Monday, July 14, 2014

Soul Circus by George P. Pelecanos (Little Brown 2003)

“Like Granville Oliver?” said Quinn. “That just a job to you, too?”

Only Janine knew the truth: that Strange had been responsible for the death of Granville Oliver’s father, back in 1968. That Oliver had spared the lives of two killers at Strange’s request, in exchange for Strange’s help, less than a year ago.

Strange looked into his drink. “It’s more complicated than that.”

“You were making a living before you took Oliver’s case. You didn’t have to take it.”

“I know you think it’s wrong.”

“Damn right I do. Piece of shit killed or had killed, what, a dozen people. He infected his community and he ruined the lives of all the young men he took on, and their families.”

“Most likely he did.”

“Then why shouldn’t he die?”

“It’s not him I’m working for. For me, it comes down to one thing: I don’t believe any government should be putting its own citizens to death. Here in D.C. we voted against it, and the government’s just gonna say, We don’t give a good goddamn what you want, we’re gonna execute this man anyway. And that’s not right.”

“Maybe it will make some kid who’s thinking about getting into the life think twice.”

“That’s the argument. But in most civilized countries where they don’t have the death penalty, they’ve got virtually no murders. ’Cause they’ve got the guns off the street, they’ve got little real poverty, and they got citizens who get involved in raising their own kids. The same people who are pro–death penalty are the ones want to protect the rights of gun manufacturers to export death into the inner cities. Hell, we got an attorney general sold on capital punishment and at the same time he’s in the pocket of the NRA.”

“Well, yeah, but he doesn’t think people should dance, either.”

“I’m serious, Terry, shit doesn’t even make any sense. Look, an active death row doesn’t deter crime; ain’t nobody ever proved that. It’s all about some politicians lookin’ to be tough so they can get reelected the next time around. And that makes it bullshit to me. I’d do this for anyone who was facing that sentence.”

“What about McVeigh?”

“You know what they do in prison to people who kill kids? McVeigh got off easy, man; that boy just went to sleep. They should’ve put him in with the general population for as long as he could live. Trust me, wouldn’t have been long. But they did him to get the ball rolling on this wave of executions we got coming. Wasn’t nobody gonna object, for real, to McVeigh’s death. A week later, they put that cat Garza down, and nobody even blinked an eye. Now that the ice got broke, next thing, a line of black and brown men gonna go into that chamber in Terre Haute, and bet it, it’ll barely make the news.”

“Here we go.”

“Look here, Terry. Out of the twenty men they got on federal death row right now, sixteen are black or Hispanic.”

“Could be they did the crimes.”

“And it could be they got substandard representation. Could be they found a death-qualified jury that’s more likely to find guilt than the other kind. Could be the prosecutors used those Willie Horton images to convince the jury that what they had was another nigger needed to be permanently took off the street. And I’m not even gonna talk about where these men came from, the opportunities and guidance they didn’t have when they were coming up. You gonna sit there and tell me that this isn’t about class or race?”

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