September 17, 1787. Philadelphia. Delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed their proposed constitution.*
September 17, every year (since 2004). The United States. Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.**
September 17, 2020. Lucasville, Ohio. John Drummond to be executed.***
Because what better way is there to honor the Constitution than by killing someone?
Drummond was convicted and sentenced to die for the aggravated murder of Jiyen Dent, Jr., a three-month-old child on March 24, 2003. A drive-by shooting. Tragic. And so.
I've several times here quoted Camus:
What then is capital punishment but the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal's deed, however calculated it may be, can be compared? For there to be an equivalence, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal, who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a horrible death on him, and who from that moment onward had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not encountered in private life.And I've noted that Camus was wrong. There are worse monsters. But it's not supposed to be a competition.
John Drummond has been on death row now for some 13 years. He's had at least two previous execution dates, though his lawyers, at least, knew they weren't real dates. Whether he knew? Whether he understood?
This one, though, is real. In a little over four years a group of prison guards will tie him to a table, stick needles in his arms, and pump some drug into his body that will kill him.
They'll do it in front of witnesses who will carefully watch the murder. Some will likely cry. Others grimace. Perhaps one will throw up. A couple will take notes. Perhaps others will smile. Maybe a fist bump. Really, there's no telling how folks will react to watching a man be put to death.
There will be, outside the prison in Lucasville, a handful of protestors. They will hold signs. They will hold hands. There will be prayer. Perhaps song.
Or, of course, maybe not.
Here in Ohio we haven't actually executed anyone since Dennis McGuire in January 2014. And although there are we others with dates sooner than Drummond's, it's not clear what will happen to any of them.
For one thing, we don't have the drugs. And can't seem to find them. The General Assembly passed a special law so that compounding pharmacies could make the drugs and keep it a secret. That would encourage them, the legislature said. Turns out that wasn't so. For whatever odd reasons, Ohio's druggists - even the ones who manufacture to order - don't want to be in the business of abetting state murder. Damn!
And then there's the problem that Ohio's death penalty law is unconstitutional. One common pleas judge said so. Others are being asked to weigh in on the question. There's a case in an appellate court now. Will we kill while waiting for a definitive ruling? At least one of the men with a serious execution date has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to call a halt until the question is resolved - which makes sense, but who knows.
Because four years is a long time. And Drummond may yet have issues. He will have a clemency hearing before the Parole Board. And then the Governor - whoever that will be - will get to decide whether to stop the killing.
After four more years.
Drummond was 26 when he arrived on death row. He's 39 now. They plan to kill him when he's 43.
Whether they do or not, it won't bring Jiyen Dent, Jr. back. That tragedy will remain no matter what.
Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
* It didn't actually become The Constitution of the United States until it was ratified.
** By law. Title 36 of the United States Code, Section 106.