting on executions in America.   Kicked off this week (see elsewhere on blog)  Johnny Cash doing Nick Cave's "Mercy Seat," then an amazing performance of Phil Ochs'  "Iron Lady" by Diamanda Galás. And now, the classic "Long Black Veil" by The Band -- rare footage from their prime, maybe 1969.

Next Execution -- Wednesday in Florida -- Tests New Lethal Chemicals

UPDATE:  As of 5:30 pm, the execution is delayed, pending some response from U.S. Supreme Court.  The Miami Herald, and then other Florida papers, reported that the execution had been completed, then retracted their stories.  Massive media fail.  Here's the Herald's retraction.

UPDATE 2:  U.S. Supreme Court denies stays, execution -- and test of new chemical cocktail -- presumably going forward.

UPDATE 3:  Valle killed at 7:14 p.m.  Unless the Florida media got it wrong again.  As far as we know, execution went as planned, with new lethal cocktail performing its killing function as planned.

UPDATE 4:  Here's full report on the execution from the Miami Herald.  Compared to the Troy Davis case, very few protests, not much blog or Twitter commentary.  True, Davis may have been innocent, and Valle likely a "cop killer."  But relative silence odd --  if the principle is that the state should kill no one.  (See my new book.)

EARLIER:  The next execution in the USA is set for today, at 4 p.m., with a state-ordered killing in Raiford,  Florida,  of Manuel Valle, age 61.  Valle was convicted of killing one highway patrol officer and wounding another -- 33 years ago.  It would be the first execution in the state since February 2010.   A long-shot appeal has been filed at the U.S. Supreme Court. The daughter of the murder victim responded to news of the final date for the execution by saying: "Woo Hoo!"

The execution is drawing added interest as a kind of "test" of a new execution "cocktail" of chemicals.   Executions in several states have been slowed by questions about effectiveness of the chemicals, and protests by activists led to a leading supplier refusing to continue to send lethal chemicals to death rows.  Interesting piece here on a noted doctor trying to stop this "test."  (The state Supreme Court today ruled against him.)

Now the head of the Danish company that supplied one of the chemicals to Florida has written  Gov. Rick  Scott protesting its use.  From The Guardian: "Doctors and legal experts warn that pentobarbital is untested and could inflict extreme suffering on prisoners as they die. In his letter to Scott, Staffan Schuberg wrote that the use of his company's drugs in executions in Florida "contradicts everything Lundbeck is in business to do – provide therapies that improve people's lives."

Lawyers are scrambling with three different appeals, raising issues about the drug cocktail, the quality of Valle's original defense, the fact he never did have a final clemency hearing, and the claim that 33 years on death row amounts to "cruel and unusual punishment" or even, by European standards, "torture."   A new Guardian story updates it all. 

See my new e-book, Dead Reckoning: Executions in America,  for a lengthy probe of current execution practices, and much more.  It's just $2.99 this week.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Your Daily Death Penalty Song: Today, Phil Ochs and Diamanda Galas Meet the "Iron Lady"

As a longtime music maven (former editor at Crawdaddy etc.) and author of a new e-book probing the death penalty in the USA (Dead Reckoning),  I thought it would be apt for me to post a video here every day with a song illustrating or commenting on executions in America.   Kicked of yesterday with Johnny Cash doing Nick Cave's "Mercy Seat." Now, an amazing performance of Phil Ochs'  "Iron Lady" (that would be the electric chair) by Diamanda Galás.