Thursday, April 30, 2009

TEXAS - 200th Impending Execution

Thursday: 200 Minute Vigil - 200th Execution
April 30, Houston
Posted by: vicki

What: 200 Minute Vigil to mark the impending 200th Execution under Governor Rick Perry

Where: Harris County Criminal Justice Center, 1201 Franklin @ San Jacinto, Downtown Houston

When: Thursday, April 30, 2009, 4:00 to 7:20pm, 5:30pm Rally

Who: YOU!

4:00 to 5:30: Reading of the names of those who have been executed during the Perry administration and the victims of these crimes. All are invited to participate.

5:30 to 6:30: Rally featuring Sam Millsap, former Bexar County D.A.; Jared Feuer, AIUSA; Kristin Houlé, TCADP; Dr. D.Z. Cofield, Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church/Houston NAACP; Lee Greenwood, mother of executed inmate Joseph Nichols; Ron Carlson, brother of murder victim Deborah Ruth Carlson Davis Thorton

There will be a moment of silence at 6:00 PM to mark the execution of Derrick Johnson, which is scheduled to take place that evening. Mr. Johnson's execution would be the 198th under Governor Perry.

6:30 to 7:20: Continued reading of the names of murder victims and those who have been executed since 2001.

For more information or to help, please contact Nancy Bailey at or 281.933.4925.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

First photos from the German Journey of Hope tour

In front of the TV studio before taping the Johannes B. Kerner Show

From left to right:
Bill Pelke, Terri Steinberg, Johannes B. Kerner (the host of the TV show) and Ray Krone

At the Hamburg event sponsored by Anmesty International Hamburg and the German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

SOUTH CAROLINA: State Killing Scheduled for Friday 8th of May

Execution of Thomas Ivey, by the State of South Carolina , is scheduled for Friday the 8th of May.

Peaceful Anti Death Penalty Protest scheduled to start between 4 PM and 5 PM on 8 May in front of the Department of Corrections administration building 4444 Broad River Road . Execution scheduled for 6 PM. Signs will be available after 4 PM.

A silent vigil is scheduled for Thursday evening, 7 May, from 7 PM to 8 PM at Saint Thomas Moore Catholic Chapel (behind main building) 1610 Greene Street, Columbia, SC. This vigil is open to all sides and healing prayers or thoughts are for family and friends from both sides.

Candle light protest at the Governor's mansion scheduled to start at 8:30 PM Thursday evening 7 May. Anyone is welcome to participate, although there has never been a commutation of a death sentence by our governor.

Directions for those who are coming in from out of town:

Vigil for forgiveness and peace - I-126 to Huger St – left onto Blossom St . – left onto Pickens St. – right onto Greene St. -- ( St. Thomas Moore Student Center on right).

Protest at Governors mansion
Take I-126 into town onto Elmwood turn right onto Lincoln Street go 2 blocks to Governor's mansion.

Friday: Directions from the interstates in Columbia , SC
I-20 West will come off at Exit 65 and turn right to the Department of Corrections (SCDC) on 4444 Broad River Road .
I-20 East will also take Exit 65 but will turn left onto Broad River Road to SCDC.
I-26 East take the Piney Grove Exit 104 turn left across bridge and continue until you come to the end then turn right go 1 or 2 blocks.
I-26 West take Piney Grove Exit 104 turn right at light and continue until you come to the end then turn right go 1 or 2 blocks.

Parking has been previously allowed at the Mexican Restaurant. But please be considerate as they have limited customer parking. They have excellent food as some of us can vouch.
Also the Waffle House, one block away, has parking available with permission. Good place to take a break and get a beverage if necessary.

Sponsored By: South Carolinians Abolishing the Death Penalty here ,IFFONLYS here ,NCADP here

Quick Note/Schedule from the German Journey

Hi Connie, We all arrived in Germany in good shape. We have had two great events so far, only 32 to go. More later. Peace, Bill

THE SCHEDULE in brief - Also find out more & CONTRIBUTE at the JOURNEY WEBSITE! here

Public events:April 28th: GöttingenApril 29th: HamburgMay 1st: KirchheimbolandenMay 2nd: Neustadt/WeinstraßeMay 3rd: WiesbadenMay 4th: HeidelbergMay 5th: FreiburgMay 6th: AugsburgMay 7th: MunichMay 8th: RavensburgMay 10th: ConstanceMay 11th: Bad MergentheimMay 12th: GelnhausenMay 13th: HaunetalMay 14th: MagdeburgMay 15th: Potsdam

Also go here for any additions/updates here

We at the Journey blog will try to update you as well and will offer more related items soon including photos!

Please PRAY for and CONTRIBUTE to this event at the Journey Website:here

TODAY: ACT NOW for North Carolina!

House Bill 784 - Execution/Physician Assistance Authorized is on the House Ways & Means committee calendar TODAY.

This bill will kill all death penalty reform bills and restart executions in NC.

Please call the members of the Committee and express your opposition to the Bill.

It is very important that Rep. Lorene Coats, Rep. Lucy Allen, Rep. Phillip Haire and Rep. Winkie Wilkins are aware of their constituents' opposition to House Bill 784, restarting of executions. The hearing is set for 1:00p today, so please call as soon as possible.

Vice Chairman Rep. Coates 919-733-5784

Rep. Allen 919-733-5860

Rep. Haire 919-715-3005

Rep. Wilkins 919-715-0850

If you have time to contact the other members of the committee, please do so:

Chairman Rep. Faison 919-715-3019

Vice Chairman Rep. Tillis 919-733-5828

Members Rep. K. Alexander 919-733-5778

Rep. Bryant 919-733-5878

Rep. Gillespie 919-733-5862

Rep. Gulley 919-733-5800

Rep. Hill 919-733-5830

Rep. Hilton 919-733-5988

Rep. Stevens 919-715-1883

Rep. Tolson 919-715-3024

Thanks for your support!

Tarrah Callahan-Ledford

North Carolina Coalition for a Moratorium 201 W. Main Street, Ste. 303B Durham, NC 27701 (919) 827-4729 here or ncmoratorium dot org


PLEASE leave a comment here today if at all possible:

You can vote for us by visiting The Jenzabar Foundation and leaving a comment on the blog posting there. CLICK HERE

Dear Friends,

As you know, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP) is one of several organizations up for The Jenzabar Foundation Social Media Leadership Award.
The Jenzabar Foundation is offering a $3,000 grant to one U.S.-based non-profit organization based on its use of social media to raise awareness and/or funds to the cause. 

Thanks to your help, NCADP is climbing up the polls and we're near the top. But the deadline for voting is TOMORROW (Thursday), so we need your vote to get us to number one!

You can vote for us by visiting The Jenzabar Foundation and leaving a comment on the blog posting there.


If you haven't already voted, please consider leaving a comment today - and if you have already voted, please tell your friends and family to vote as well. It will only take a minute of your time, and $3,000 will go a long way towards our efforts in fighting the death penalty across the country.

In addition, the Colorado Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee is holding a hearing today on a bill that would fund a cold case team with the money saved from a repeal of the state's death penalty. Among those testifying are NCADP Board Member Bud Welch, the father of an Oklahoma City bombing victim; Randy Steidl, who was a wrongfully-imprisoned death row inmate in Illinois; and Ron McAndrew, a former warden in the state prison system in Florida.

You can watch the hearing live at the Colorado General Assembly website.


The committee meets at 1:30 p.m. Mountain Time, and is expected to hear the cold case bill around 2:15 p.m.

Thank you again for your support!
Diann Rust-Tierney
Executive Director

Find more links and NCADP activities, blogs, places to donate, etc. by going to the website: here

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Karen and Charlie: Updated Website News

Karen and Charlie have updated their website news. I am sure you will all want to check it out.



every now and then we update our website news. last time was last summer. now we've done it again so of course the MT journey is part of the annual news round up. we thought you'd like to see it: HERE

thank you for all the good work you do
charlie & karen

Charlie King and Karen Brandow
45 1/2 School St.
Shelburne Falls, MA 01370

Monday, April 27, 2009

Crime Victims Week-Death Penalty Alternatives

By Judy Kerr
Spokesperson and Victim Liaison
California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

In 2003, my brother, Robert (Bob) James Kerr, was murdered in Everett, Wash. His killer has still not been found. This experience has only reinforced my belief that the death penalty serves no purpose for me. I honor Bob by speaking out against the death penalty.

As National Crime Victims’ Rights Week approaches (April 26-May 2), I am painfully reminded of how misguided our priorities and beliefs about victims’ rights have been. I applaud recent efforts across the country to recognize the diverse range of beliefs among murder victim survivors, especially regarding the death penalty.

Many murder victim survivors, like me, are tired of being offered as a reason to use the death penalty even though we do not believe it serves us. We are raising our voices and making a difference in many states. I only hope that California follows our fellow states’ footsteps by listening to victims and honestly looking at what we are sacrificing to keep the death penalty alive.

On April 21, Colorado joined several other states reconsidering the death penalty when the House approved a bill that would eliminate the death penalty and use the money to focus on cold cases. Last month, New Mexico replaced their death penalty with permanent imprisonment, the Maryland House of Delegates approved limiting the use of the death penalty, and New Hampshire’s bill to abolish the death penalty passed the House of Representatives.

The results vary among these states and the several others considering similar legislation, but three conclusions remain consistent: 1) the death penalty is ineffective, 2) the death penalty costs each state millions of dollars more than permanent imprisonment, and 3) it is time to seriously consider legislation replacing the death penalty with permanent imprisonment.

Given California’s current economic climate, we must look carefully at the financial impact of every public policy. I am disheartened by how we choose to spend our limited public safety resources and where our priorities lie.

The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, a bi-partisan panel created by the California Senate, unanimously concluded that California’s death penalty is broken, just as similar panels across the country have concluded.

The commissioners reported that the current system costs California taxpayers $125 million more per year than if we used permanent imprisonment; a safer alternative that punishes killers, protects our neighborhoods, and provides victims and the community with peace of mind knowing that killers are off of our streets. Forever.

After Bob’s murder, weeks passed before investigators identified his body. During that time, I did not know whether or not he was alive. I struggled from my home in California to get the local officials to do more to find him. Almost six years later, I am still waiting for a suspect to be named and for justice to finally take its course.

By replacing the death penalty with permanent imprisonment, we could use our public safety resources on efforts that would actually benefit victims and keep our communities safe, such as solving cold cases. Unfortunately, my brother’s story is not unique; the number of unsolved homicides in this country is appalling. In California alone, nearly 25,000 murders from the past 20 years remain unsolved.

It is shocking that we sit idly as law enforcement agencies continually make financial cuts – most jurisdictions do not have nearly enough homicide and cold case investigators due to lack of funds. The staggering number of unsolved homicides grows daily, yet we squander money on the death penalty.

The very real public safety crisis is that we are literally letting thousands of killers get away with murder in order to seek death sentences for an arbitrarily chosen few. Executing a few killers has never been proven to be a better deterrent than permanent imprisonment – getting killers off of our streets is.

Many states throughout our country are taking a giant leap in the right direction by looking towards replacing the death penalty with permanent imprisonment as a solution to their common public safety and economic emergencies. We, the California voters, should follow their lead.

Judy Kerr is spokeswoman and victim liaison for California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. View the website at:
Posted on April 27, 2009 at California Progress Report

Sunday, April 26, 2009

German Journey of Hope:
Ray Krone on German TV

Part of the German Journey of Hope will a an appearance of Ray Krone in the well known German political talkshow Johannes B. Kerner. If you should have a chance to receive German TV tune in on Wednesday, April 29th at 23:15 Central European time on channel ZDF.

Dennis Skillicorn: The Missouri Supreme Court just set a May 20 execution

Excerpt from article below: "Supporters have sought to keep Skillicorn off the condemned list, arguing that his work with terminally ill prisoners and a family-strengthening program for inmates and their children proves society is better with him alive."

Dennis is on death row and his wife Paula is a Journey supporter. Marietta and I have both written articles for his magazine called Compassion. The magazine raises money to provide scholarships for victims families for college. It would be great for the Journey to support him (and Paula) in any way we can.
Peace, Bill

MISSOURI----new execution date

Dennis is the editor of Compassion Magazine and his wife Paula is a great friend of the Journey of Hope. We need to pray for Dennis and his family and do whatever we can to stop his execution. Peace, Bill

Article Bill sent:
Missouri court sets execution date for convicted killer

The Missouri Supreme Court on Monday set a May 20 execution date for a man convicted of killing a Good Samaritan in 1994.

Dennis Skillicorn, who narrowly escaped lethal injection last year, would be the 1st person executed in Missouri since October 2005.

Skillicorn, 49, was 1 of 3 men convicted of killing Excelsior Springs businessman Richard Drummond after he stopped to help them when their car broke down on Interstate 70 in Callaway County.

Drummond was forced at gunpoint to drive the men west toward the Kansas City area. In Lafayette County he was taken into a wooded area and shot twice in the head.

Supporters have sought to keep Skillicorn off the condemned list, arguing that his work with terminally ill prisoners and a family-strengthening program for inmates and their children proves society is better with him alive.

But former Lafayette County prosecutor Page Bellamy and others say Skillicorn was one of three men who acted together to kill Drummond.

(source: Associated Press)

For more on Skillicorn - CLICK HERE AND HERE

Saturday, April 25, 2009

BOB HERBERT: A Culture Soaked in Blood

April 25, 2009
Bob Herbert is an Op-Ed Columnist for The New York Times. He recently received a Human Rights Award. He has often been a friend of Death Penalty abolition and written articles which highlight many of our issues. He has also written several on gun control. I do believe this article needs in here on our blogsite - since many of us in The Journey of Hope family believe that prevention is really important. There are various points of view which folk in abolition hold. Yet this point of view is certainly legitimate for dialogue. Your comments will need your name &/or your website, url & must be polite. Thanx, Connie, blogger here.


BOB HERBERT: A Culture Soaked in Blood


Philip Markoff, a medical student, supposedly carried his semiautomatic in a hollowed-out volume of “Gray’s Anatomy.” Police believe he used it in a hotel room in Boston last week to murder Julissa Brisman, a 26-year-old woman who had advertised her services as a masseuse on Craigslist.

In Palm Harbor, Fla., a 12-year-old boy named Jacob Larson came across a gun in the family home that, according to police, his parents had forgotten they had. Jacob shot himself in the head and is in a coma, police said. Authorities believe the shooting was accidental.

There is no way to overstate the horror of gun violence in America. Roughly 16,000 to 17,000 Americans are murdered every year, and more than 12,000 of them, on average, are shot to death. This is an insanely violent society, and the worst of that violence is made insanely easy by the widespread availability of guns.

When the music producer Phil Spector decided, for whatever reason, to kill the actress, Lana Clarkson, all he had to do was reach for his gun — one of the 283 million privately owned firearms that are out there. When John Muhammad and his teenage accomplice, Lee Malvo, went on a killing spree that took 10 lives in the Washington area, the absolute least of their worries was how to get a semiautomatic rifle that fit their deadly mission.

We’re confiscating shampoo from carry-on luggage at airports while at the same time handing out high-powered weaponry to criminals and psychotics at gun shows.

There were ceremonies marking the recent 10th anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School, but very few people remember a mass murder just five months after Columbine, when a man with a semiautomatic handgun opened fire on congregants praying in a Baptist church in Fort Worth. Eight people died, including the gunman, who shot himself.

A little more than a year before the Columbine killings, two boys with high-powered rifles killed a teacher and four little girls at a school in Jonesboro, Ark. That’s not widely remembered either. When something is as pervasive as gun violence in the U.S., which is as common as baseball in the summertime, it’s very hard for individual cases to remain in the public mind.

Homicides are only a part of the story.

While more than 12,000 people are murdered with guns annually, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (using the latest available data) tells us that more than 30,000 people are killed over the course of one typical year by guns. That includes 17,000 who commit suicide, nearly 800 who are killed in accidental shootings and more than 300 killed by the police. (In many of the law enforcement shootings, the police officers are reacting to people armed with guns).

And then there are the people who are shot but don’t die. Nearly 70,000 fall into that category in a typical year, including 48,000 who are criminally attacked, 4,200 who survive a suicide attempt, more than 15,000 who are shot accidentally, and more than 1,000 — many with a gun in possession — who are shot by the police.

The medical cost of treating gunshot wounds in the U.S. is estimated to be well more than $2 billion annually. And the Violence Policy Center, a gun control advocacy group, has noted that nonfatal gunshot wounds are the leading cause of uninsured hospital stays.

The toll on children and teenagers is particularly heartbreaking. According to the Brady Campaign, more than 3,000 kids are shot to death in a typical year. More than 1,900 are murdered, more than 800 commit suicide, about 170 are killed accidentally and 20 or so are killed by the police.

Another 17,000 are shot but survive.

I remember writing from Chicago two years ago about the nearly three dozen public school youngsters who were shot to death in a variety of circumstances around the city over the course of just one school year. Arne Duncan, who was then the chief of the Chicago schools and is now the U.S. secretary of education, said to me at the time: “That’s more than a kid every two weeks. Think about that.”

Actually, that’s our problem. We don’t really think about it. If the crime is horrible enough, we’ll go through the motions of public anguish but we never really do anything about it. Americans are as blasé as can be about this relentless slaughter that keeps the culture soaked in blood.

This blasé attitude, this willful refusal to acknowledge the scope of the horror, leaves the gun nuts free to press their crazy case for more and more guns in ever more hands. They’re committed to keeping the killing easy, and we should be committed for not stopping them.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

GEORGIA & Amnesty I/USA to WORLD: JOIN the Global Day of Action for Troy Davis - May 19

Brian Evans/AIUSA/ Amnesty International
04/24/2009 02:39 PM

There is an online sign-up form HERE


As you have probably heard, on April 16 Troy Davis was denied a chance to pursue his case in federal court. A 30-day stay expires on May 16, and an execution could be scheduled for any time after that. He will be filing another petition with the US Supreme Court, but it is unclear how (or even if) that will affect the scheduling of an execution date.

May 19 will be just after the stay expires and we have declared it to be a Global Day of Action for Troy Davis. Groups and individuals everywhere are encouraged to do something visible to demonstrate solidarity with Troy Davis, and to show the state of Georgia that the whole world is watching.

And we hope that any group that organizes an action will register so we can get a full count.

We recognize that time is short for organizing public events, but an execution date could be set as early as late May, so it is essential that action be taken soon.

The latest information and actions for Troy Davis will be on the website, and please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or ideas.

Thank you all for whatever you can do ...

Brian Evans
Amnesty International USA

Dead Souls By Alexander Cockburn Trends - US Ciminal Justice System - Including Death Penalty

NOTE: from Journey blogger, Connie: Let's not STOP at abolishing the death are some of the reasons why...

This article is in the May 4, 2009 edition of The Nation.

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, nowhere with more caprice than with the criminal justice system. On the plus side, there are at least a couple of good trends: a tilt from the death penalty (with serious qualifications about the "living death" alternative I discussed two weeks ago) and a move away from imprisonment for victimless crimes--as evidenced by medical marijuana laws; impending reform of the Rockefeller drug laws; and Prop 36 in California, offering treatment alternatives to prison.

Alexander Cockburn: Life sentences without possibility of parole contribute to the ever-expanding gulag of our criminal justice system...Now that New Mexico has ditched the death penalty, not much will change--except for the worse. (Blogger Connie's note...Although we can imagine, I wish Cockburn would elaborate here - but maybe we as abolitionists might do our part to investigate?)

Cockburn continues: On the minus side, there are some grim developments. For violent felons, sentencing laws have been getting steadily worse. There have been big increases in sentencing enhancements (time added to your "base sentence" for using a gun, having prior felony convictions, gang-related nature of the crime, hate crimes, etc.). Some of these enhancements are new; others have been around for a long time but have gotten much more punitive. (There was a heartening victory in California in November with the defeat of Prop 6, which would have increased penalties for gang-related crimes.)

Other bad trends include the growing use of solitary confinement units, the tendency to try juveniles as adults and, of course, the post-9/11 general loss of civil liberties, thanks to the ever more conservative federal judiciary. This is not to forget the vindictive sex-offender laws that have been passed in the last few years.

So the introduction of "living death"--life without the possibility of parole (LWOP)--as a sentencing option can be seen as part of the overall trend of toughening sentences for violent criminals, except when it is introduced as an alternative to the death penalty, and even here there's a paradox: there's much less money and access to the appeals process available in states like California to fight life imprisonment without parole, or with parole for that matter, than there is to fight the death penalty.

But the focus on LWOP tends to blur the fact that it is very hard for lifers not doing LWOP to get out on parole. Scott Handleman, an attorney in San Francisco who has spent much time representing prisoners in parole cases, has been helpful with the chastening data. In California last year, 31,051 prisoners were serving sentences of life with the possibility of parole. Of those, 8,815 have passed their "minimum eligible parole date," meaning they have served long enough to be receiving parole hearings. Of those, 6,272 had hearings on the Board of Parole's calendar last year. (Some prisoners serving beyond their minimum eligible parole date do not get hearings in a given year because they were denied for multiple years in a prior hearing.) Only 272 lifers were found suitable for parole by the board in 2008.

Moreover, the board's decisions in these 272 cases were subject to Governor Schwarzenegger's review. The California governor has the power, in murder cases, to reverse the board's ruling and take away the parole date. For other life-sentence crimes, he can order the board to reconsider its decision. So only a fraction of those whose parole cases got reviewed were actually released to the streets. In 2007 the board found 172 lifers suitable for parole; Governor Schwarzenegger reversed 115 of those decisions, referred eighteen back to the board for reconsideration, modified two and let stand only thirty-seven. That means in 2007 somewhere between thirty-seven and fifty-seven life-term prisoners got out of prison in the whole state of California. Out of the roughly 30,000 prisoners who were serving sentences of life with the possibility of parole in 2007, somewhere around 0.1 percent to 0.2 percent were released. Last year the situation improved very slightly, thanks in part to a Supreme Court of California ruling that parole cannot be denied forever.

There's a popular conception, nourished by the shock jocks on talk-radio, that people doing life sentences get put back on the streets by way of a revolving door, Willie Horton style. In fact, release for lifers is a rare phenomenon.

That being the case, what is the point of introducing LWOP as a sentencing alternative? What LWOP means is that for convicted murdurers who would otherwise get life with parole, often at very young ages, and who redeem themselves through rehabilitative efforts, even the remotest possibility of release will never become available. The hopelessness that comes with an LWOP sentence is a heavy psychological burden to bear. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, at least seventy-three inmates--most of whom are minorities--are serving LWOP for crimes committed at age 13 or 14.

It's expensive running an ever-expanding gulag. State after state is finding that herding the dangerous classes into prison with tools such as the Rockefeller drug laws and throwing away the key for decades or forever by nonnegotiable mandatory minimum sentencing costs too much. But then there's the problem: what to do about the prison unions and the towns (like many in New York) that survive economically only because of prison jobs, where the prison population is greater than the population of free people, and the free people love it because, apart from the jobs keeping their kids from fleeing the postindustrial or post-ag wasteland, the prisoners count in the census, giving these towns and regions more representation in statehouses, hence more political power, than they deserve.

Shades of Gogol, who was born 200 years ago this year. The motor of his great novel is the economic use of "dead souls"--deceased serfs listed by the state as assets of the landlords. The novel's central character, Chichikov, goes around buying them up. New York State could take Gogol's hint and start auctioning its "living dead" as income generators to other states in need. Looking at our criminal justice system here, Gogol would surely use the line carved on his gravestone: "And I shall laugh my bitter laugh."

About Alexander Cockburn
Alexander Cockburn has been The Nation's "Beat the Devil" columnist since 1984. He is the author or co-author of several books, including the best-selling collection of essays Corruptions of Empire (1987), and a contributor to many publications, from The New York Review of Books, Harper's Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly and the Wall Street Journal to alternative publications such as In These Times and the Anderson Valley Advertiser. With Jeffrey St. Clair, he edits the newsletter and radical website CounterPunch, which have a substantial world audience.

Resurrection and Revenge Related - and also by Cockburn on "living death" alternative and why LWOP is sometimes worse than death (this may answer one of my questions about the article's statements above). The first 2/3rds of the article are more on point for this blogsite than the latter two:

USA: Money, Morality, and Repealing the Death Penalty

UPDATE from Rick Halperin's Death Pen News & Updates (see this & other links on lower right column here on front page - give it a little time to load.)

USA: Money, Morality, and Repealing the Death Penalty

The ancient Roman Colosseum, known historically for violent gladiator battles, animal combat, and public executions, has become a symbol for international protest against capital punishment.

Over the past decade, every time a convicted person receives a stay of execution or a government abolishes the death penalty Roman officials change the Colosseum’s night illumination from white to gold.

It happened in December 2007 when New Jersey abolished the death penalty. It happened again this March when Governor Bill Richardson signed a bill to repeal the death penalty, making New Mexico the 15th US state to do so, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The special lighting was recently repeated on April 15, when Richardson and other New Mexico representatives, including Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe, were honored at a Colosseum ceremony marking the state's repeal. Richardson also met with Pope Benedict XVI and spoke at a news conference in Rome organized by the Sant’Egidio Community, an international lay Catholic organization opposed to capital punishment.

Richardson, who is a Democrat, a Catholic, one of the most prominent Hispanic politicians in the US, and a one-time supporter of the death penalty, told the Associated Press in February he was struggling with his position but his views on the death penalty had "softened." He pointed to the work of the Roman Catholic Church against capital punishment, indicating that discussions with Archbishop Sheehan had influenced his own considerations.

But Richardson also cited as a factor the financial cost of imposing the death penalty. In doing so he highlighted one of the most striking recent developments in the death penalty debate: economic arguments against capital punishment have become as important as religion or ethics, and they are now regularly invoked by opponents of capital punishment. Because life without parole is cheaper for the state than the death penalty, the repeal of capital punishment, they say, will allow more resources to be channeled to survivors of the victims of crime. In New Mexico, according to the legislative finance committee a death penalty case costs approximately $20-25,000, compared to $7-8,000 for a non-death penalty murder case.

For many death penalty opponents, New Mexico's repeal was the result of years of hard work. The bill was first introduced 12 years ago, but it always faced challenges in the senate's judiciary committee. "It was heartbreaking," says the Rev. Dr. Holly Beaumont, a Disciples of Christ minister and legislative advocate for the New Mexico Conference of Churches. She represents the conference on the New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty.

Over the years faith-based death penalty opponents in New Mexico remained resolute, says Beaumont. "We weren't going away, and the legislature knew that we would be back again." She attributes their ultimate success to the multi-layered nature of the coalition, a collaboration of faith communities, the families of murder victims, death row exonerees, and other "people of conscience." The coalition focused on reaching and educating those who had not yet made up their minds about capital punishment and pointed its advocacy efforts directly at the Roundhouse, New Mexico's state capitol building and the home of its legislature.

In addition to New Mexico, a number of other states around the country have been dealing with death penalty repeal this year. A coalition of religious leaders, lawyers, and the families of murder victims is supporting passage of a pending bill to abolish the death penalty in Colorado, where this month the House of Representatives voted down capital punishment by a 1-vote margin, and lawmakers say they will use the money saved (estimated at about $1.4 million per death penalty case) to solve hundreds of "cold" murder cases. The Colorado bill now heads to the state Senate, where it is expected to pass.

New Hampshire and Kansas have also considered anti-death penalty legislation this year. In New Hampshire, the House voted to end capital punishment, but the governor has said he will veto any repeal. In Kansas, where repeal was advocated primarily as a way to save money, the effort stopped short of a vote and the issue is scheduled for more study. According to the Wichita Eagle, each death penalty case costs an average of 70 % more than each non-capital case. The paper also suggests that Kansans will be watching to see how nuanced the stand on capital punishment held by US Senator Sam Brownback, a Republican and a Methodist covert to Roman Catholicism, will be in his coming bid for governor.

In a recent vote Montana state senators supported a plan to replace the death penalty with life in prison with no parole. But at the end of March the judiciary committee of Montana's House of Representatives rejected the proposed abolition bill. The prospect of wrongful executions of innocent people and the expense of capital legal procedures were both major factors for those who supported the bill. According to Republican Senator Roy Brown, a pro-life Catholic and recent candidate for governor, supporting a ban on the death penalty was consistent with his anti-abortion stance. But Republican judiciary committee vice-chairman Ken Peterson, a Mormon who opposed repeal, said the Book of Mormon and "8 books in the Old Testament" support the death penalty.

All of these efforts to repeal the death penalty seem to be getting a boost from the current economic crisis and are evidence of renewed interest in the argument that the death penalty costs considerably more than sentencing murderers to life in prison. Many legislators seem especially interested in financial arguments this year. In Maryland, for example, an Urban Institute study estimated that the average cost to taxpayers for reaching a single death sentence is $3 million, about $1.9 million more than the cost of a non-death penalty case.

Still, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, a Catholic, urged the state Senate to repeal the death penalty outright on moral grounds, characterizing capital punishment as "an issue that touches the very soul of who we are as a republic, who we are as a people" and as "one of the defining moral quandaries of our times." He called on lawmakers to consider the "higher things" on which our "free and diverse republic was founded" and asked the legislators: "Will we be a society guided by the fundamental civil and human rights bestowed on humankind by God?"

But Maryland lawmakers amended the repeal bill and decided instead to make the state's death penalty statute among the most restrictive in the nation, limiting capital cases to those with DNA or biological evidence, a videotaped confession, or a videotape linking the suspect to a homicide. Even though the Maryland House of Delegates appeared ready to end capital punishment entirely, O'Malley urged them to accept the restrictions and "the innocence reform bill" because, as Maryland Citizens Against State Executions (CASE) concluded, "it moves our state in the direction of more justice," and it will save lives.

Last year close to 70 leaders from various faith communities signed a letter to calling on the Maryland General Assembly to abolish the death penalty. This year the Ecumenical Leaders Group in Maryland formed an Interfaith Coalition to End the Death Penalty, encouraging leaders of faith communities to host death penalty events at their places of worship and asking them to talk about the death penalty during services. Sermon stories were made available on the CASE Maryland Web site.

Nearly 1/2 of CASE Maryland’s member organizations are religious groups, including Quakers, Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, and ecumenical ministries. In addition to sermon suggestions, the group's Web site includes an open letter to pastors, clergy, and congregational leaders making the case for abolition of the death penalty in light of the Christian faith: "Christians of all faith denominations have long held that the death penalty violates the sanctity of human life, eliminates the opportunity for redemption, and its application is not consonant with the example of Jesus' forgiveness of injustice."

Indeed, one of the strategies of the successful repeal movement in New Mexico was also to concentrate on themes of restoration and restitution rather than retribution. Supporters emphasized that passing the repeal bill offered the opportunity for killers to repent of their actions and eventually achieve some sort of reconciliation.

New Mexico's repeal legislation will take effect on July 1. During the 2010 legislative session, the New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty now says it will focus its efforts on support for the education of children who have had a parent murdered and increased funding to the New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission for services to families of murder victims, among other issues. Future steps also include a bill that provides restitution to the families of murder victims.

While Beaumont acknowledges the role the current economic crisis played in swaying New Mexico legislators this year, she still stresses the importance of trying to "change the world view" of defenders of the death penalty, asking them questions and engaging them in conversation that will get at "when was the last time you changed your mind about some deep ethical issue, and what was it that caused you to change your mind?"

"You will never convert someone you hold in contempt," says Beaumont, who regrets the misuse of Scriptures and the lack of what she calls "good biblical interpretation" in the death penalty debate. "We've done so much damage that people aren't listening anymore," she says. "They do not want to hear Scriptures that enlighten the world we live in because they are used to hearing Scriptures that have been used as a weapon rather than to empower and guide."

But it may be that, in a recession, money will trump moral argument as states continue considering repeal of the death penalty. As the Boston Globe recently editorialized, "Almost every state is facing a deficit, and getting smart about corrections budgets is an unexpected side benefit. Abolitionists will take whatever argument they can." It went on, however, to reassert the more conventional arguments against capital punishment: "The death penalty is not a deterrent to most deadly crimes. It is applied unevenly. It places the United States among the world’s most brutal regimes. And there are 130 other reasons: the 130 death-row inmates who were exonerated by new evidence. Their deaths would have carried an awful price tag."

Despite all the arguments—economic, biblical, or otherwise—for repeal, and increasing attention to death penalty abolition in legislatures across the country, it still needs to be noted that the state of Texas, long the nation's leader in executions, continues on pace this year to execute perhaps more than twice as many criminals as in 2008, when 18 death row inmates were put to death.

PBS - Elaine de Leon, a writer with Religion & Ethics News Weekly

(source: PBS----Elaine de Leon, an intern at Religion & Ethics News Weekly from January-April 2009, is receiving a Master’s degree in Theological Studies in May from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC.)


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"Coffee Shop God" - New Book - Special Event in NC

Reconciliation means accepting you cannot undo the murder but you can decide how to want to live afterwards.


Please come out and support MVFR member Therese Bartholomew as she releases her book entitled, "Coffee Shop God." When Therese Bartholomew's younger brother Steve was shot and killed in Greenville, SC, she wondered how she would survive without him. Bartholomew's powerful new memoir, Coffee Shop God, details her struggle to adjust in the weeks and months following her brother's untimely death.

In this collection of essays, Bartholomew questions her spirituality in the midst of bond hearings, debilitating grief, and a new marriage. As she heals, she strives to connect with the family she has left-the mother who always has a joke, the father who cannot show affection, the ex-drug-dealing brother who is now an evangelical Christian, and the talking bird she inherits from her brother-while learning to forgive the young man who killed her brother.

When: Sunday, April 26, 2009
Where: The Evening Muse
6:30pm - 8:30pm 3227 N. Davidson St. Charlotte, NC 28205

The German Journey of Hope is Coming Soon!

There will be a German Journey of Hope tour with more than 30 events from April 28th until May 15th.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Georgia's Death Penalty Prosecutions Stalled by High Costs
Posted: April 21, 2009

Georgia is experiencing a crisis in its death penalty trial system with high costs stalling death penalty prosecutions. Almost 1 in 5 of all pending capital cases in Georgia is stalled because of a lack of funds to pay for the defense. "We can't defend the case without any money," said James Yancey, one death penalty defense lawyer. "The experts we need won't work for free." Forsyth Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Bagley called it “a constitutional crisis," as defense attorneys are forced to file contempt motions and are asking to withdraw from their cases. The courts were hoping for the necessary funding to become available, but after the House put $1.1 million into the state Public Defender Standards Council’s budget for capital cases, the Senate cut it out.

Alabama Murder Cases Reopened After Exposure of Botched Autopsy
Posted: April 20, 2009

Bridget Lee spent nine months in jail in Alabama after being charged with the murder of her newborn child. Prosecutors filed capital murder charges based on an autopsy performed by Dr. Corinne Stern. Stern’s autopsy concluded the baby had been suffocated because of bruises on the forehead and mouth. But when Lee's attorneys questioned the autopsy, the District Attorney had other experts review the case, and six different forensics experts found the baby was stillborn and had died of infection. The bruises Stern said indicated suffocation were actually signs of decomposition. Charges were dismissed, and the case has prompted a review of as many as 100 other homicide cases. Alabama’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Kenneth Snell, said he would review every homicide autopsy Dr. Stern had performed in her 16 months in Alabama. Dismissing the charges against Ms. Lee, Circuit Judge James Moore said he had never seen an expert make such a bad mistake in his 30 years of law practice. “What has happened in this courtroom today is absolutely unprecedented,” said Moore. Dr. Stern is now a medical examiner in Texas.

Read more about these at Death Penalty Information Center and Rick Halperin's Death Penalty News & Updates (see columns for both on this home page -lower right hand side - and others as well. NOTE: these may take a few moments to load.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Troy Davis Appeal Rejected - Oklahoma Board Recommends Clemency for Donald Gilson

Original Posted: April 17, 2009 at Death Penalty Information Center

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit denied habeas corpus relief to a Georgia death row inmate who claims he is innocent and who has received international support. In a 2-1 decision, the court held that Troy Davis could have presented most of his new evidence earlier and that the evidence did not offer clear and convincing proof of his innocence.

Hence, the court did not consider his free-standing claim of innocence on its merits, but concluded it was barred because of the delay in filing. The court did say he could raise his claim directly with the U.S. Supreme Court, and they stayed his execution to allow time for that appeal.

Judge Rosemary Barkett dissented, saying, "The concept of punishing an innocent defendant with the penalty of death simply because he did not file his papers as early as he should have is draconian...where a defendant who can make a viable claim of actual innocence is facing execution, the fundamental miscarriage of justice exception should apply and AEDPA’s procedural bars should not prohibit the filing of a second or successive habeas petition."
In Oklahoma, the Pardons Board recommended (3-2) clemency for Donald Gilson, who is scheduled to be executed on May 5. Gov. Brad Henry will make the final decision on Gilson's fate.(In re Troy Anthony Davis, No. 08-16009 (11th Cir. April 16, 2009)); (The Oklahoman, April 17, 2009).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

States' Dilemnas & Debates - Snippets from Rick Halperin's DP News & Updates

To read more on these headline items excerpted below, go to Rick Halperin's Death Penalty and Execution News here

Photo taken by AP 2008 CA

The following were posted on Rick's site in full APRIL 18-19, 2009:

April 19th

CONNECTICUT: Find an extremely interesting, if easily arguable opinion by a Connecticut "expert" at Death Penalty and Execution News - Link above.


'Crisis' in death-penalty trial system----Too little money available, attorney says

They involve some of Georgia's most heinous slayings, with death-penalty defendants accused of massacres, child killings, crimes of unthinkable depravity.

Yet almost 1 in 5 of all pending capital cases statewide is stalled because there is no money to pay for the defense of the accused.

Judges and prosecutors are exasperated. Defense attorneys are filing contempt motions and asking to withdraw from their cases.

"It's a constitutional crisis," Forsyth Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Bagley said...

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution) Read more on this and the items below at Rick's site!

APRIL 18, 2009:

FLORIDA: (see the article in full at Rick's site and above on this blogsite).

Morals aside, death penalty is flawed---All the Nancy Grace devotees must be thrilled to pieces.

Casey Anthony may die.

For nearly a year now, they've eagerly tuned into CNN Headline News every night where they get to ogle titillating party pics of America's worst mother under the thinly veiled guise of "news."

And now, they may get to watch her die.

Last week's news that the prosecution will seek the death penalty sent online message boards into a joyous frenzy.

"Fry baby Fry!" exclaimed someone named "TWM."

"Bring back the chair. I will pull the switch," said "Grasscutter."

"Justin" directed his fellow celebrants to an online game where they could kill an animated version of Anthony themselves.

"Now you can hang her, inject her or rack her!" he proclaimed.

Welcome to modern-day America, where crime as entertainment is the pastime of choice.

The Romans and their coliseums of death had nothing on us.

Welcome also to America's jury pool.

Lost in all this blood lust is the fact that the death penalty is flawed.

I'll skip over the moral dilemma and leave that to God and his disciples.

Instead, simply look at the facts: This country has executed the innocent.

That's not debatable.

And no rationale — be it revenge or legal strategy — is a valid one to perpetuate such an injustice.

People who have been killed in the name of justice have subsequently been exonerated.

Hundreds more have been sentenced to death, spared only because underpaid activists and lawyers — the truly "pro-life" advocates — worked tirelessly on their behalf.

The latest tally from the Death Penalty Information Center counts 131 people exonerated after conviction.

22 of those have been in Florida — more than any other state.

And those are just mistakes involving the death penalty.

Just this month, authorities in Texas determined that a man who died in jail after 14 years there never committed the rape for which he was convicted.

The judge said the Lubbock police botched the case in many ways. They unfairly lured Timothy Cole into a sting. They used a "suggestive lineup" that led the victim to identify Cole as her attacker. And Cole, the judge said, didn't even fit the profile of the rapist.

DNA later proved Cole was not the culprit.

"The evidence is crystal clear," said District Judge Charles Baird, "that he died in prison an innocent man."

But who really cared about that during the trial? Cole — a college student and military veteran — had been charged. And the community wanted blood.

Sound familiar?

There are other problems with the death penalty...

...There is also the cost and time of prosecution.

Experts say death-penalty cases can require as much as 10 times more money and time. That means justice for others is delayed. Or ignored...

Read the rest on Rick's site!

Execute Casey? Not a chance — but now she might cut a deal

State Attorney Lawson Lamar says he wants to kill Casey Anthony, which I suppose is one way of guaranteeing she dies of old age...

...And Casey now has something new to think about: the image of being strapped down on a gurney, a jail nurse prepping her veins.

Maybe that will make her squirm enough to end this freak show. If this is prosecutorial misconduct, then this one time I can look the other way.

(source for both: Orlando Sentinel) (read both items in full also at Rick's Death Penalty News & Updates site and also find the first below in full on this blogsite.)


Can Oregon afford the death penalty?

A lethal-injection gurney sits ready at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem. Oregon juries have imposed 73 death sentences since voters reinstated the death penalty in 1984, but only two inmates have been executed. Both volunteered.In 1988, 18-year-old Randy Lee Guzek became the youngest person in Oregon history on death row.

Today, Guzek has another distinction: Oregon's most expensive death row inmate. The taxpayers' tab for Guzek's legal bills stands at $2.2 million -- and it's still growing.

An-eye-for-an-eye justice is no bargain for Oregon taxpayers. Although Guzek's case is the most expensive, the 34 other inmates on Oregon's death row aren't there cheaply. At just the initial trial court level, the average cost of defending a capital murder case is nearly 10 times the cost of a case without the possibility of a death sentence. And each condemned criminal gets 10 state and federal levels of appeal.

With legal costs mounting and the state in financial distress, questions about the morality of the government executing convicted killers are being shoved aside for a new debate: Can Oregon afford the death penalty?

"It seems doubtful that our taxpayers would continue to support the death penalty if they had any idea of the true costs it imposes on their criminal justice system," Judge Paul Lipscomb, the former presiding judge of Marion County, said in a recent letter to Oregon's Senate Judiciary Committee. "Years and years of criminal justice resources, and millions and millions of tax dollars, are expended again and again in this largely futile attempt."

"Justice system is sick"

Oregon voters overwhelmingly reinstated the death penalty in 1984. Since then, juries have imposed 73 death sentences, but 49 percent have been thrown out. One death row inmate died of natural causes. Only 2 men have been executed -- in 1996 and 1997. Both volunteered to end their appeals and die.

The 35 men sitting on death row are racking up tens of millions of dollars in legal bills and still are several years, in many cases decades, from exhausting their appeals.

Ingrid Swenson, executive director of the state's Office of Public Defense Services, said her office spends $24,876 to defend a murder case at the trial court level, but $213,232 for a case with a possible death penalty.

That doesn't include appeals, Swenson said.

...Long estimates that Guzek's appeals won't be exhausted until 2032 -- 44 years after his 1st conviction. For the money taxpayers will have spent keeping Guzek on death row, he said, "We could have sent 1,000 students to the University of Oregon and paid their tuition."

(source: The Oregonian)


End death penalty in Kansas

Senate Bill 208 has been proposed to abolish the death penalty in the state of Kansas. This bill should be passed not only because those who are convicted and receive life sentences without parole will be punished for the rest of their lives, but also because the death penalty is financially destructive.

The case costs of the death penalty through execution averaged $1.26 million, compared with a non-death penalty case, which averaged $740,000. The money saved on the death penalty could go toward state-funded programs that prevent further crime. Another benefit of abolishing the death penalty is that it protects against the convicted being wrongly accused.

As Kansans we need to come together to advocate for Senate Bill No. 208 and let Kansas residents everywhere know how abolishing the death penalty benefits each one of us.

Whitney Condie----Prairie Village

(source: Letter to the Editor, Kansas City Star)


Death penalty repeal bill still close call in House, King says

A final House vote on repealing the death penalty in Colorado will be close, and the measure might yet fail, said a death-penalty proponent.

The measure passed the House last week on 2nd reading, but 5 Democrats voted against the measure.

That led state Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, to speculate House Bill 1274 might not have the votes it will need on a roll-call vote.

King said he was considering speaking against the measure Monday. It's unusual for legislators to speak before 3rd-reading votes because the votes are usually considered to be decided at that point.

King opposes the measure, citing the arrest of Jerry Louis Nemnich in the 35-year-old killings of Linda and Kelley Benson in Grand Junction. The measure would spare Nemnich the possibility of capital punishment.

The bill, which proposes to divert money from capital prosecutions to solving cold cases, has pitted law enforcement officials against relatives of cold-case murder victims, King said.

"We're seeing a breakdown in the relationship" between those groups, which have worked closely together for years, he said. "Using victims' families to try to push through a repeal sort of creates a rift."

Tying together a death-penalty repeal and additional funding for cold cases "was brilliant strategy," said state Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran.

Much of the House debate on the bill was overshadowed by budget maneuvering, Bradford said.

If it moves through the House, "it needs a good, thorough vetting and debate" on the Senate floor, she said.

Colorado has more than 1,400 cold cases. Legislative analysts said the bill could direct about $883,000 a year toward solving cold-case killings.

(source: Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)


Lethal injection heads for debate

A vote today set the stage for debate on one of this year's most controversial issues for the Nebraska Legislature: Switching the state's method of execution to lethal injection.

The 6-1 vote to advance Legislative Bill 36, the lethal injection bill, from the Judiciary Committee to the full Legislature came almost a month after the committee refused to advance the measure.

Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford, committee chairman, said because the death penalty is the most serious topic debated at the Capitol, committee members wanted to make sure all issues were considered before the bill moved forward.

"In the final analysis, it's my view that the bill as is, and the Nebraska death penalty process, is not only constitutional but probably goes overboard in protecting the rights of the accused," Ashford said.

Several amendments designed to make application of the death penalty more consistent were considered, but none was adopted. Those amendments included requiring two aggravating circumstances, instead of just one, to qualify for the death penalty; and having a panel of prosecutors, including the state attorney general, review cases to determine whether or not to pursue the death penalty.

State Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha - who questioned the fairness of the death penalty and led efforts to seek amendments - said a meeting last week with Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine and Douglas County Public Defender Tom Riley convinced him "there's not anything we can do to make it less arbitrary."

...In an interesting twist, the Judiciary Committee today also advanced, on a 6-1 vote, a bill that would repeal the death penalty. LB 306, introduced by Council, cannot be debated until next year because it was not selected as a priority bill.

Ashford said it wasn't inconsistent to vote to advance the lethal injection bill and then vote to advance a bill repealing the death penalty. Both issues, he said, deserve to be debated by the full Legislature.

(source: World-Herald)
The items above are just "snippets". To see the articles in full, please go to Rick Halperin's Death Penalty and Execution News here

FLORIDA: Morals aside, death penalty is flawed - OP Ed worth a good read & save

OpEd Writer, Scott Maxwell

APRIL 18, 2009:

FLORIDA: Find more on various States' updates as well as Op Ed, like the item below, at Rick Halperin's Death Penalty and Execution News here

Also find this Op Ed here
Morals aside, death penalty is flawed---All the Nancy Grace devotees must be thrilled to pieces.

BY Scott Maxwell | TAKING NAMES

Casey Anthony may die.

For nearly a year now, they've eagerly tuned into CNN Headline News every night where they get to ogle titillating party pics of America's worst mother under the thinly veiled guise of "news."

And now, they may get to watch her die.

Last week's news that the prosecution will seek the death penalty sent online message boards into a joyous frenzy.

"Fry baby Fry!" exclaimed someone named "TWM."

"Bring back the chair. I will pull the switch," said "Grasscutter."

"Justin" directed his fellow celebrants to an online game where they could kill an animated version of Anthony themselves.

"Now you can hang her, inject her or rack her!" he proclaimed.

Welcome to modern-day America, where crime as entertainment is the pastime of choice.

The Romans and their coliseums of death had nothing on us.

Welcome also to America's jury pool.

Lost in all this blood lust is the fact that the death penalty is flawed.

I'll skip over the moral dilemma and leave that to God and his disciples.

Instead, simply look at the facts: This country has executed the innocent.

That's not debatable.

And no rationale — be it revenge or legal strategy — is a valid one to perpetuate such an injustice.

People who have been killed in the name of justice have subsequently been exonerated.

Hundreds more have been sentenced to death, spared only because underpaid activists and lawyers — the truly "pro-life" advocates — worked tirelessly on their behalf.

The latest tally from the Death Penalty Information Center counts 131 people exonerated after conviction.

22 of those have been in Florida — more than any other state.

And those are just mistakes involving the death penalty.

Just this month, authorities in Texas determined that a man who died in jail after 14 years there never committed the rape for which he was convicted.

The judge said the Lubbock police botched the case in many ways. They unfairly lured Timothy Cole into a sting. They used a "suggestive lineup" that led the victim to identify Cole as her attacker. And Cole, the judge said, didn't even fit the profile of the rapist.

DNA later proved Cole was not the culprit.

"The evidence is crystal clear," said District Judge Charles Baird, "that he died in prison an innocent man."

But who really cared about that during the trial? Cole — a college student and military veteran — had been charged. And the community wanted blood.

Sound familiar?

There are other problems with the death penalty.

It's inherently unfair to the poor — and to men. Wealthy people can hire better attorneys to get them off. And of the 392 people currently on Florida's death row, only one is a woman.

There is also the cost and time of prosecution.

Experts say death-penalty cases can require as much as 10 times more money and time. That means justice for others is delayed. Or ignored.

And for those who argue that seeking the death penalty is just a good legal strategy — a way to get a plea bargain or life sentence — since when is it OK to threaten to kill merely as a tactic? If State Attorney Lawson Lamar is seeking the death penalty for Anthony, he had better be ready to actually kill her.

None of this is to say that Anthony is being unfairly charged with murder.

In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find an unbiased soul who could look at the mountain of circumstantial evidence and reach any other conclusion.

And the crime for which she has been charged — killing her own little angel-eyed daughter, Caylee — is beyond comprehension.

Little girls deserve fairy-tale lives — princess parties and stuffed animals. Daddies who make pancakes with too much syrup. And mommies who let them win at Chutes and Ladders.

The idea of anyone hurting one — much less killing their own — makes the head spin and gut wrench.

And, yes, it generates understandable and instinctive urges to kill in return.

But does that desire for lethal revenge justify perpetuating a system that has also executed the innocent?

The problem is that, for so many engrossed in this story, this is not the time for such philosophical questions.

They want a climactic finale to this story.

And only more blood will do.

From Op Ed page of Orlando Sentinel

Friday, April 17, 2009

David Atwood Good Friday Dedication to Prisoners Killed by State of Texas Since 1982

Good Friday Poem written recently by David Atwood (sent to & by Bill Pelke who was there with Dave Atwood and Sister Helen Prejean, as I understand it, when James was executed.)

Were you there?

Were you there when they put my friend to death?
Were you there when they put my friend to death?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they put my friend to death?

Were you there when they took him from his cell?
Were you there when they took him from his cell?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they took him from his cell?

Were you there when they strapped him down to die?
Were you there when they strapped him down to die?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they strapped him down to die?

Were you there when they stuck the needles in?
Were you there when they stuck the needles in?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they stuck the needles in?

Were you there when he uttered his last words?
Were you there when he uttered his last words?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when he uttered his last words?

Were you there when he gasped and spoke no more?
Were you there when he gasped and spoke no more?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when he gasped and spoke no more?

Were you there when they laid him in the grave?
Were you there when they laid him in the grave?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the grave?

David Atwood
Good Friday, April 10, 2009

Dedicated to James, Dominique, Richard, Anthony and the 431 other prisoners who have been killed by the state of Texas since 1982.

COLORADO: On Death Row

Posted by Rick Halperin - APRIL 16, 2009:

Colorado's death penalty is on death row, so to speak, as the Colorado House of Representatives gave tentative approval Wednesday to a plan to end capital punishment and use the money to focus on unsolved cases instead. It's a pragmatic and common-sense proposal, and one that deserves bipartisan support when it proceeds to the Senate.

A dead person is dead, and the outcome can't be reversed. It's an exact science.

The pursuit of truth, by contrast, is an inexact science. Typically, for example, the truth of a murder is known only to the perpetrator and God. A jury doesn't usually know for certain that that person convicted of a crime indeed committed it. A jury must be convinced beyond "reasonable" doubt, not beyond all doubt. Beyond all doubt would be an impossible standard, because all traces of doubt can seldom be eliminated. And sometimes the truth resides in those traces of doubt, even in a criminal justice system that's better than most others around the globe

For that reason alone, we should eliminate the death penalty in Colorado. Convictions get reversed. When they do, those wrongly convicted of crimes can be set free and reparations can be made - unless they are dead. Contemporary science just hasn't found a way to reverse a death sentence once it has been carried out.

Just this month, 55-year-old Nathson Fields became the 131st person in the United States to have a murder conviction overturned after sitting on death row waiting to be killed. Acquittals of wrongfully convicted citizens have become more common with modern developments in forensic science. Modern DNA analysis, for example, has created exculpatory evidence that wasn't available to help suspects in their original trials. Criminologists have also discovered in recent years that juries have given too much credibility to fingerprint analysis in some cases, which can be been flawed by laboratory dishonesty, incompetence, or a combination of both.

Fields was wrongly convicted for a 1984 murder in Illinois. Years later, it was discovered the judge in the first trial took a $10,000 bribe to help alter the outcome. At Fields' retrial, a co-defendant - a man who admitted to killing up to 20 people - testified against Fields in exchange for the promise of a lesser sentence. A judge decided the testimony of a mass murderer working for a lesser sentence might not be high on the credibility scale, so Fields was tried again in a case that resulted in his acquittal on April 8.

Before justice prevailed, Fields spent 20 years in prison and 11-1/2 years on death row. He was wrongly convicted, but at least society hadn't killed him before discovering the mistake.

On rare occasions, a death row inmate is someone comparable to Timothy McVeigh - a person so obviously guilty the space that separates "beyond reasonable doubt" from absolute certainty is microscopically thin. Those convicts are rare, and there's no compelling reason we shouldn't settle for letting them rot in prison to die of old age.

The last time Colorado sought the death penalty, it cost $1.4 million just to prosecute the case. The convict, one contemptible Jose Luis Rubi-Nava, a man convicted of dragging a woman behind a vehicle until she died, ended up pleading guilty in return for a sentence of life in prison without parole.

Had Rubi-Nava been tried in a non-capital punishment case, it would have cost about $70,000 - an enormous savings over $1.4 million.

In a state that has the physical ability to confine murderous monsters until their natural deaths, a penalty of death serves no practical purpose. It merely costs a lot of money, because the process of lawfully killing a person is necessarily complex, lengthy, and full of cumbersome checks and balances. In addition, it needlessly puts the state at risk of someday killing the wrong person.

Rather than waste money on death penalty cases that result in nothing of tangible value to society, we should use the money to solve the growing backlog of more than 1,400 unsolved Colorado murders that have stumped investigators since 1970. Let's stop wasting big money on a few occasional death row inmates, and use it to obtain convictions instead. Doing so could bring comfort and peace to Coloradans still waiting for justice and closure after the loss of their loved ones.

(source: Opinion, Colorado Springs Gazette)

CONNECTICUT: In the Front of Public Debate

originally sent out by email on 4.15.09 from Equal Justice USA


One of the things that excites me about this movement is seeing the range of different people that work together. It's exciting to see people from completely different political, social and religious backgrounds working together toward the common cause of defeating the death penalty. This week I wanted to highlight some people with backgrounds in corrections who have been touched by the death penalty and are now working to fight it.

Of all the people who are negatively affected by the death penalty, perhaps the groups that we talk the least about are people in law enforcement and corrections officers. The people that we ask to administer the ultimate punishment of taking a life are uniquely impacted by it. This week I have two stories that highlight wardens, one who refused a posting because of her opposition to the death penalty and one who came to oppose the death penalty after he personally oversaw several executions and what they are each doing to advocate repealing the death penalty.

Recently, a House vote in my home state of Connecticut has pushed the death penalty to the front of the public debate there and a lot of progress is being made. Read below to learn about the movement there and how a former warden is helping to build a coalition.

Also, read about former prison warden Ron McAndrew, whose opposition to the death penalty is getting a lot of notice. (Find in recent post here on the Journey of Hope blog, Connie)

Towards Justice,Nicholas on behalf of all of EJUSA...
Getting the Conversation Going in Connecticut

You may have heard that there has been some exciting progress made toward repealing the death penalty in Connecticut. The state has work left to do, but they have made great progress toward opening a dialogue and forming a coalition to fight the death penalty.

Last month the joint House and Senate judiciary committee voted to send HB06578 to the full House for debate. The bill would replace the death penalty with life without parole.

Even though the bill will probably fall short of passing this time around, the Connecticut Network for the Abolition of the Death Penalty (CNADP) welcomes the vote as a way to bring the death penalty debate to the forefront.

The discussion has already resulted in several Op-Ed pieces favoring repeal. "It has been a respectful and civil debate. That's been very encouraging and I am hopeful that that continues," says CNADP director Ben Jones. Ben hopes that the debate will help to form the coalition that is needed to ultimately win a repeal.

People from many different groups are already working together in Connecticut.

Collaborating with people in law enforcement is already a big part of CNADP's strategy. Volunteer Mary Wolff, a former warden, has been very successful building support within the law enforcement community. Also, a former police commissioner sits on CNADP's board.

Mary gave testimony calling for the repeal of the death penalty at the public hearings at the state house. She told the moving story of being asked to become warden of Northern Correctional Institution, the prison that houses the execution chamber; she ultimately refused the post because she believes that the practice is unethical. She called upon the legislature to repeal the death penalty, saying:

The time is NOW:
- to cut costs and abolish the death penalty,
- to stop following in the footsteps of the criminal who has committed a heinous crime, by committing another heinous, but "legal" act,
- to stop wasting money, while trying to decide what crime is heinous enough for the death penalty and what crime isn't.

The time is NOW - to stand with the 14 other states and 135 countries that have already rejected the death penalty.

(Mary's) testimony was made all the more powerful by the 14 former wardens and corrections workers who came out to show their support for her testimony and for repeal.

CNADP also works closely with the Catholic Conference and the UCC in Connecticut. They hope to strengthen their collaboration with law enforcement, the religious community and victims' rights groups as they begin a new campaign this year.

With so many alliances being built and CNADP looking to hire an outreach director for the upcoming campaign, Connecticut has a lot going on to give us hope.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Community of Sant'Egidio (This community invites The Journey of Hope yearly)

The Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, the Archbishop of Santa Fe, Michael Sheehan, together with Representative Gail Chasey e Viki Elky are in Rome at the invitation of the Community of Sant'Egidio.

In 2002 the Community of Sant'Egidio launched the worldwide movement "Cities for Life - Cities against the Death Penalty" and the Colosseum in Rome, lit up with special effects - with the cooperation of ACEA - has become the symbol of the international campaign on behalf of a system of justice capable of respecting life and human dignity.


PRESS CONFERENCE: Piazza di S.Egidio 3/a Wednesday April 15, 2009 At the headquarters of the Community of Sant'Egidio Piazza S.Egidio 3/a

Today's Event: Wednesday, April 15, 2009 20:15 - 21:15 In front of the Colosseum


With the participation of Mario Marazziti, Community of Sant'Egidio, the Mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, Governor Bill Richardson and the Archbishop of Santa Fe, Michael Sheehan

NEW MEXICO is the 15th State to Abolish the Death Penalty in the US.

After many attempts by legislators and civil society, after the Judiciary Committee of New Mexico's Senate passed the bill repealing the death penalty on March 10, 2009, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed H.B. 285 on March 18, 2009. It is a bi-partisan bill that replaces the death penalty with life imprisonment. New Mexico is the fifteenth state to abolish capital punishment. It matches and follows by less than two years what New Jersey's legislature passed in December 2007 and Governor Corzine signed on December 17th 2007: the eve of the historical approval by the UN General Assembly in New York of the Resolution for a Global Moratorium on the Death Penalty.

New Mexico's initiative is an example that can spread to other states,inside and outside the US. Recently, many other American states have been considering similar bills because of increasing evidence of flaws in the judicial system, the high number of innocent, exonerated death row prisoners, the increasing pressure of victims' families and the considerable savings that can result from putting an end to the death penalty: Nebraska, Maryland, Kansas, New Hampshire Colorado, and Montana are among them.

Piazza di S.Egidio 3,a 00153 Roma - Tel 39.06585661 - Fax 39.065883625


PROFILE: Former Warden Ron McAndrew

Former warden Ron McAndrew is a courageous new voice in the movement to end the death penalty. Wherever he goes, Ron's incredibly powerful story of his personal experience with capital punishment is met with rapt attention.

Ron spent 25 years in corrections in Florida, starting as an entry-level corrections officer and working up to warden. As warden of Florida State Penitentiary, he oversaw three executions, including the horribly botched execution of Pedro Medina.

Listening to Ron you learn about an effect of the death penalty that is rarely talked about and hard to quantify - the incredible toll it takes on the citizens who we ask
Ron in the news: here

Ron's Website: here

Ron's Blog: here

The above profile (with related excerpts) were sent by email from Equal Justice USA (EJUSA) - (see more soon from EJUSA and Connecticut on this blogsite)

Equal Justice USA (EJUSA) is a national leader in the movement to halt executions. We work state by state to train and empower grassroots leaders to advocate for a more fair and humane criminal justice system.

Monday, April 13, 2009

RENNY CUSHING: The Repeal of the Death Penalty is Inevitable


For state Rep. Renny Cushing, repeal of death penalty is inevitable----Speech by son of murder victim credited with passage in House

State Rep. Renny Cushing is once again at the forefront of a drive to abolish capital punishment in the state of New Hampshire.

The Hampton Democrat's emotional testimony 2 weeks ago on the House floor was credited by some with swaying enough votes — 193-174 — to send a bill repealing the death penalty to the Senate.

On the floor, Cushing shared his own tragic story. His father was shot to death in the doorway of his Hampton home in 1988 by a neighbor who was a town police officer.

"There was a knock on the front door ... my dad got up to open it and 2 shotgun blasts rang out, turned his chest into hamburger and he died in front of my mother in the home they lived in for 35 years and raised 7 children."

And while his family wanted justice, Cushing testified that killing the man who killed his Dad wasn't the answer.

"The death penalty would not have brought my father back, it would only further victimize another family," Cushing said. If we make those who kill, make us into killers, then evil triumphs. And we all lose."

For Cushing, the speech that left some lawmakers in tears was 20 years in the making.

Since his father's death, Cushing has turned his loss into something positive by becoming a leading voice in victim's rights and an advocate against the death penalty.

"I didn't chose this path, it chose me," Cushing said in a recent interview. "It wasn't my choice to be a survivor of a murder victim. But I can't change the past. What I can do is take from life experiences and try to make good of it."

Brought up with what he recalls a religious background and a strong morality instilled into him by his parents, he always opposed the death penalty.

Cushing said he did not waver from that stance even after his father was killed by the neighbor with a grudge against the Cushing family.

The two people who were convicted of the murder — Robert McLaughlin Sr. and his wife, Susan — are now serving sentences of life without parole.

"If I changed my opinion it would have given my father's murderer more power," Cushing said. "Not only would my father be taken from me but so would my values."

But his public fight for the repeal of the death penalty, Cushing said, didn't begin until 11 years ago.

At the time, he was a state representative and the issue of expanding the grounds of death penalty came to the forefront in 1998 after a number of grisly murders.

Cushing said he reluctantly became a stakeholder in the discussion on what to do with killers in the aftermath of homicide because his father was murdered.

"Most people presume those who have someone murdered support the death penalty," Cushing said. "I felt that I had the moral obligation to honor my father's memory and myself by speaking out publicly in opposition of filling another coffin."

Cushing did so by fighting against the bill and sponsoring another to abolish the death penalty.

While his bill failed, so did the one to expand the death penalty.

The debate, however, spurred Cushing to take the debate nationwide.

"I met other people who were just like me," Cushing said. "They had family members who were murdered but opposed the death penalty. They needed a voice."

As a result, in 2004 he founded Murder Victim Families for Human Rights — an organization against the death penalty — and since then has given numerous speeches across the country.

"For me this is way that I honor my father's memory," Cushing said.

Cushing admitted that he was surprised the bill to repeal the death penalty passed the House.

The vote came 3 months after Michael Addison was sentenced to death in December for killing Manchester police officer Michael Briggs in 2006.

Cushing said possibly hearing from a victim who didn't support retribution flipped some votes.

But whatever the reason, Cushing is glad the bill will now be debated in the Senate.

"Justice has nothing to do with the death penalty," Cushing said. "There is nobody that wants killers caught, prosecuted and held accountable more than I do," Cushing said. "But capital punishment is nothing more than a state-sanctioned, ritualized murder."

Cushing said all the death penalty does is make people focus on the killer rather than the real needs of the victims.

The last time the state executed someone was in 1939 and to carry out future executions it will need to spend a million dollars to construct an execution chamber.

While the bill's fate in the Senate is uncertain, Gov. John Lynch has already vowed a veto if it reaches his desk.

Cushing said he plans to keep working.

His speech on the House floor was very emotional for him.

"Just as the abolition of slavery, women suffrage and the right of workers to organize have all come part of our society so too will the death penalty be repealed," Cushing said. "It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when."


Source: here

Seacoastonline dot com

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Reflections on Easter and the Death Penalty

by Diann Rust-Tierney - Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

I will be the first to admit that I am not a biblical scholar and lay no claim to a particularly profound understanding of Easter from a theological perspective. Nevertheless, I would respectfully submit that Easter is an appropriate time to reflect on the institution of capital punishment.

For one thing, Easter is when most Christians give more thought than usual to the implications of a legal and political system that has the power to authorize death as punishment. Whether one views the accounts of Jesus' trial and execution as historical or allegorical there is a deep understanding that in this case the system is about to make a cruel and arbitrary mistake.

When it comes to our modern American system of capital punishment, mistake is it's hallmark. A Columbia University study of capital sentencing found that 68% of all death verdicts imposed and fully reviewed were reversed by courts because of serious error. Half of the reversals called into question the reliability of the death verdict with 82% of the cases ending in a sentence other than death on retrial -- including 9% ending in not guilty verdicts. These statistics take on real world implications when you consider that one hundred thirty individuals have been exonerated from death row -- some coming within hours of execution for a crime they did not commit.

We identify with and understand the overwhelming grief and despair of Jesus' friends and followers. But most of all our hearts break at the thought of what his poor mother must have endured in the days and hours leading up to his death.

I was taught that Jesus' role in the world was, in part, to take on and understand what it is to be human -- to learn our joys as well as the nature of our suffering. In so doing he learned and expanded his compassion for our condition.

Christians remembering Jesus' suffering at Easter are instructed in compassion for self and others. So this is an appropriate time to seriously consider the ripples of pain that the death penalty brings mothers, daughters, sons and grandchildren, providing little solace in return for the suffering. This lesson in compassion also challenges us not to turn away, as we too often do from the pain of survivors of homicide -- but calls us to be a part of and actively promote services that are healing.

But the transcendent message of Easter is that despite the frailties of the human condition -- our capacity to lie, turn our backs on and cruelly hurt one another -- there is also always the opportunity for hope, renewal, redemption and an earth shattering, rock rolling away capacity for love.

One last reflection on Easter: does retaining the death penalty or ending it bring us closer to its meaning?
(Published in The Huffington Post)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

PAKISTAN // CHINA : Death Penalty HEADLINES: International

from Rick Halperin's News and Updates: here (go there often to see much more almost daily)

Death Penalty and Execution News - APRIL 11, 2009:

PAKISTAN: Death penalty for kids, women abolished

The Lahore High Court Friday abolished death sentence to the extent of under-trial women and children arrested in narcotics cases while enhanced sentences for previous convicts.

A full bench held this while laying down new principles to remove discrepancies and bring uniformity in different sentences being awarded under Control of Narcotic Substance Act 1997.

The court, however, observed that the trail courts only in cases containing special features could depart from these principles but then they would have to write down reasons for such departure.

The discrepancies in the law came to fore when a division bench during the hearing of an appeal of convict found that he was awarded only 2 years sentence in section 9-C (minimum punishment up to 14 years) of CNSA, 1997.

With observation that it a meagre punishment, the DB referred the matter to chief justice to form a larger bench so that a uniform sentencing policy could be formulated in narcotics cases for guidance of trial courts.

The CJ had formed a full bench comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, Justice Tariq Shamim and Justice MA Zafar.

The bench further held in its 14 pages judgement that a previous convict should be awarded 1/3 more sentence of imprisonment and fine.

In case his sentence exceeds (after calculating as per laid down principles) the maximum punishment prescribed by law would be awarded but the fine would be doubled.

However, women and children on account of their gender and tender age are to awarded 1/3 less sentence of imprisonment and fine in default of payment of fine than the normal sentence however this sentence would be simple in nature.

In case a woman or a child is a previous convict then they would be handed down same sentence that of previous male convict. But it would be simple imprisonment however, death penalty would not be given to women and children even they are previous-convict.

(source: The Nation)


Tibetan death sentences get little attention in China ---- China's state-run media largely ignored the 1st known death sentences for last year's riots in Tibet.

When 2 Tibetans were sentenced to death on Wednesday for setting fire to shops during last year’s protest riots in Lhasa, the Chinese authorities for some reason chose to tell the rest of the world before they told their own citizens.

The episode illustrates the peculiar way in which news travels in China, where the government controls the traditional media, but the Internet offers an alternative.

Bizarrely, the news first appeared Wednesday evening on the English-language service of the state-run Xinhua news agency. But nowhere was it to be found on the Chinese language service for another 24 hours.

That meant that, while the world knew, not a single paper in China ran a story Thursday about the first death sentences known to have been passed on Tibetans for last year's riots, on individuals identified as Losang Gyaltse and Loyar – except the government-run "Tibetan Daily," published in Lhasa, Tibet's capital.

They put it in their hard-copy edition, but for some reason it was not findable on their website until Thursday afternoon. Only then did a handful of news portals elsewhere on the Chinese Web pick the story up.

Until then, the only way Chinese citizens could have heard about the death sentences was on the Chinese-language websites of foreign radio stations such as the BBC and VOA. To get onto those sites, you have to go around the "Great Firewall" by using a proxy server to evade government censors.

Curiously, the first mainland site to post the BBC's story was "Anti-CNN," a nationalist website that decries the alleged bias of the Western media, but does not appear to appreciate the irony that the only way they can find out what is really happening in their country is to read the Western media surreptitiously.

Equally curiously, the story on Xinhua’s English service and the story in the "Tibetan Daily" are almost identical, except that the Lhasa paper gives more details of the crimes with which the accused were charged.

Was this a Xinhua story that the agency simply did not distribute nationwide? Did one reporter in Lhasa feed the same story to Xinhua and to the "Tibetan Daily"?

Like so much else in Tibet, where foreign journalists and diplomats are barred, we will probably never know.

(source: Christian Science Monitor)