Alabama Mayoral Hopeful Suggests Bringing Back Public Hanging for Convicted Drug Dealers

A mayoral candidate for a city in Alabama has defended calling for the return of public hanging for those convicted of multiple drug offenses.

Michael Ray James, who is running for election in the rural city of Sylacauga, proposes bringing back public hanging for those who have been convicted three times of drug dealing.

"Please consider that drug dealers have murdered, for profit, approximately 1,000,000 teenagers, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles in a short 20 year period," James posted on Facebook on May 13.

"Yes, I'm very aware public hanging is extreme and totally not possible without Federal Approvals and not from city or state officials. Extreme yes, but definitely brings attention to this scourge on Sylacauga, Alabama and the United States of America."

Newsweek subscription offers >

James added that drugs like fentanyl, meth, cocaine, crack and heroin are increasingly being "dumped on Americans from Asia and South America" and expressed concerns at entire families are being destroyed "because we've given up on the so called 'War on Drugs.'"

Capital punishment is legal in the state of Alabama. The primary method is lethal injection, although inmates can still request death by electrocution. New Hampshire is the only state in the U.S that offers hanging as a second option for execution, after lethal injection.

The last public hanging in the U.S. took place in Kentucky in 1936.

After posting the comments about public hanging in Alabama, James received numerous criticisms, including claims his statements have racial connotations in a state that has a history of lynching—claims James denies.

"A public hanging of any sorts isn't the proper position anyone, yet alone a someone running for public office should endorse in any way," wrote Elijah Henderson. "You know the statement has racist undertones all over it, but you're smart enough to phrase it in a way for spin purposes."

"You are absolutely incorrect and would be a liability to your city to have over the rights citizens have of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," added Trenton Rogers Garmon.

Speaking to AL.com, James said he understands the opposition and that it is just a difference of opinion.

"I think everybody has an opinion and that's O.K.," James said.

"I am serious about, after somebody has been convicted three times, I am very serious about them losing their life, whether it's to lethal injection or hanging.

"I'm not a nut," James said. "My biggest concern is what drugs can do to a community.

"It seems like nothing's being done about the drug problem. Something should be done about it."

hanging
A huge crowd of over 15,000 people gathers around a scaffold to witness the public hanging of 26-year old Rainey Bethea, Owensboro, Kentucky. Public outrage over the manner of execution made Bethea's death the last public hanging in the country. Hulton Archive/Getty
Alabama Mayoral Hopeful Suggests Bringing Back Public Hanging for Convicted Drug Dealers | U.S.