One day after enacting a near-complete abortion ban, the “pro-life” state of Alabama has executed someone who had intellectual disabilities.
Michael Brandon Samra was convicted for helping his friend Mark Duke kill his entire family. Duke had planned the killings because his dad wouldn’t let him use his truck. Despite Duke being the architect of the quadruple murder, his death sentence was ultimately overturned because he was only 16 at the time. Samra, who was 19, wasn’t spared.
Samra invoked religion as he was executed by the state. His attorney held out hope that Governor Kay Ivey would extend her supposed “pro-life” beliefs to death penalty victims as well, but the hypocrisy remained in place.
Strapped to a gurney with his arms extended, Samra made a profession of Christian faith before the drugs flowed.
“I would like to thank Jesus for everything he has done for me,” Samra said. He ended with the word, “Amen…”
Steven Sears, one of the attorneys, said the inmate received a denial of clemency from Gov. Kay Ivey’s office several hours earlier Thursday. Sears said he had gained hope on Wednesday when Ivey talked about the sanctity of life in signing a bill to virtually outlaw abortion in the state.
“Today my hopes were dashed. I guess she didn’t mean it,” he said after the execution.
Samra’s attorney is right to call out a governor and a political party that celebrates the “sanctity of life” while still embracing the death penalty. There are plenty of ways to punish convicted criminals without executing them. The contradiction has also been noted by activists.
Alabama executed a convicted murderer on Thursday, a day after the state enacted a near-total ban on abortions — two actions on contentious social issues that often have people across the political spectrum invoking the sanctity of human life.
“It’s a contradiction that I always observed,” said Hannah Cox, the national manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, an advocacy group. Approving of executions, Ms. Cox said, is “a stance that cheapens the pro-life argument.”
That’s all the more true when the criminal in this case, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, happened to be a “teenager with significant cognitive impairments but no significant criminal history.”
Starting in early childhood, family members observed that Brandon was developmentally slow and suffered tremors in his hands, and was in special education most of his life before dropping out of high school. Mental health experts found prior to trial that Brandon had a low IQ and recommended neurological testing after finding evidence of brain dysfunction.
But the appointed lawyers did not hire or consult with an expert in intellectual disability or obtain the recommended brain scans.
Instead of investigating evidence of brain dysfunction, trial counsel repeatedly told the jury that Brandon was a follower of Satan and his involvement in the crime was related to his membership in a Satan-worshipping gang — allegations so baseless and prejudicial that even the prosecutor recognized they could not be used against Brandon at trial.
By that logic, we should be debating the length and nature of his punishment. But to have him executed in the name of “justice”? The people who believe that have no business calling themselves “pro-life.”