Any man’s death diminishes me.
— John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occcasions
One of the things that will be remembered about the Trump tenure is the high number of people who through his good offices are no longer numbered among the living. They fall into two categories-those who have died because of his braggadocio and inattention to facts, and those who have died because of his malevolence. In both cases the beneficiaries of his actions are dead.
In presiding over the deaths of the thousands who have died during the last 12 months, the trump was ably assisted by the coronavirus. It outsmarted the trump each time the trump announced that the fight against the virus had turned the corner and posed no further threat.
Those pronouncements were, as we now know, wrong. The virus has killed approximately 300,000 people in the United States and that number is increasing at the rate of one new death every 30 seconds. Apparently aware of the fact that the virus was proving on a daily basis that it did not enjoy the same happy relationship with the trump that the trump thought he enjoyed with the virus, there have been few, if any, trump references to the virus or to those whose lives have been upended by the virus since November 3.
As significant as the trump’s failed relationship with the virus has been, when considering the number of deaths for which the trump was responsible, historians will also look at those killed because of the trump’s devotion to the death penalty.
Prior to the beginning of the trump residency in the White House, the United States had not executed any resident of a federal prison for 17 years. During that 17 year period the only executions of prisoners on death row took place in states where the executed prisoner had been convicted of a state crime which, under the criminal code of the state in question, made the prisoner death penalty eligible. Thanks to the trump and his lackeys, that 17 year hiatus came to an end beginning in July of the trump’s last year living in the White House.
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The beneficiaries of the trump’s devotion to the death penalty are those whose convictions under the federal criminal justice system included a death sentence that as of last July had not yet been executed. The deferral of execution of those criminals in prior administrations was because society was weighing the propriety of using the death penalty as a way to achieve justice for wrongs committed by those on death row. Such considerations were of no moment in what passes for the mind of the trump.
Beginning in July of 2020, the year in which a majority of voters decided that the trump’s residency in the White House should come to a close, the trump concluded that inmates living at government expense on death row should suffer the same fate as he, and be required to give up their residences. In the case of residents of cells on death row, that was accomplished by enforcing the death penalty. By the time the trump is finished with his executions, 10 prisoners will have been executed in one year. The last time that many executions took place in one year was in 1896.
Between July and the time the election took place, eight inmates who had been sentenced to death and were living on death row, were executed. Following the election, and as of this writing, two more have been executed, and three more are promised the opportunity to meet their maker during the month of January and prior to the inauguration of the new president.
The five prisoners who will have been executed after November 3, had another distinction. Not only were they among the first thirteen to be executed following a 17 year lull in executions of federal prisoners, but they were the first prisoners to be executed during a unique period. That is the period following an election that, as a result of the election, gave the occupant of the White House notice that on January 20 he or she must vacate the premises. That is known as the lame duck period. As this is written three inmates have been executed during the lame duck period and in his eagerness to set new records, the trump has promised to rid society of two more death row residents before his own residency in the White House comes to an end.
The prisoners who are facing eviction and execution before January 20, 2020 have exhausted all their appeals which were quietly handled by their lawyers. They will quietly exit this world before January 20, 2021. The trump, who like the prisoners, is facing eviction, has exhausted all his appeals in the noisy fashion that might be expected of someone having the maturity of a petulant child and it is not yet clear that he has accepted the fact that he will have to vacate the White House on January 20th. Presumably, before January 20th one of his millions of worshippers will explain that to him so he will not be surprised when the moving vans arrive.