On Feb. 19, 2009, Edward N. Bell, 43, is scheduled to be executed for the murder of Sgt. Ricky L. Timbrook in Winchester, VA. However, Bell maintains his innocence and has garnered the support of many, including the European Union and Amnesty International.
There is speculation that Bell may suffer from mild retardation. Amnesty contends that Bell’s conviction was based largely on circumstantial evidence, and representatives of the EU pointed out that as Bell is a Jamaican national, “the Virginian authorities failed to notify Mr. Bell of his right to contact a Jamaican Consulate for assistance at the time of his arrest.”
Besides the question of Bell’s innocence, there is also the question of the role of race. Bell, who is black, was convicted of killing a white police officer by an all white jury. The races involved should not matter, but studies have shown that legal courts think otherwise. A 2005 Santa Clara Law Review study revealed that in California murder trials, those who murdered whites were three times more likely to receive the death penalty than those who murdered blacks, and four times more likely to receive the death penalty than those who murdered Latinos. Although this study examines cases in California only, nationwide states’ records have revealed to show similar results, placing greater value on whites’ lives than on the lives of minorities.
While the death of Sgt. Timbrook is truly lamentable, why should Bell be given the death sentence when others have been convicted of more gruesome acts or with more victims involved, and have received at most life imprisonment?
The debate about the death penalty will potentially never be resolved, and while states’ legal systems vary, there needs to be consistency and care when issuing the death penalty–a convicted criminal should not have to face execution simply because he or she chose to commit the crime in the wrong state.
If you would like to show support for Edward N. Bell and ask for clemency, please sign the citizen petition.