Friday, June 17, 2011

Great News: NC RJA delayed until next year!

June 17, 2011

We have great news to report to you this morning.

NC Senate leadership has indicated that they will not be voting on repeal of the Racial Justice Act this year and will likely wait until May 2012 to take it up.

As long as we continue to work together, the Racial Justice Act will continue to be the law of the land.

Thank you!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Three Needles. Six Minutes. The End.

Gary Haugen was in prison for killing his ex-girlfriend's mother when he killed a penitentiary inmate in 2003 and was sentenced to death. Haugen's execution by lethal injection in a room similar to this Texas chamber is set for Aug. 16.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Execution forces Portland’s faith community to confront death penalty
By Peter Korn

The Portland Tribune, Jun 16, 2011

T. Allen Bethel has met his exception. A gentle and thoughtful man, Bethel is senior pastor of Maranatha Church in Northeast Portland. He and other Portland-area clergy are well aware that on Aug. 16 the state Department of Corrections is scheduled to put convicted killer Gary Haugen to death in the first Oregon state execution in 14 years.

Most members of the local faith community who take up the highly charged issue these days speak out against the death penalty, though there are certainly clergy on both sides.

Proponents and opponents know that the issue is framed differently here because Oregon is also home to physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.

Physician-assisted suicide essentially allows individuals to say they would rather die than live in circumstances they cannot bear. Haugen went to Marion County Circuit Court to ask that he be put to death rather than live out his life in the Oregon State Penitentiary.

When he considers those two ideas, Bethel, a staunch opponent of capital punishment, says maybe Haugen should get his wish.

“My belief is, I would fight for his life,” Bethel says. “But each of us has the right to say what I want or do not want done with my body.”

Oregon’s lethal injection execution system uses three sterilized needles and takes about six minutes for the combination of drugs to kill the prisoner. The state has used the lethal injection method since Oregon’s capital punishment was reinstated in 1984. Prior to that, Oregon executed prisoners for many years in a gas chamber.

Many religious leaders on both sides of the issue see Aug. 16 as an important day. Some see it as a shameful moment. Others see it as justice being done.

Tribune Photo: Christopher Onstott • The Rev. T. Allen Bethel of Maranatha Church in Northeast Portland says he opposes the death penalty, but might make an exception for soon-to-be executed Gary Haugen, who has said he prefers death to spending the rest of his life in prison.

Sanctity of life
Gary Haugen has killed twice. He was serving a life sentence for the 1981 sexual assault and beating death of his ex-girlfriend’s mother in her Northeast Portland home, when he was sentenced to death in 2003 for the stabbing to death of a fellow inmate.

Haugen, 49, has released his lawyers, saying he doesn’t want to appeal his execution. He’s ready to die. But dozens of local religious leaders have joined an organization called Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. They have asked Gov. John Kitzhaber to block Haugen’s execution and commute his sentence. The group also plans a ballot measure to eliminate Oregon’s death penalty.

Bethel supports those efforts, for the most part. Until six years ago, Bethel says, he found himself supporting the death penalty for a few cases. He has been inside prisons as a chaplain. He has talked to prisoners. His congregation, he figures, has people on both sides of the issue.

But six years ago, Bethel began to wrestle with what he truly meant when he spoke about the sanctity of life, and he came to the conclusion that he had to go all in against executions.

“How do we right a wrong when we can’t right the wrong?” Bethel asks. “Today I advocate for the sanctity of life.”

Choice is another matter. Haugen says he wants to die. Maybe, Bethel says, he should be given his one final choice because maybe it wouldn’t be Haugen at all who was truly making the choice. It might just appear that way.

“The kicker for me is this: all of our lives are coming to an end,” Bethel says. “In my belief, God is the final decision-maker as to when life ends.”

Bethel says he doesn’t know one local minister who is for the death penalty. That in itself is revealing, because nationally, recent polls show 62 percent of Americans support the death penalty in murder cases. If the majority of Portland’s faith community leaders feel similarly, they are being quiet about it.

On the other side of the issue is Lanny Hubbard, a theology instructor at Portland Bible College and an elder at the charismatic City Bible Church in Northeast Portland. Hubbard is certain a number of local ministers support the death penalty, but most would rather do so quietly.

Churches here have enough trouble maintaining healthy congregations; taking on an issue such as capital punishment could lose them members.

“It boils down to marketing and image,” Hubbard says. “How does the world perceive us? If they perceive us as irrelevant and hostile, they won’t come to our church. They’re afraid if they said I am for the death penalty, immediately they’re going to be put in a place where that also means they’re going to be gay bashers and they’re going to light abortion clinics on fire.”

Hubbard isn’t shy about explaining his pro-death penalty view. He believes justice and the social order require it be used in “ironclad” murder cases. Putting the murderer to death, he says, tells society that we value life. Not doing so devalues it, he says, quoting an Old Testament passage calling for public execution: “So all Israel will hear and be afraid and never again do such a wicked thing.”

“There is a moral balance in the universe that must be maintained,” Hubbard says.

Hubbard’s support for the death penalty doesn’t extend to the celebrations that sometimes take place outside the penitentiary after an execution, which he calls “sickening.”

“It should never be vindictive,” Hubbard says. “It should never be vengeful. The issue is justice, it’s not getting even.”


‘It’s about our values’
That doesn’t work for Matt Cato, director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland. The Catholic Church, Cato says, stands against the death penalty, which he says is consistent with its position against abortion and physician-assisted suicide.

“We protect life,” Cato says. “We’re very much against (capital punishment). Just because someone decides to take their life we don’t approve of it. In this case, (Haugen) is choosing to die just like someone at the end of life and suffering. We don’t believe that’s justification for taking a life.”

While Cato suspects local Catholics are fairly evenly split on the issue of capital punishment, the Rev. Lynne Smouse Lopéz, pastor at Ainsworth United Church of Christ in Alameda, says she’s pretty sure most of her congregation are against it. As for her personal view, Lopéz says, “I’ve always been against the death penalty and always will be, I’m sure.”

Lopéz believes that everyone is redeemable and that putting someone to death denies that possibility.

“What I have to believe is that everybody has good in them,” Lopéz says. “We are created in the image of God. …We can be broken, but I also believe we can be healed and be made whole. Some people maybe have to be kept away from society to protect themselves and others, but I just cannot give up on them as human beings.”

As for Haugen asking for his own execution, Lopéz admits to equivocation.

“I’d rather we then say, ‘It’s OK if he wants physician-assisted suicide, but not put to death in an execution.’ ”

Haugen’s case is not an aberration. Two men have been executed in the past 77 years in Oregon (in 1996 and 1997) and both chose to abandon the lengthy and costly appeals process in state courts.

But for Rabbi Michael Cahana of Temple Beth Israel in Northwest Portland, volunteering for execution shouldn’t matter. He agrees with Lopéz that government should not be executing people, even as he acknowledges the Jewish Torah is full of instances of capital punishment.

“To extend to the state the irrevocable power of execution is not in line with Jewish theology,” Cahana says. “It’s one thing to say God makes these decisions, an entirely different thing to say human beings do.”

Cahana says despite the biblical executions, Jewish law as it has evolved over the centuries made it so hard to convict somebody to the standard of capital punishment that it was essentially irrelevant.

Imam Mikal H. Shabazz, director of the Oregon Islamic Chaplains Organization, has concerns similar to Cahana. Both have trouble accepting capital punishment in a country where the criminal justice system has been shown to sometimes send innocent convicts to their deaths. But Shabazz is bound by another authority — the Koran — which he says is unequivocal in supporting capital punishment for a variety of crimes, including rape and sedition.

So Shabazz supports capital punishment, but not so much in the United States.

As for Haugen asking to be put to death, he’s willing to consider that an exception.

“He (Haugen) is not backing off. He says, ‘This is what I did,’ and he wants the full measure of the law,” Shabazz says. “He’s saying, ‘All I have to give is my life.’ I think his right should be accepted.”

Shabazz has a qualifier. Islamic law, he says, gives the family of a victim great latitude in either demanding a murderer be put to death or shown mercy. The family’s desire should trump Haugen’s wish, he says.

Haugen’s last wish, or the wishes of his victims’ families, shouldn’t come first in the eyes of Tom O’Connor, who was chaplain for the Oregon prison system until 2008.

O’Connor, a Catholic who writes about the role of religion and spirituality in prisoners’ lives, has spent a great deal of time with Oregon’s nearly three dozen death-row inmates. He says as a rule they are tortured individuals and dangerous. Yet O’Connor calls the death penalty “inhumane and ineffective.”

Much as the Bible College’s Hubbard feels the lack of a death penalty diminishes society’s ability to value life, O’Connor believes something nearly the opposite: that the existence of the death penalty diminishes the value of life for those inside our prisons.

Acceding to Haugen’s wish to die is giving the inmate a power he no longer deserves, according to O’Connor.

“We’re getting sucked into Mr. Haugen’s issues, not our issues,” O’Connor says. “For us as a people, forget Mr. Haugen. This is not about him. It’s about us and our values and what kind of society we really value.”

Copyright 2011 Pamplin Media Group, 6605 S.E. Lake Road, Portland, OR 97222 • 503-226-6397

***3rd photo above: by Tribune's Christopher Onstott Subject is Ron Steiner:
Board Chairman who told members of Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty last week that the group would try to persuade Gov. John Kitzhaber to commute Gary Haugen’s death sentence.

Find the original story here

NC Racial Justice Act S9 Vote: JUST IN

June 16, 2011 7 PM or so EST... Repeal still pending so our URGENT and COLLECTIVE ACTIONS may help make a crucial difference. (The vote was closer than the earlier committee vote.)

Minutes ago, the NC House of Representatives voted in favor of Senate Bill 9 by a vote of 63 - 53. The bill will now move to the NC Senate for a concurrence vote.

Take action now and encourage your senator to vote ‘no’ on Senate Bill 9, here

People of Faith Against the Death Penalty
110 W. Main St., Suite 2-G, Carrboro NC 27510
(919) 933-7567

NC RJA from People of Faith Against the Death Penalty

It's a Moral Issue & We Told Them So

The bill to repeal the NC Racial Justice Act, S9, was rescheduled for a vote on the NC House floor today, Thursday, June 16 during the session starting at 10:00 a.m.

Meanwhile, more than two dozen religious leaders and state legislators from across North Carolina appeared at our press conference at the NC General Assembly Tuesday, June 14.

We all laid out the moral failure that repealing the NC Racial Justice Act would be.

Here are some television news stories:

* ABC Local here

* Triangle News 14 here

You can find photos from the press conference here:

* (Don’t forget to “Like” our Facebook page.)

Take a minute and contact your legislators. Pass this one if the vote is delayed and Click here,

Stay strong. Because of you, justice will prevail.


VIDEO: Religious Leaders Take on Appeal of the Racial Justice Act

GO here

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pending Vote on Repeal of NC Racial Justice Act: new articles here

Asheville Citizen Times here

SEE items below and CALL your NC House legislators and a few extra republicans if you have a chance to plead for an end to the call for Repeal. Even if you are in another state...why not call a few of our state house legislators? Normally, we try to stay bi-partisan here yet in this state the Republicans have been calling for Repeal as a block.

The vote may take place momentarily or could be delayed. So don't delay your call or FAXES which may work better in this case...

Check back for more news later...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Be Honest about Race Bias: Keep Racial Justice Act

Pastor's Pitch on Saving the NC RJA

Interesting pitch for preserving Racial Justice Act in North Carolina by blogger
by Doug B. on 11. Jun, 2011 in Death Penalty Reforms, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Race, Class, and Gender, Who Sentences?

A local North Carolina paper has this fascinating commentary by Reverand Shawn Blackwelder, the pastor of Riverside United Methodist Church in Elizabeth City, NC, headlined "Be honest about race bias: Keep Racial Justice Act." Here are excerpts:

From time to time, each of us is called to speak out about issues of justice and honesty, and I feel the N.C. Racial Justice Act is one of those issues. The state of North Carolina became a model of justice, honesty and courage in 2009 when the Racial Justice Act was passed and signed into law. It simply provides for a court review to determine whether racial bias influenced a death sentence or a prosecutor’s decision to seek a death sentence. If race is found to have been a factor, the defendant would not go free, but would be re-sentenced to life without parole....

Like everything to do with the death penalty, the Racial Justice Act has its opponents as well as its supporters in the legislature. Currently, the opponents are directing the conversation, as the N.C. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote next week on a bill to repeal the Racial Justice Act. If this bill passes, it would be a huge step in the wrong direction, and I hope that Gov. Perdue will veto the measure.

I need to say a few words about what the Racial Justice Act is not. It is not an attempt to vilify those in law enforcement or the courts. I have law enforcement officers in my congregation, and I know that because they are on the front lines, putting themselves out there, they are often much more aware of and sympathetic to the problems of race and injustice. In short, they know more about it and do more about it than most of us....

Recently I hosted a press conference with local pastors in support of the Racial Justice Act. We held it in the sanctuary in the shadow of the cross, which reminded us of two things: first, Jesus Christ, who was unjustly tried and subjected to the death penalty and second, that we are all sinners in need of grace. So, it is a legal matter and a matter of justice, but it is also a spiritual matter and a matter of honesty....

The N.C. Racial Justice Act does not seek to point fingers at anyone; rather, it just seeks to make us be honest with ourselves about how our particular sin of bigotry may at times corrupt our attempts at justice in the legal system. And considering the finality of the punishment, that’s something we need to do.

The N.C. Racial Justice Act offers a practical and honest way to improve our criminal justice system, and reduce the historical and institutional effects of our particular sin of racial bias. I want to thank the legislative leaders and our governor for their honesty and moral courage in supporting the Racial Justice Act. I encourage them to continue to do so. It’s simply the right thing to do. I also want to encourage all people of faith in this area to be in prayer for how we might further seek a kind of justice that honors God and shows a love for our neighbors.

Some related posts on the North Carolina Racial Justice Act:

Robust legislative debate over NC Racial Justice Act
NC Racial Justice Act going to governor's desk
NC Gov signs new racial justice act concerning capital prosecutions
Will NC's new Racial Justice Act effectively kill the state's death penalty?
New research suggests race of victim impacts NC death penalty administration
NC defender officer urging that racial bias claims be brought in every capital case
NC prosecutors bring complaints about state's Racial Justice Act to court
State judge refuses to overturn Racial Justice Act in North Carolina
Upcoming MSU symposium to examine North Carolina Racial Justice Act
Talk of profound changes to North Carolina's potent Racial Justice Act

And see the posts below:

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Repeal or no on RJA Full Vote: NC House to Vote Tuesday June 14th

SB 9 is expected to be heard on the NC House floor on June 14th. In addition to the repeal of the Racial Justice Act, the House is also considering... GO here

See the articles below and cut/paste the following: NC racial justice act - repeal vote June 14 2011

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

URGENT: NC Racial Justice Act (vote scheduled for June 14)

Be sure to read the article just below this one as well. Thanx, Connie

The following just in from People of Faith Against the Death Penalty - North Carolina

Next Tuesday, June 14, the NC House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on repealing the NC Racial Justice Act, Senate Bill 9. Before the floor session begins People of Faith Against the Death Penalty and North Carolina legislators will sponsor a press conference featuring religious leaders at the NC General Assembly urging the House and Senate to leave the law alone.

The press conference will take place at 10 a.m. in the press conference room of the Legislative Building, 16 W. Jones St., Raleigh. Join us.

Contact your legislators to take a stand against racial bias. This url may help?

Senate Bill 9 denies the presence of racial bias in the death penalty.

It’s 2011. Let’s be real about this.

For years we’ve been telling you about the widely documented, strong and pervasive racial bias in NC courtrooms and capital cases.

Tell your lawmakers not to set us back decades. Already done so? Tell them again.

Do not let lawmakers undo this mighty step for justice and fairness, this example for our country, without speaking up again and again.

Your voice is essential. It’s about justice, it’s about just us.

Please take a moment and speak up now.

Thank you.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

COSTS of Repeal of NC Racial Justice Act (Actual Facts)

Current Status: Stay Alert as this threatening Repeal could suddenly be passed. Thanx to all who in other states have made mention of our concerns here such as some activist groups in Texas and the National ACLU - For any in NC, plz help us watch for each new calendar in the NC full House so as not to miss getting out the word.

Here is one of the best pieces written during the now "on hold" process of the debate whether or not to repeal the NC Racial Justice Act in NC's full House of Representatives. Often scare tactics are used to push a Repeal, Act or Bill through as you often know. What's surprising is to see how COSTS were used as a reason to Repeal this historic and needed RJA. Hats off to former DA, Mr. Gaston Gazette, who's got the experience and does the research to back up his digging.

Costs of a repeal of the Racial Justice Act | racial, act, justice
Written by Gaston Gazette

Former Guilford County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Johnson currently serves as a private practitioner and operates a primarily criminal practice in Greensboro. He has with experience in federal criminal and state criminal including white collar criminal cases, murder, drugs, bank robbery and fraud.

Wednesday, 01 June 2011 19:01

In 2009, North Carolina passed the Racial Justice Act, a landmark bill to address racial bias in the use of the death penalty. At that time, prosecutors unsuccessfully opposed the bill — claiming that it was a surreptitious play to end the death penalty, that it would overwhelm and clog up the court system and falsely asserting that it would allow murderers to be freed from prison.

Two years later, we can see how unfounded those claims were. Death penalty prosecutions have continued at the same rate as before the RJA. Prosecutors have continued to seek death penalties and juries have continued to sentence a few people to die. Just like before the RJA. Neither has the RJA released a single person from prison, because the law doesn’t allow it. Those who prove race discrimination will have their sentences converted from death to life without possibility of parole. Period. Three black men have been released from death row and freed in the last several years, but that was because they were innocent.

Now, prosecutors again seek to kill the Racial Justice Act, this time with grossly exaggerated estimates of future cost in the context of a severely strained state budget. Prosecutors, through the Administrative Office of the Courts, assert that the RJA will cost North Carolina citizens an extra 23 million dollars over the next four years.

Once again, they are using scare tactics to paint a distorted picture of the RJA. Here are the facts:

So far, the Racial Justice Act has cost much less than $1 million dollars per year. In contrast, North Carolina spends at least an extra $11 million each year to pay for the death penalty system.

Active litigation of RJA claims has been limited to only a few jurisdictions, serving as models, thus greatly reducing court time and expense devoted to Racial Justice Act claims. That litigation will act as a guide, likely resulting in settlements or dismissals in many of the remaining cases.
Because inmates rightfully and legally filed motions under a constitutional law, passage of the proposed repeal would end up costing the state more money in legal actions than it would be to continue the Racial Justice Act litigation as it is currently proceeding. This bears repeating. Repeal is likely to result in increased, not decreased litigation costs.

Lastly, following the passage of the RJA, two major studies were conducted showing racial discrimination in charging and sentencing and the pervasive practice of prosecutors excluding qualified African Americans from jury service in capital cases. The studies were funded by private foundation and were free to the State of North Carolina.

In light of the findings of those studies, and the fact that we have an established history of sentencing innocent black people to death and excluding qualified black citizens from service on capital juries, isn’t the small amount of money we’re spending on the Racial Justice Act worth it? Let’s call it insurance, that no one is ever again executed in North Carolina because of the color of his skin, or that of his victim’s. If we can’t afford to insure that race discrimination is not a part of the death penalty, then maybe it is the death penalty that we can’t afford.

Read more here

Troy Davis Letter (Distribute to People of Faith)

From NC: People of Faith Against the Death Penalty

This weekend please make a point of asking your pastor, rabbi, imam and religious leaders you know to take a moment and endorse the Troy Davis Religious Leader Letter for Clemency at or CLICK here

You could be saving an innocent man's life.

Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.
- Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Babylonian Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 37a

Monday, June 06, 2011

US Government wants Death Penalty Option at coming Military Commission Trials

Amnesty I - USA RELEASE June 2011

Asked about the views of those offended by the prospect of the trial being conducted in federal court where the constitutional protections afforded to US citizens would apply, President Obama responded: “I don't think it will be offensive at all when he's convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him”. See Obama on terror trials: KSM will die., 18 November 2009


The USA’s growing isolation on the death penalty – and the damage to human rights principles caused by its post-9/11 counter-terrorism policies – can only deepen unless there's REAL change not the kind practiced currently...

Home› Document - USA: Aiming for execution, denying fair trialThe Pentagon’s announcement that military commission prosecutors are looking to pursue the death penalty against five Guantánamo detainees accused of leading involvement in the attacks of 11 September 2001 comes as no surprise. Both President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder had already made it clear that they support the capital option against these particular detainees.

In this regard, little has changed under the Obama administration. Indeed this news from the Pentagon comes three years to the month after it announced that the Bush administration would be seeking death sentences against these five men at their military commission trials. These charges were withdrawn and dismissed in January 2010, a year after President Obama took office and ordered a review of the Guantánamo cases. While this review led to a suspension of military commission proceedings, it regrettably did not bring them to an end.

Despite the USA’s continued enthusiasm for execution as a criminal penalty, with it now looking to take that policy choice to Guantánamo, the international tide against the death penalty continues to mount. Since 2008, Argentina, Burundi, Gabon, Togo and Uzbekistan have joined those countries to have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, and today a total of 139 countries are abolitionist in law or practice. In recent years, the UN General Assembly has repeatedly called for a worldwide moratorium on executions with a view to abolition. International human rights standards direct governments to work towards this goal.

The USA’s growing isolation on the death penalty – and the damage to human rights principles caused by its post-9/11 counter-terrorism policies – can only deepen if the administration gets its way and obtains death sentences after unfair military commission trials.

Since the attacks of 11 September 2001, in which nearly 3,000 people were killed, Amnesty International has called for those responsible for this crime against humanity to be brought to justice in accordance with international fair trials standards, and without resort to the death penalty.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty unconditionally. While international human rights law recognizes that some countries retain the death penalty, it prohibits the imposition and execution of a death sentence based on a trial that has not met the highest standards for fairness.

The need for stringent adherence to fair trial standards in such cases could not be greater given what has gone before. In place of prompt charges and ordinary criminal trials without undue delay, these and other detainees were ill-treated during years in unlawful detention. More generally, the failure of the USA to provide the victims and the general public the opportunity to see those responsible for the 9/11 attacks and other such crimes under international law brought to justice in fair trials has been shameful. It has been inconsistent with the USA’s human rights obligations to the victims, as well as the accused: victims of terrorism and other armed group violence have the right, like all victims of human rights abuses, to respect for and fulfilment of their rights to justice, reparation, and the truth.

The USA responded to the attacks of 11 September 2001 by developing a global “war” framework under which its interpretation of the laws of war would apply to the exclusion of international human rights law. Torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearance, secret detainee transfers, and indefinite detention outside the criminal justice system were among the practices that resulted. The five detainees who have just been recharged for trial by military commission, for example, were all subjected to enforced disappearance – for up to four years – before being brought to Guantánamo in September 2006. During their period in the custody of the USA’s Central Intelligence Agency they were also subjected to interrogation techniques or detention conditions that violated the international prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. No one has been held accountable for the crimes under international law that were committed against them.

Trials by military commission are also a product of the USA’s global “war” paradigm. The military commission system has been revised over the years and is now in its third version since President Bush first established it by executive order in November 2001. However, the commissions still fail to meet international fair trial standards.

Among other flaws, the commissions lack independence, whether in substance or appearance, from the political branches of government that have authorized, condoned, and blocked accountability and remedy for, human rights violations committed against the very category of detainees that will appear before them. The commissions are creations of political choice, not tribunals of demonstrably legitimate necessity, and turning to them in this context against these detainees contravenes international standards. Indeed, the fact that the USA has civilian federal courts open and capable of conducting complex terrorism trials has been recognized by the Obama administration itself. In November 2009, Attorney General Holder announced that the five Guantánamo detainees now facing possible death penalty trials by military commission would be brought to trial in civilian court in the mainland USA. The reason it reversed that decision can be put down to domestic political considerations – not any legal justification.

The military commissions are discriminatory. If any Guantánamo detainee slated for prosecution was a US national, he could not be tried by these military commissions: under US law he would have the right to a civilian jury trial in an ordinary federal court, not before a panel of US military officers operating under rules and procedures that provide a lesser standard of fairness. The same standard of fair trial should be applied to all, regardless of national origin: that is a fundamental principle of human rights and the rule of law.

The UN Human Rights Committee, established by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to oversee implementation of that treaty, has emphasised that fair trial guarantees are particularly important in cases leading to death sentences, and that “the imposition of a sentence of death upon conclusion of a trial, in which the provisions of article 14 of the Covenant have not been respected, constitutes a violation of the right to life (article 6 of the Covenant).” Any use of the death penalty based on these military commission trials would be a violation of international human rights law.

In 2007, the UN Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights called on the USA to disestablish the military commissions. In 2009, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions urged the USA not to conduct any capital prosecutions before military commissions.

Such appeals have fallen on deaf ears. On 31 May 2011, the Department of Defense announced that military commission prosecutors had sworn charges against Pakistani nationals Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and ‘Ali ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, Yemeni nationals Walid bin Attash and Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Saudi Arabian national Mustafa al Hawsawi alleging their leading involvement in the 9/11 attacks. The prosecutors have recommended that the death penalty be an option at the trial. This must be approved in advance by the “convening authority” of the military commissions, an official appointed by the Secretary of Defense. Under the Bush administration, the convening authority approved the pursuit of the death penalty against all of these five defendants.

The Pentagon’s announcement comes a month after it announced that military commission prosecutors were also seeking authorization to pursue the death penalty against Saudi Arabian national ‘Abd al Rahim al Nashiri. This Guantánamo detainee – also previously held and tortured in secret CIA custody before being transferred to the US Naval Base in Cuba – is accused of having had a leading role in the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen on 12 October 2000 in which 17 US sailors were killed and 40 others wounded, and in the attack on the French oil tanker MV Limburg in the Gulf of Aden on 6 October 2002 in which a crew member was killed.

Even as the USA moves towards death penalty trials in Guantánamo under a military commission system that falls short of international standards, the Obama administration has professed a commitment to international human rights principles:

“ The deep commitment of the United States to championing the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is driven by the founding values of our nation and the conviction that international peace, security, and prosperity are strengthened when human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected and protected. As the United States seeks to advance human rights and fundamental freedoms around the world, we do so cognizant of our own commitment to live up to our ideals at home and to meet our international human rights obligations. ”

The USA’s pursuit of military commission trials against Guantánamo detainees and its aim to secure death sentences at such trials, at least, cannot by any reasonable measure be described as advancement for human rights or a championing of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: quite the opposite. The convening authority should not authorize the death penalty to be an option in military commission prosecutions. And, even at this late stage, the US administration should abandon its military commission experiment altogether. Congress should cooperate in this and end its blocking of prosecutions of Guantánamo detainees being conducted in civilian federal courts.

“I fully expect to direct prosecutors to seek the death penalty against each of the alleged 9/11 conspirators”. Attorney General announces forum decisions for Guantánamo detainees, 13 November 2009

GO here and Click here

...the UN Human Rights Committee, the expert body established under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to monitor its implementation, has said that article 6 (which recognizes the existence of the death penalty) “refers generally to abolition in terms which strongly suggest that abolition is desirable. The Committee concludes that all measures of abolition should be considered as progress in the enjoyment of the right to life”. Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 6 on the right to life (Article 6), 1982. The USA ratified the ICCPR in 1992. See: USA: Trials in error. Third go at misconceived military commission experiment, July 2009.

EXTRA references (For researchers/journalists, lawyers) - you may want to also go here: HYPERLINK "" and Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 32 on the right to equality before courts and tribunals and to a fair trial (Article 14), 2007, para 22.
Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 32 on the right to equality before courts and tribunals and to a fair trial (Article 14), 2007, para 59; UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Report on the Mission to the United States of America, UN Doc A/HRC/6/17/Add.3 (22 November 2007); UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Report on the Mission to the United States of America, UN Doc A/HRC/11/2/Add.5 (28 May 2009);US human rights commitments and pledges, April 2009, HYPERLINK "" and go here

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Update: HELP NEEDED on the NC RJA: National ACLU

Thursday, June 2, 2011
News / North Carolina / politics
UPDATE: Racial Justice Act repeal bill pulled from House calendar
Posted by Samiha Khanna on Thu, Jun 2, 2011 at 12:19 PM

Since we may have a bit more time to contact legislators, plz do so...see items below and other posts in June and last half of May in archives.

We STILL Need Your Help:

Just got this from from ACLU of NC:

The NC Racial Justice Act is a model for other states and addresses both past and ongoing racial injustice in capital proceedings. SB 9, "No Discriminatory Purpose in Death Penalty," seeks to effectively repeal the Racial Justice Act. After passing the Judiciary Subcommittee B yesterday morning, SB 9 is scheduled to be heard by the House of Representatives TODAY. Call your House Representative and tell them to OPPOSE SB 9 and uphold the Racial Justice Act!

In 2009, the NC General Assembly passed the Racial Justice Act to address racial bias in the capital punishment system. Major studies have recently found significant racial bias in jury selection and with regard to race of the victim in death penalty proceedings in North Carolina. Now some legislators wish to "modify" the Racial Justice Act and have introduced HB 615, the so-called "No Discriminatory Purpose in Death Penalty" bill. Two weeks ago, certain House members inserted the language of HB 615 into an already passed Senate bill to curtail debate on the repeal of the Racial Justice Act.

SB 9/HB 615 does NOT amend the NC Racial Justice Act, it repeals it by preventing the use of statistical evidence or the testimony of attorneys, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, or jurors tending to show that race was a factor! Call your House Representative and ask them to oppose SB 9.

Let's make sure the NC General Assembly does not repeal this groundbreaking law.

Please contact your House Representative and tell them to OPPOSE SB 109. To view your Representative's contact information, please click here or visit this link
here or cut/paste


NOTE: Rep. Rick Glazier - strongly opposed to this repeal - will be offering a Press Release at 11:30 am today - Thursday. See more info in post just below.

See list of NC House representatives by district/party # GO here

Find FAXES and other info easily here: or CLICK here

Act Fast Please (you may want to concentrate on the Republican Block and if out of state, call/FAX a few anyway...

Find talking points, articles and more suggestions below and in Archives for mid to end of May...

Help Save NC Racial Justice Act (Suggestions from the Frontline)

Let Raleigh area reporters/media know that there is a Press Conference set-up by/with? Rep. Rick Glazier of Cumberland at 11:30 AM in the Press Conference Press Room LB of the Legislative Complex/Quadrant - check for any changes at the registration desk near entrance of bldg. (See quotes from him below and also in the two articles posted just below)

12:00 PM the Full House Session Convenes (Senate) No telling exactly when the 2nd reading of this repeal/NC RJA will be on the floor (Perhaps a good bet would be to show up at Rep. Glazier's Press Conference and/or 12 PM and ask someone approx how long before the reading?

SB 9 House Committee Substitute - Brown - NO DISCRIMINATORY PURPOSE IN DEATH PENALTY. (Judiciary/B) (3rd Edition) (Bill Name and Purpose Changed)
BE THERE if at all possible and post your comments-links below and/or send to me at: and BOTH

FAX, Call, EMAIL representative(s) BEFORE noon to specify why you find the NC RJA necessary...find talking points on the posts below.

CALL NC Gov. Beverly Perdue's office to register your hopes she will veto the Repeal should the full house vote for it (may happen this week.)

Find recent late-night Wednesday article on status and plz Make Comments end of this article here See full posting of this article below to send to contacts.

"We are human beings, and we are fallible, and we have prejudice, and we have bias," Glazier said. "And we use statistics to point that out in every other aspect of our lives—including employment discrimination cases—every day. But here we sit, with a bill that says you may use that data to prove that your employer discriminated against you so you can get damages, but you cannot use that data to save your life. How profoundly absurd." Rick Glazier NC House Representative from Cumberland County June 1, 2011 during a discussion of the Judiciary Subcommittee of the NC House on the question whether or not to repeal the NC Racial Justice Act.

Watch for more suggestions on this post - coming soon.

NC Racial Justice Act Repeal Bill goes to full House

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 * photo by D.L. Anderson
Rep. Paul Skip Stam co-chair House subcommittee

News / North Carolina / politics
Bill to reverse Racial Justice Act heads to House floor Thursday
Posted by Samiha Khanna on Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 10:29 PM Triangulator

Rep. Paul Skip Stam co-chairs the House subcommittee on May 18, when it discussed a bill that would reverse the 2009 Racial Justice Act.

UPDATE, 10:30 p.m. - Senate Bill 9, a bill that would reverse the 2009 Racial Justice Act, is now scheduled for second reading Thursday at the N.C. House of Representatives. This blog post describes Wednesday's action, which moved the bill from a House subcommittee to the House at large.

The N.C. House of Representatives could vote on a bill to reverse the N.C. Racial Justice Act as soon as this week after the bill received a favorable vote in a House subcommittee Wednesday morning. The 9-6 vote was a clean partisan divide.

The proposed law, titled "No Discriminatory Purpose in the Death Penalty," would take the state's law books back to where they were before the progressive 2009 law took effect. It would also nullify the more than 150 appeals death-row inmates and criminal suspects have made in the past two years, as well as the rulings that have thus far been made—including a Forsyth County judge's February finding that the law is constitutional.

The Racial Justice Act allows inmates or suspects facing the death penalty to appeal capital punishment if they can prove racial bias was a factor in their case, such as in the way a jury was selected, or in a prosecutor's decision to seek the death penalty. If a defendant could prove such bias—no case has yet proceeded to that point—the defendant's only relief under the law is the defendant's life would be spared and he or she would instead continue to serve life in prison with no chance for parole.

One way a defendant may prove bias is through the use of statistics—a point that conservative members of the House committee have called insufficient both in the proposed bill and in their discussion Wednesday.

"My big opposition to this is the use of statistics," said Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Republican from Mt. Airy and co-chair of the committee. "I'm all in favor of trying to get at racial justice. I love solving the problem. But to me the only problem created here was the use of statistics that we don't even know the underlying data for."

Stevens said she wanted to see data associated with the results of a study by two professors at Michigan State University, who have testified that in their examination of 20 years of capital cases in North Carolina—173 cases all together—prosecutors were more than twice as likely to exclude black members of a jury pool than nonblack members during jury selection. According to a figure in the report, it's nearly impossible that a racial disparity of this magnitude would occur in a jury selection process free of racial bias. However, although some results of the study have been entered into court records, the study itself hasn't yet been released.

Among those who opposed the repeal bill were Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland), who stood behind the use of data and statistics to illustrate that racial bias is indeed a factor, and must be corrected, he said.

"We are human beings, and we are fallible, and we have prejudice, and we have bias," Glazier said. "And we use statistics to point that out in every other aspect of our lives—including employment discrimination cases—every day. But here we sit, with a bill that says you may use that data to prove that your employer discriminated against you so you can get damages, but you cannot use that data to save your life. How profoundly absurd."

The Racial Justice Act has been a dichotomous issue since its passage two years ago. It has also riled district attorneys who say it questions their ethics and commitment to pursue justice. Several prominent district attorneys have also protested in court and at the Capitol that the dozens of new appeals under the law are squeezing dollars from the state budget that aren't there—an assertion that offends many supporters of the Racial Justice Act.

"Last week, the D.A. from Forsyth County was here and showed pictures and also claimed an exorbitant amount of money would be used. And I resent the fact that when we talk about someone's life, we attach a dollar amount on it," said Rep. Earline Parmon (D-Forsyth), who spoke before the committee Wednesday. "The D.A.s are the people's lawyers, and they should want to ensure that justice is done."

Reversing the Racial Justice Act have been at the top of the Republican to-do list since 2009, with some failed attempts last year during the short session of the Legislature, when Democrats still held the reins. But the rhetoric surged again during election for state office last fall, when many Republican candidates capitalized on the issue with misleading mailers implying Racial Justice Act would free murderers, sending them back to prowl North Carolina neighborhoods. (One such mailer, PDF)

House Majority Leader Paul "Skip" Stam (R-Wake) was one of the legislators who made good on that promise to strip the Racial Justice Act from state law, filing a House version of "No Discriminatory Purpose in the Death Penalty" in February. The bill was assigned for further review to House Judiciary Subcommittee B, the committee he co-chairs with Stevens. But when the 15-member committee began its discussions May 18, Stam brought in the Senate version of the bill (SB9). That Senate bill—the one the committee passed Wednesday—started out as a draft law to criminalize synthetic marijuana and had already passed three readings in the Senate and one in the House. On May 13, any language referring to "synthetic cannabinoids" was stripped clean from the bill and replaced entirely with language to reverse the Racial Justice Act.

The move garnered an official complaint from Rep. H.M. "Mickey" Michaux, a Democrat from Durham who was one of the sponsors of the Racial Justice Act, but he predicted his objection would gain no ground with Republican leaders to whom he directed his concerns. Now, if the House passes Senate Bill 9, it would only need to send the bill back to the Senate for concurrence instead of a full-on discussion.

Both times Senate Bill 9 has come before Stam's House subcommittee, the room has been crowded with families of murder victims and members of the N.C. Black Legislative Caucus—many of the same who worked tirelessly to get the bill passed in 2009, and who vow to challenge the bill's repeal. But in the current legislative climate—and with so many Republican candidates having promised in their campaigns to undo the Democrats' reform—the repeal of the Racial Justice Act could be an inevitable end when this session adjourns.

Supporters of the Racial Justice Act say that if that happens, they'll count on Gov. Bev Perdue's veto power to keep the law intact.

Find original article and plz Make Comments here

Look for earlier articles below with new reports on activity in the full house to come.

* Rep. Paul Skip Stam co-chairs the House subcommittee on May 18, when it discussed a bill that would reverse the 2009 Racial Justice Act.

RALEIGH, N.C. AP House Republican Block Supports Repeal

Excerpt from a NC House Rep. who opposes Repeal: (Since)data are used to determine discrimination in hiring and other policies...why not for determining bias in capital cases, which often depend on subjective decisions made by prosecutors and police. (Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, who has represented defendants in capital crimes *)

N.C. House panel supports repealing Racial Justice Act

The Associated Press
© June 1, 2011
By Gary D. Robertson


A two-year-old law that helps North Carolina prisoners challenge their death sentences on the basis of racial bias would be repealed under a bill endorsed Wednesday by a divided House judiciary committee.

By a 9-6 vote, the House committee recommended to the full House to repeal the Racial Justice Act, which allows defendants to offer statistical evidence to show race played a key factor in putting a disproportionate number of people from a racial group on death row or on trial for their lives. A judge who agrees that the defendant's case is tainted could reduce a death sentence to life in prison.

Republicans have been critical of the law since it was passed by the Democratic-led Legislature and signed by Gov. Beverly Perdue. Now in charge, GOP lawmakers have a chance to nullify the law. The bill now goes to the House floor.

"This bill is going to move us in the right direction and correct what I believe was bad legislation that was passed two years ago," Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, one of the primary sponsors of the original repeal bill, said during Wednesday's committee debate.

The measure would return the state to a standard set in a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision. It says a judge would have to find prosecutors or police acted with discriminatory purpose to prove racial bias.

Republican backers of the bill say the law is vague, expensive to carry out and has extended what's effectively a death penalty moratorium in North Carolina since 2006.

Nearly all of North Carolina's 158 death row inmates filed paperwork under the law seeking to overturn their sentences, including white prisoners who killed white victims. That's proof, prosecutors and other Racial Justice Act opponents argue, the law isn't working the way it should.

Committee Democrats called the potential repeal a step backward that would fail to ensure fairness for all in the criminal justice system, in particular on life-and death matters with capital crimes. A Michigan State University study showed a defendant is 2.6 times more likely to be sentenced to death if at least one of the victims is white. The study also showed that out of the people on death row, 31 had all-white juries and 38 had only one person of color on their jury.

Rep. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, argued that repeal supporters are ignoring the fact that race plays a role in who gets removed from capital jury pools and in the number of black people on death row. But she said white defendants also can be harmed in efforts by prosecutors to eliminate black jurors, who may be more likely to reject a death sentence, in death penalty cases.

"What saddens me the most is that people think that protection against racial discrimination is just for black people. Protection against racial discrimination is for everyone," said Bryant, who is black. "This bill is mean-spirited."

Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry, said she's bothered about the use of statistics, which can focus on the case history of a prosecutor, a judicial district, county or the entire state. A prosecutor shouldn't be stained by statistics that go back a generation or longer, Stevens said, adding that legal remedies already are in place for findings of bias.

"We can use statistics from the '60s and I'll bet they're terrible, and I'm sorry," said Stevens. "If you can show me where race (bias) occurred in the judicial system and affected a decision, I'll be happy to look at that."

Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, who has represented defendants in capital crimes, cited the Michigan study and other data showing an overwhelming majority of people executed for murder and other crimes in the pre-civil rights era were black. Glazier said data are used to determine discrimination in hiring and other policies, so why not for determining bias in capital cases, which often depend on subjective decisions made by prosecutors and police.

"Those statistics reflect human behavior," he said.

Find out more about Rep. Rick Glazier's service record - find out more about his service record here He has been married to Lisë, an art teacher at Hope Mills Middle School, for 32 years. They have two children; Philip and Megan, who both live in Washington D.C.

US must stop deportation of 33 men and women to Haiti

Inter-American Commission Orders United States to Stop Deportations to Cholera-Stricken Haiti

3,400 Americans Urge Obama Administration to Halt Life-Threatening Deportation after Deportee Death


life-threatening conditions for deportees in that country.

“How many people must die before the U.S. government stops this senseless, inhumane policy of death by deportation?” said Caroline Bettinger-Lopez, Director of the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law. (do their crimes or simply their humanity require death or illness at hands of US action?)

June 2, 2011, New York, Miami and New Orleans – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a strongly-worded order yesterday directing the United States to refrain from deporting 33 men and women from the United States to Haiti.

The order is in response to the controversial move of the United States to deport people with U.S. criminal records to Haiti despite the country’s continuing struggle after last year’s massive earthquake. A coalition of rights groups sent a letter signed by nearly 3,400 individuals to President Obama and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today urging the administration to stop deportations to Haiti until conditions improve and Haiti ends its unlawful practice of jailing deportees.

The IACHR, an international tribunal of the Organization of American States, issues such “precautionary measures” only in extreme circumstances to prevent irreversible harm to the people who appear before it. The IACHR's order follows its February 4, 2011 order instructing the U.S. not to deport 5 similarly-situated men to Haiti in light of the life-threatening conditions for deportees in that country.

“How many people must die before the U.S. government stops this senseless, inhumane policy of death by deportation?” said Caroline Bettinger-Lopez, Director of the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law.

“Thousands of Americans across the country have called upon our government to do the right thing and prevent more deaths,” said Farrin Anello, Supervising Attorney of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law. “We urge the president and Secretary Napolitano to immediately suspend deportations.”

Advocates say the IACHR's actions recognize the inhumane treatment of people deported to Haiti over the past five months and the hardship suffered by their children and spouses who remain in the U.S., many of whom are U.S. citizens. Upon arrival in Haiti, deportees are routinely jailed in horrific conditions, made even more life-threatening by the cholera epidemic there. 34-year-old Wildrick T. Guerrier became ill and died in Haiti only nine days after being deported in January 2011 and others have also fallen seriously ill. On April 15 and May 11, 2011, however, the U.S. deported individuals with serious physical and mental illnesses to Haiti without ensuring their access to life-saving medicines, food, water and sanitary conditions. The U.S. government has planned another deportation flight for later this month.

The deportations continue despite the Obama administration’s recognition of the life-threatening nature of deportation to Haiti. On May 17, President Obama extended and re-designated the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program, which permits Haitians living in the United States who have no more than one misdemeanor conviction to remain here for eighteen months. The State Department has also advised U.S. citizens not to travel to Haiti.

“By extending Temporary Protective Status to some Haitian nationals, the U.S. government acknowledges the humanitarian crisis in Haiti,” said Center for Constitutional Rights staff attorney Sunita Patel. “The right to life is absolute - a criminal conviction does not absolve the U.S. from its obligation not to send someone to a country where their life is at risk.”

Cholera and widespread homelessness are two problems in Haiti which have a particular impact on deportees and which are only worsening with the arrival of the rainy season in Haiti. Just yesterday, USAID confirmed 5,300 deaths from cholera since the outbreak of the disease last October. A recent study in the medical journal Lancet estimates 800,000 future cases of cholera. This past week, large-scale evictions and massive violence against tent city residents has worsened an already-desperate situation.

Both orders were issued in response to a case filed with the IACHR by the coalition of rights groups who penned the letter sent to the Obama administration today, including the University of Miami Human Rights and Immigration Clinics, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, Alternative Chance, FANM/Haitian Women of Miami and the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.

For more information, visit and CCR's legal case page.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.