So…according to our old pal Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw:
You’ve got to earn your way into that electric chair or on that gurney. They’ve done these acts and they’ve given up their right to live. Essentially, you kill 7 people, you’re not a human being, I’m sorry. You kill 7 people, you’ve given up the title of human being and you deserve whatever you get. Let me repeat that: you deserve whatever you get.
The problem is that this is simultaneously wrong, unconstitutional and unAmerican. For starters, under our country’s rule of law, you don’t give up your rights to a jury trial, to protection from “cruel and unusual punishment,” from double jeopardy, or anything else specified in our constitution or laws, no matter how heinous your crime was. You certainly don’t give up the right to “the title of human being,” certainly not in a legal sense.
By the way, Dick Saslaw might not be aware of any of the facts around the death penalty, or more likely he just doesn’t give a rat’s hindquarters, but according to the ACLU:
The color of a defendant and victim’s skin plays a crucial and unacceptable role in deciding who receives the death penalty in America. People of color have accounted for a disproportionate 43 % of total executions since 1976 and 55 % of those currently awaiting execution…
While white victims account for approximately one-half of all murder victims, 80% of all Capital cases involve white victims. Furthermore, as of October 2002, 12 people have been executed where the defendant was white and the murder victim black, compared with 178 black defendants executed for murders with white victims.
For many years reports from around the country have found that a pervasive racial prejudice in the application of the death penalty exists…
…Prosecutors have unfettered discretion in deciding which cases become capital cases, seeking the death penalty in approximately 1 percent of all capital eligible cases. Notably among the 38 states that allow the death penalty, approximately 98% of the prosecutors are white.
Of course, Dick Saslaw probably doesn’t care about any of this, but it happens to be the reality of how capital punishment is administered in this country: uneven justice at best, racist at worst.
Finally, I’d just point out that with Donald McEachin’s likely departure from Democratic leadership in the Virginia State Senate, and with the failure to hold and/or take back the Senate on Dick Saslaw’s watch, it’s a great time for Senate Democrats to clean house and start fresh with a new leadership team. I’d remind everyone that Saslaw’s also the guy who, back in 2014, argued in crude language that ethics laws are unnecessary and irrelevant. According to Saslaw, the problem isn’t whether we have ethics laws or not, it’s electing people with a “computer chip in their head that’s not working, telling them the difference between right and wrong…and there’s no laws that you can pass…that would fix that…you couldn’t write a law to stop any of that.” Oh, and Saslaw adds for good measure: “hell, we’ve got laws on the books – bank robbery, murder, armed robbery, embezzlement – and people still do it…because…they don’t know the difference between right and wrong.” Of course, by that “logic,” I guess Saslaw would argue that laws against “bank robbery, murder, armed robbery, embezzlement” are also unnecessary and irrelevant, since if that “computer chip in [your] head” is faulty, then there’s nothing that will deter you. In the case of murderers, maybe you literally DO have a faulty computer chip in your head, since according to Saslaw you’re not a human being, so maybe you’re a robot? android? blade runner replicant?
Seriously, though, this guy has been an embarrassment for so long, why on earth do Democrats keep him around? And no, don’t tell me it’s because he raises a lot of money, because: a) he blows most of that money with incredibly bone-headed political moves (e.g., throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars at an unwinnable race in a 2:1 Cooch district); b) that money would largely come to anyone in the position of Senate Minority Leader; c) isn’t this the root of the corruption (e.g., Dominion Power buying the legislature) that Saslaw says is not about laws but about faulty/missing “computer chips” in people’s heads? C’mon Senate Dems, hasn’t this guy done enough damage already? Dump him!