permission from The Robesonian
The last few days haven’t favored the U.S. Constitution, that venerable 225-year-old document from which all that is great about this country has derived.
On Thursday, a Superior Court judge in Cumberland County commuted the sentences to life in prison of three death row inmates, including two who had killed police officers. The lives of Christina “Queen” Walters, Tilmon Golphin and Quintel Augustine will be spared — barring a successful appeal by the state — not because any had been redeemed in the eyes of the law; they remain cold-blooded murderers who killed without reason or provocation, snuffing out lives of promise and bringing never-ending and untold grief to the families and friends of their victims.
Their lives were spared because Judge Gregory A. Weeks concluded that prosecutors, during jury selection, plotted to dismiss jurors of color, making the jury too white and too hostile to people of color — Walters is a Lumbee Indian, and Golphin and Augustine are black. Weeks determined that these three murderers were consequently denied a fair trial, which is guaranteed under this country’s Constitution.
The next day, word began to spread mid-morning that there was yet another mass murder, this one at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. The count as this is being written is 26 people murdered at the school, including 20 children in grades kindergarten through 4th; the killer himself, who committed suicide; and the killer’s mother.
The smoke from the gunfire had barely cleared before talk was resurrected about the Constitution’s Second Amendment, the original version of which reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Adopted in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment has been passionately debated since, yet there is no consensus on exactly what those 27 words mean. They don’t mention assault weapons, nor do they hint that “Arms” would be limited to muskets. And what did the framers mean by a “well regulated Militia”?
There are no new lessons learned from the end of last week. The Constitution at times seems incredibly unsatisfying, such as when it leans toward murderers and away from their victims, or it appears as an accomplice in the massacre of children.
It is now that we must remember that the Constitution’s greatness is measured by its 225-year record, not by events of late last week — and that the gift of living in the land of liberty is not without a price.