(foto David Dickson)

lördag 8 oktober 2011

Joe Hill and Troy Davis

Is there a tradition of political and racial bias in the United States judicial system? In executing Troy Davis on september 21st 2011, the State of Georgia may have demonstrated that this is the case.

On october 1, 2011, The New York Times Topics page featured a list of articles on ”False Arrests, Convictions and Imprisonments”.
These articles about the death penalty give evidence of jurors and judges who, in their decisions, risk being driven by biases of ”race, class and politics which influence all aspects of American life”.
Do you agree that the influence of such biases has made ”discrimination and arbitrariness the hallmarks of the death penalty” in The United States of America?

A notorious case in the American history of capital punishment is that of labour activist Joe Hill, executed in Utah in 1915.
Recently new evidence has been brought to light giving strong support to those who have claimed him innocent.

Joe Hill’s case is interesting as an instance of the bias of class and politics in capital punishment. As a member of the labor union Industrial Workers of the World, Joe Hill became the target of a political and class-biased hatred emanating from a class war in the US where workers and capital owners have often been known to go far beyond the limits of law to defend their interests.

A historical incident that gives an idea of the hatred that has sometimes characterised class relations and class biases in the USA is the infamous Centralia massacre in 1919. This incident was the result of a ”conflict between the American Legion and workers who were members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or "Wobblies")”. It is is said to have resulted in ”a deep-rooted enmity between the local American Legion and the Wobblies that persisted into the 21st century” (Wikipedia).

In his novel 1919 which is the second part in his trilogy U.S.A., John Dos Passos gives a strong picture of the conflict in Centralia. On the blog ”Story of the week” you can read his whole story about the Centralia massacre. (Click this link to read, or copy it and paste into the address field http://storyoftheweek.loa.org/2011/08/paul-bunyan.html

If you know about instances of how the enmity resulting in the execution of Joe Hill in 1915 and the Centralia incident in 1919 has persisted or been resisted locally or otherwise into the 21st century, please write a comment to this blog.

My first question: is there still a political and racial bias in the judicial system of the United States?
And my second: If so - how do Americans try to come to terms with it?

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