Written by Liliana Segura
On the night of June 20, the United States will mark a grim milestone: the 1,500th execution since the return of the death penalty in 1976. Forty-two-year-old Marion Wilson Jr. is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Thursday at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson. A clemency hearing will take place in Atlanta beforehand, but the execution will almost certainly proceed. The Georgia Department of Corrections announced Wilson’s last meal last week: thin-crust pizza, chicken wings, and ice cream.
If there’s nothing inherently significant about the number 1,500, it is at least a moment for reflection. The 1,000th execution in the U.S. took place amid candlelight vigils in North Carolina in 2005. Cameron Todd Willingham had been executed in Texas the previous year, for a crime many now recognize he did not commit. Then-President George W. Bush — who himself oversaw 152 executions in Texas — took the occasion to laud the death penalty, with no sense of irony, as saving “innocent lives.” Yet there were also signs of the death penalty’s decline. Earlier that year, the U.S. Supreme Court had outlawed death sentences for juvenile defendants, a historic ban already in place throughout most of the world.
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