Patrick B. McGuigan
Actress Susan Sarandon has long opposed capital punishment.
However, her activism has intensified and become more focused as she seeks to stop or delay the scheduled September 16 execution of Richard E. Glossip.
In an email exchange in August,The City Sentinel asked Sarandon to explain what sparked her interest in the issue. She replied:
“The more I learned about our broken judicial system -- how badly, arbitrarily and capriciously we apply the death penalty, how racist it is, how it fails to deter crime and how it fails to give closure to victims’ families -- I found it to be one of the most wasteful and inhumane practices we embrace.
“State sanctioned murder uses taxpayers’ money -- a lot of it -- to house, isolate and eventually eliminate citizens. So anyone who pays taxes is involved in the death penalty.
“Philosophically, it never made sense to me to kill people as a means to put an end to killing. Violence never solves anything and it bothers me what it says about us as a society.
“We as a nation are in a horrible club with countries like North Korea, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, China and Iran. I believe we are better than that. My God is a loving, not wrathful, God.”
This question was also posed: Although the U.S. Constitution allows for the death penalty, I know you'd like to see it abolished in our country. Imagine you have a couple of hundred words in which to persuade a typical Oklahoman to oppose the penalty. What would you say?
Sarandon answered, “You mention the US Constitution allowing for the death penalty, but eighteen states as well as at District of Columbia have all found the death penalty to be unconstitutional.
“Basically, the death penalty diverts funds from schools, infrastructure, creating new jobs and affordable housing. It's riddled with mistakes, witness 150-plus exonerated nationwide and 10 men in Oklahoma.
“Also, it takes 15 years on average to execute a person on death row, so it’s a painfully long, drawn out road to any sort of perceived justice.”
Wrapping up the exchange, which first appeared on The City Sentinel website and print edition, Ms. Sarandon was asked what she might say to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin if she had the opportunity to speak to her directly about the scheduled Glossip execution. She commented:
“It's very clear in the case of Richard Glossip that we are dealing with a flawed system that allows a murderer to live life in a medium security prison while Richard, who has no motive or evidence linking him to the murder and no previous record of any kind, to be on death row.
“The only thing linking Richard Glosssip to the crime is the testimony of a scared 19-year-old named Justin Sneed who didn't have a lawyer.
Mr. Sneed didn't even mention Richard in his first few statements. Then after being interrogated by police on a video, you can see the deal for life being brokered as long as Mr. Sneed implicates someone else.
“None of this was presented at Richard's two trials and so now he sits waiting for his life to end on September 16.
“The people of Oklahoma need to know that they are killing an innocent man, or at least a man who is innocent beyond a reasonable doubt, and that they have the right to ask Governor Fallin for a stay, not clemency; just the chance to give this man a decent hearing.
“Oklahoma has been waiting 17 years to kill him, surely another 60 days is negligible when a man's life hangs in the balance.”