But Alabama is one the few states where the execution process isn’t publicly available. If someone is sentenced to death, there’s no way of knowing how the state will go about doing it. They say it’s confidential. All we know for sure is which drugs they used the last time they killed someone, but who knows what the entire process includes or if it’s changed in the past several months.
Tabitha Isner, a progressive activist and ordained minister who ran for Congress in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District (and lost) in 2018, wanted to get that information nearly two years ago. She had good reason to want to know what’s going on as she’s very much opposed to the death penalty. One way to show how cruel it can be is by pointing to the actual protocols in place.
When she filled out the public records request, it asked for a reason. So she said she wanted to pray about it.
Next to “Proposed Use of Records” she wrote: “As a member of the clergy, I feel a spiritual obligation to pray over executions. To do this most effectively, I need to have a detailed understanding of how executions are carried out.”
The state could have just denied the request without further comment. That would’ve been problematic on its own, but they could have done that.
Instead, state officials took Isner to court. They deposed her for nearly two hours, asking her about her request under oath. The state’s Supreme Court has said asking why people want certain public records is permissible as long as the questioning isn’t meant to dissuade people from having access to the records.
In an opinion column for AL.com, Kyle Whitmire went through the deposition (which is now online) and points out the absurd questioning the state used to basically block Isner from getting the records.
It involved all kinds of absurd theological arguments, like asking Isner why God would need to see the execution protocol if God is truly omniscient.
Q: But certainly the God described in those scriptures is an omniscient God?
Isner: God is often described in scripture as omniscient.
Q: Which means knows all things, if I got my Latin right?
Q: And so if God hears our prayers, all prayers, and God knows all things, God would — God would know the details of these protocols that you want to find out about under that theory. You agree with that?
Isner: Yes, I think God knows how people are killed.
It’s ironic that an Alabama attorney is essentially making a case against prayer. If God knows all, then we have no need to ask God for intervention. It would be funnier if the lawyer’s goal wasn’t to thwart Isner from seeing the records.
He also asked her questions about her views on abortion — as if those had anything to do with the request.
She still hasn’t received the protocol. Neither have various media outlets, though many have tried.
“Even if you support the death penalty, surely you don’t support someone having to defend their religious beliefs under oath to make a request like this,” she said.
Her faith is irrelevant here. The public has a right to know how the state is murdering people, and the state, for whatever reason, refuses to make public what should be public. For once, religion was a tool that state officials used against someone because it served a greater purpose of blocking transparency. It’s truly a messed up system.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Dana for the link)