Illustration for article titled Ayanna Presley and Other Lawmakers and Legal Experts Call for End to Death Penalty in the Wake of Nathaniel Woods Execution
Screenshot: Center for Reproductive Rights (YouTube)

The unfathomably unjust execution of Nathaniel Woods on Friday has sparked widespread outrage and scorn from activists, lawmakers and legal experts and has inspired a renewed sense of urgency in the call to abolish the death penalty.

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Woods was a criminal but he was not a murderer—a fact not even disputed by prosecutors or the actual killer—but they executed him like one all the same. His death highlights the core flaw in the use of capital punishment: while it is purported to be reserved for only the most heinous of crimes and, in this case, the killing of police officers (because apparently cops lives are of greater inherent value than that of civilians, which exposes “blue lives matter” for the absolute crock of shit that it’s always been), people can be and are put to death who are either innocent of the crimes they were convicted of, or not guilty of a crime that should be punishable by death.

So it’s no surprise when cases like Woods’ light a fire under people who have always opposed the death penalty, prompting them to spring into action in actively fighting it. And who better to lead the charge than Rep. Ayanna Pressley?

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On Friday morning, Presley took to twitter to blast the “INJUSTICE system” calling it “racist, sexist and xenophobic” and including a link to her proposed People’s Justice Guarantee legislation and a bill (H.R. 4052) which she introduced last summer to “prohibit the imposition of the death penalty for any violation of federal law, and for other purposes.”

Presley also tweeted that “A criminal legal system that centers humanity IS possible. We must mobilize & push for a more humane, safe & dignified society for all.” She concluded tweeting “The #deathpenalty has no place in a just society. Period.”

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Other congresspeople responded to Woods’ execution via Twitter, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—who is among over 30 Democrats who are co-sponsoring Presley’s bill, according to Congress.gov—and Rep. Justin Amash who left the Republican party last year and is the only non-democrat listed as a co-sponsor for H.R.4052.

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Legal experts like civil rights attorney and CNN legal analyst Areva Martin, as well as Justin Brooks—who is a professor at California Western School of Law and director of the California Innocence Project—also chimed in to denounce the execution of Woods and the death penalty in general.

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Adjunct professor at Georgetown & Touro Law Marty Tankleff thanked those who helped in the attempt to save Woods from state-sanctioned murder and vowed to continue the fight for justice reform.

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Pressley unveiled H.R. 4052 last year in an apparent response to U.S. Attorney General William Barr who announced that the Trump administration would resume the use of capital punishment for the first time in over 16 years. According to a press release by the Department of Justice, it would be used only in “bringing justice to victims of the most horrific crimes” and Barr is quoted saying that the DOJ has “sought the death penalty against the worst criminals.”

Only “the worst criminals,” huh? Tell that to Woods’ family.

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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