“ ‘It’s quite alarming that American society is right up there with Iraq and Iran,’ countries better known for their harsh treatment of criminal offenders, says Amnesty Canada spokesperson Jack Tackaberry.
“According to Amnesty, only six countries besides the United States — Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Barbados — have executed people under the age of 18 for criminal offenses over the last decade.
“Of the 36 American states with the death penalty, 24 allow the execution of juveniles.
“In one recent case in Louisiana, a juvenile offender sent to the electric chair for the killing of a police officer was assessed as borderline mentally retarded and schizophrenic.
“The execution was the ninth of a juvenile offender in the Southern state in this century. All were black, all were convicted of the murder of white victims, and all were sentenced to death by all-white juries.
“ ‘We don’t make the laws, we simply enforce them,’ says Steve Watsky, press secretary for Louisiana’s attorney general, William Guste.”
Show stopper | 20 years ago | November 25, 1986 | Francis Davis recalled the time Sonny Rollins collapsed during a performance.
“Lucille Rollins, who has been married to Sonny Rollins for over 20 years and managed him for the last 11, says she knew something was wrong when, from her post backstage, she heard the rhythm section slam to a halt following a curious pause in her husband’s solo on Charlie Parker’s ‘Big Foot,’ the third number of the evening. Sonny Rollins had landed on his back, his head about three inches from Tommy Campbell’s bass drum. ‘I whispered, “Get up, man,” thinking he was spoofing, before realizing that he was out cold,’ Campbell remembers. ‘I looked over at Wynton, who was shaking uncontrollably. We were all so petrified it was easier to go on playing for a few seconds than it was to stop.’
“Upon regaining consciousness in his dressing room, Rollins’s first thought was fear his horn might be stolen, what with so many strangers milling around. An ambulance rushed him to the cardiovascular wing of Bellevue Hospital; Bellevue, a name which shrieks bedlam within the jazz community, the hospital to which Rollins’s friend Charles Mingus had gone to seek psychiatric counseling and been locked away for weeks, until a lawyer intervened. Asked to remain overnight for tests, a shaken and superstitious Rollins refused and checked himself out. His private physician subsequently ruled out heart attack or stroke — everyone’s unspoken fear. But Rollins was found to be suffering from hypertension aggravated by nervous exhaustion.”
Hot jobs | 25 years ago | November 24, 1981 | R.D. Rosen explained how journalism had gone from an undesirable profession to a glamorous one.
“After Watergate, everyone wanted to be a journalist, except for those who were already journalists and could think of half a dozen things they would rather be than middle-aged noodges calling up total strangers and trying to get them to say things they had no intention of saying. Journalism schools were clogged with investigative aspirants, and résumés flowed like lava into editors’ offices — résumés that listed the authors’ ‘career objective’ as something along the lines of ‘I wish to use the power of the press to bring a United States president to his knees.’ Journalists became the new cowboys, riding their video display terminals into the sunset in pursuit of unindicted coconspirators and other defacers of the American Way.