In America, where I live, these are the dying days, and not just of the Trump administration. Take December 9th when 3,000 succumbed to COVID-19, but also to neglect, to fecklessness, to structural discrimination and misinformation and bad luck. More would follow. Or try December 10. While the virus ripped across the heartland, and through the cells nearby, Brandon Bernard was killed by lethal injection at the Federal Prison in Terre Haute Indiana. Barely 18 in 2004, he had participated in the murder of two youth ministers on the Fort Hood army base, but he had not pulled the trigger, nor had he been present throughout the crime. Even the prosecutor in his case had argued in the years following Bernard’s trial that he was not “the worst of the worst” and should be spared execution.
A day later, federal officials took the life of Alfred Bourgeois, who had brutally abused and eventually caused the death of his two-year-old daughter. Bourgeois had shown evidence throughout his life of difficulties in mental functioning, and his IQ hovered around the borderline of intellectual disability. He should at least be given a chance to establish in court that he met the test for disability, Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor had argued. She did not prevail. These were deaths of state violence, judicially sanctioned and hurried through the killing floor by Donald Trump and Bill Barr ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration.