What Not To Wear To An Alabama Execution

What Not To Wear To An Alabama Execution

Craiyon search for 'guillotine but make it fashion'

"Justice has been served," read the statement from Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, following the July 28 execution of Joe Nathan James Jr. for the 1994 murder of young mother Faith Hall.

The statement was far less solemn than it was smug. "In the years since," he continued "Joe James has tried to blame everything and everyone in an attempt to escape the consequences of his crime. He has claimed that his highly experienced trial counsel was 'ineffective,' that his artful appellate counsel was 'deficient,' and — in a demonstration of shocking cowardice and callousness — that his victim bore the blame for her own murder."

There really wasn't any other direction he could go with it. He couldn't talk about how Hall's family will be able to sleep better at night, how the state was doing this for them, so that they could finally get closure — because her family did not want this. In fact, they repeatedly and publicly begged Marshall and Governor Kay Ivey to commute James's sentence, and were ignored.

The family asked to be there for James's final statement but were told that if they came in to hear that, they would have to stay and watch him die. "Once you're in, you're in," an Alabama Department of Corrections officer told them.

While the ADOC was not able to accommodate the wishes of the victim's family, they were able to delay the execution for three whole hours to figure out how to set up the IV line.

They also managed to find the time and energy to initially deny AL.com reporter Ivana Hrynkiw access to the execution because, they claimed, her outfit — which she had worn to executions in the past — violated their dress code, which the warden had just decided to start enforcing without notifying anyone about it. Their official execution dress code.

First they said her skirt was too short to allow her in. They could not possibly make an exception even this one time. So in order to be able to do her job, she borrowed a pair of fishing waders with suspenders that a cameraman from another outlet happened to have with him that day. Then, they said she couldn't go in because she was wearing open-toed shoes. She went to her car to get sneakers and was then, finally, let in, to watch a man die while wearing fishing waders and sneakers. So much more appropriate than a skirt that is a little short.

“From the time I started covering the criminal justice system, primarily executions, I had always been told to dress as if you’re going to a funeral,” Hrynkiw said in an interview with The New York Times. “I was just baffled because I came in looking very professional and very respectful for an event such as this, and after I had changed into this costume, it was very disrespectful.”

Corrections officers also inspected the ensemble of Associated Press reporter Kim Chandler to ensure that her outfit was acceptable to them.

It's such a deeply fucked and deeply, deeply American juxtaposition. I don't know that there is a more uniquely American take than being more offended by a woman's leg than by watching a person be murdered by your government or a more American move than to shield the delicate sensibilities of those who are watching the literal execution of a human being from the horror of some toe cleavage.

Meanwhile, in her statement about why she just had to ignore Faith Hall's family, Kay Ivey took a moment to really congratulate herself on taking a stand for victims of domestic violence.

With any execution case, I look very closely at the history, the cold-hard facts and all other information or correspondence I may receive. I also take deeply seriously the feelings and position of the victim's family and loved ones. However, we must always fulfill our responsibility to the law, to public safety and to justice. Tonight, a fair and lawful sentence was carried out, and an unmistakable message was sent that Alabama stands with victims of domestic violence.

Except she did not stand with the only living victims of that tragedy. Moreover, the assumption that every victim of domestic violence believes in the death penalty is patently offensive. Kay Ivey had Joe Nathan James Jr. executed because that is what she wanted. She is the one who bears that responsibility, not victims of domestic violence. She stands with herself, alone, we assume in a midi skirt and Wellies.

And let us not forget that Gov. Kay Ivey is more than happy to force victims of domestic violence, rape and incest to carry the children of their abusers to term, regardless of how dangerous a situation that might put them in. So, you know, she's just a real caring person.

You wanna hear one of the most depressing statistics in the world? Only 21 percent of Americans believe there are adequate safeguards in place to ensure that no innocent person will be put to death and only 35 percent of Americans actually believe that the death penalty deters crime and only 41 percent of Americans say they believe that Black people and white people are equally likely to be sentenced to death, and yet 60 percent of Americans still support the death penalty.

You know what that means? That means there are people out there who know, full well, that we execute the innocent, that the death penalty does nothing to deter crimes, and that it is racially biased and who still think it is a good idea. Who still want to keep it around.

So we can never really fool ourselves into believing capital punishment is about justice or about standing for victims — because remember, as much as prosecutors love to profess their great appreciation for "victims' rights" whenever those rights give them a pass to jack up a sentence or violate the accused's civil rights ... when victims say they don't want this, they are ignored.

Today is a tragic day for our family. We are having to relive the hurt that this caused us many years ago. We write to inform you that we have decided to not attend the execution of Mr. Joe Nathan James Jr. We've asked Governor Kay Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall to hear our voices and respect our wishes. We know they decided not to. We hoped the state wouldn't take a life simply because a life was taken and we have forgiven Mr. Joe Nathan James Jr. for his atrocities toward our family. We have relied upon our faith to get us through these dark days. Although we knew this day would come, we hoped to have our voices heard through this process. We'd like to thank State Representative Juandalyn Givan for her help and assistance by reaching out to the Governor's office. We pray that God allows us to find healing after today and that one day our criminal justice system will listen to the cries of families like ours even if it goes against what the state wishes. Our voices matter and so does the life of Mr. Joe Nathan James, Jr. — Faith Hall's family

Clearly, capital punishment, like so much of the US criminal justice system, is for entertainment purposes only.

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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