Capital punishment Edward Earl Johnson




Edward Earl Johnson was put in death row when he was eighteen. A documentary was made when he was twenty-six, called “fourteen days in May.” Edward claimed all along that he was innocent yet he was still executed. The documentary showed he had lived for eight years at the Parchment state penitentiary, Mississippi (death row.) Edward was put to death row for the attempted rape of an elderly white woman and the murder of a white Marshall. The documentary tried to show his innocence, the process of this is what this essay will be about.

The opening scenes from the documentary showed the Parchment State Penitentiary. You saw a large building inside of barbwire (sharp enough to have sliced you to bits). Inside of the building were hundreds of doors separated by metal doors. When you saw the prisoners cells, all of the prisoners were all standing with there hands reached out by which the camera tried to emphasise the point of “slavery.” You saw shots of the gas chamber, inside sat the chair Edward died in, with the belts that strapped him in. It showed most of the staff treating the prisoners like slaves, you see them working in lines digging in the fields with the staff watching over them on their horses with their whips. This just showed how little things have changed since slavery. A pep talk that the superintendent gave to workers about “off colour remarks” proves that there was racism at the Parchment Sate Penitentiary.

The documentary showed many of the interviews. The interview with Edward was long and detailed (behind bars, as was most of the interviews with him) so he could give his side of the story:
Edward said that eight years ago when he was first taken to the police station for an identification parade, the woman of the attempted rape said that she knew him and it was not him because it did not look like the guy who did it. He was then asked a few days later to take a lie detector test in Jackson which was a few miles away from his home town. According to Edward, the white Marshall’s stopped the van on a quiet country road, put a gun to his head and said that if he didn’t confess into the tape recorder, they would say they had shot him because he had tried to escape.
The way Edward said all this made him look innocent. The look on his face was distressed and he was uncomfortable. There were other interviews with Edwards fellow inmates. These interviews made them look gentle, thoughtful, intelligent people who believed in Edward’s innocence. Not one interview was with a person that claimed Edward was guilty except the superintendent. This interview was quite short. It took place in a car, so it was noisy which prevented it from having the atmosphere Edward’s interview had. Pictures of Edward made him out to be a kind, loving person who certainly did not deserve to die. The camera showed him playing chess, which indicated he was intelligent. They showed him playing basketball, which indicated he was fit and sporty. And they showed Edward with his family, which indicated he was a loving man who was devoted to his family.

All the time the documentary was putting a message across which basically said that a whole community was being bullied, that all black people were oppressed and oppression was built into their consciences.

As the last few days of Edward’s life came closer, the camera crew showed more detail about the way he was feeling and the process of the legal killing. Most of the staff spoke about how they were going to miss him and the way they had got closer to him over the years. Edward’s inmates spoke of how they were going to miss him and that he was innocent and did not deserve to die.

The staff at Parchment State Penitentiary started to test the gas that they were going to kill Edward with. They tested it on rabbits. You saw the rabbits distressed. It was awful. You also saw a real human being strapped to the seat and being locked in the gas chamber. This was to make sure