chapter  8
34 Pages

Non-complicity and abolitionism

From fugitive slaves to lethal injections
ByBharat Malkani

This chapter discusses that death penalty abolitionists can draw inspiration from how the slavery abolitionists responded to the pro-slavery backlash in the context of fugitive slaves. The anti-death penalty efforts to practically interfere with the machinery of death, most notably by preventing authorities from acquiring the drugs needed for lethal injections, has so far proven to be something of double-edged sword. On the one hand, it has led to a decline in executions, it has brought the medical profession into abolitionist circles, and it has kept the issue of the death penalty in the spotlight. On the other hand, the pro-death penalty lobby has adopted measures – particularly constitutionalization of death penalty in Oklahoma – that will stifle further abolitionist attempts. When abolitionists draw attention to the rush towards executions, and to botched executions, they are implicitly judging these processes against the requirement that society and the legal system act with dignity, and with respect for the dignity of others.