Tag: abolition

Sep 17

I Am Troy Davis


On September 21, 2011, the State of Georgia plans to kill Troy Davis by lethal injection.  Again.  This is the fourth time the State of Georgia has scheduled Davis for death.  In 2007 he was spared with less than 24 hours notice.  In September 2008, the hearse was waiting at the door and he was less than two hours away from the gurney.  A month later the execution was halted three days before execution.  And now, the rollercoaster from hope to despair has come to September 21, 2011.

Troy Davis’s conviction stems from the 1989 death of a Savannah police officer, Mark Allen McPhail.  The rollercoaster, for Troy Davis and his family and for the family of the officer, has been lurching back and forth for 22 years.  And with each year, doubt about the conviction has grown as witnesses have recanted and as jurors speak their unresolved doubts.  Lurking in the background is alarming possibility that the wrong man is waiting for the needle and that the real murderer has escaped.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports:

With only days before his scheduled execution, an effort to spare convicted killer Troy Davis is gathering thousands in rallies, vigils and other last-minute events from Atlanta to Peru to Berlin.

Citing doubts about his guilt, national leaders of the NAACP and Amnesty International led hundreds in a protest Friday against executing the man a Georgia jury said killed a Savannah police officer in 1989. Amnesty International declared a Global Day of Solidarity for Troy Davis, with 300 events across the United States and the globe, including in New York, Washington D.C., San Diego, Paris and Oslo.

Former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu are among those calling for his execution to be halted. And this week, Davis supporters presented 663,000 petitions to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles asking for his life to be spared.

Troy Davis has one last chance to ask for leniency. The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, which has the sole authority in Georgia to commute death sentences, will meet Monday to consider Davis’s case.

That means that this weekend is the last opportunity to sign a petition and to stand with more than 600,000 others for sparing Troy Davis.

The petition is here.

Details about the case are here from 2006 and here from 2008.

An excellent first person view is here (h/t OPOL).


cross-posted from The Dream Antilles

Jul 26

Conscience Clauses, Civil Disobedience, and Uncivil Discourse

In this country, a long tradition exists of individuals who have refused to perform a particular duty or task, citing their religious beliefs as justification.  The very definition of Civil Disobedience, of course, depends on the person, the situation, and how it is applied.  The latest incident has opened up a discussion which has never really subsided, only dipped underneath the radar from time to time.  In this circumstance, a Texas bus driver, who is also an ordained conservative Christian minister, claims that he was fired for not taking a women to Planned Parenthood.  His decision is in the same vein as those of pharmacists who, stating moral reasons, will not dispense the morning-after pill to women who request it.

Jan 26

Law And Disorder: Ending State Killing

It’s not every day that I get a welcoming forum to discuss the death penalty and why state killing should be abolished.  So I was particularly delighted to appear today on WBAI’s “Law and Disorder.”  Want to hear what I had to say?  Click this to play the interview.

A special thanks to Michael Smith, Michael Ratner and Heidi Bogosian for inviting me and to WBAI in New York for broadcasting this show both on the radio and the Internet.


cross-poster at The Dream Antilles

Dec 14

Death Penalty: The Times Speaks Up

It’s a reason for optimism in the long battle to end State Killing.  The New York Times editorial today called for the abolition of the death penalty.  I applaud.  The abolition of state killing should be a mainstream, American idea.

The Times is angry and points out the obvious about the change in Ohio from 3-drug state killing to 1-drug state killing:

This is what passes for progress in the application of the death penalty: Kenneth Biros, a convicted murderer, was put to death in Ohio last week with one drug, instead of the more common three-drug cocktail. It took executioners 30 minutes to find a vein for the needle, compared with the two hours spent hunting for a vein on the last prisoner Ohio tried to kill, Romell Broom. Technicians tried about 18 times to get the needle into Mr. Broom’s arms and legs before they gave up trying to kill him. Mr. Biros was jabbed only a few times in each arm.

The Times gets quickly from the barbarism of the Biro and Broom executions to the main point:

The larger problem, however, is that changing a lethal-injection method is simply an attempt, as Justice Harry Blackmun put it, to “tinker with the machinery of death.” No matter how it is done, for the state to put someone to death is inherently barbaric.

It has also become clear – particularly since DNA evidence has become more common – how unreliable the system is. Since 1973, 139 people have been released from death row because of evidence that they were innocent, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

An untold number of innocent people have also, quite likely, been put to death. Earlier this year, a fire expert hired by the state of Texas issued a report that cast tremendous doubt on whether a fatal fire – for which Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 – was arson at all. Until his execution, Mr. Willingham protested his innocence.

Most states still have capital punishment, and the Obama administration has so far shown a troubling commitment to it, pursuing federal capital cases even in states that do not themselves have the death penalty.

The Times conclusion:

Earlier this year, New Mexico repealed its death penalty, joining 14 other states – and the District of Columbia – that do not allow it. That is the way to eliminate the inevitable problems with executions.

Put another way, abolition is the answer to the lingering horror of state killing.  Abolition cannot happen soon enough.


simulposted at The Dream Antilles

Sep 21

Texecutions: “Skewed Justice”

Here’s a trick question.  Is there anything wrong with a death penalty jury trial in which the prosecutor trying the case is having an affair while the case is going on with the judge who is trying the case?  I know.  It looks pretty unfair.  It looks pretty sleazy.  There really should be something the matter with this, right?  Shouldn’t the judge recuse herself?  Shouldn’t the case be assigned to a different prosecutor, all for the sake of the appearance of fairness?

But in Texas, ground zero for state killing, there’s no answer to these questions.  At least not today  Why?  Because the majority of the Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas’s highest court that considers criminal appeals, is wagging its finger at the defendant’s lawyers saying that the affair isn’t something that the Court will look at because the defense lawyers waited too long to raise the issue.  According to the Court, it’s OK to execute Charles D. Hood whether there was an affair or not because the defense waited too long to raise the question. You cannot make this stuff up.

Jun 08

State Killing: Travesties of Justice Just Keep On Coming

cross-posted from The Dream Antilles

Today’s New York Times tells the story of yet another travesty of justice from Alabama in a death penalty case.  This is the kind of thing that unfortunately is no longer a revelation.  It’s what you might expect.  And it’s happened over and over again.

Please join me in the Death Belt.

May 25

Governor Rell Vows To Preserve State Killing

cross posted from The Dream Antilles

What a disgrace.  On Friday, the Connecticut legislature passed a bill abolishing the death penalty.  I asked readers of my essay to call or email Governor Rell to ask her please to sign the bill.  There was, I pointed out, a strong chance that the Republican Governor, a long time death penalty supporter, would veto the bill.

Today’s Hartford Courant says that Governor Rell vows to veto the measure when it gets to her desk.  It might take a few weeks to get there:

Just hours after the state Senate gave final legislative approval Friday to a historic measure abolishing the death penalty in Connecticut, Gov. M. Jodi Rell came out with an expected announcement:

She said she was going to veto the measure as soon as it hits her desk.

“I appreciate the passionate beliefs of people on both sides of the death penalty debate. I fully understand the concerns and deeply held convictions of those who would like to see the death penalty abolished in Connecticut,” she said in a statement.

“However, I also fully understand the anguish and outrage of the families of victims who believe, as I do, that there are certain crimes so heinous – so fundamentally revolting to our humanity – that the death penalty is warranted.”

What nonsense.  The families of victims are far from unanimous that the death penalty is warranted.  In fact, as the Courant pointed out in its photo caption, Friday “[f]amilies of victims of murder [spoke] at a press conference in support of a bill passed by the legislature Thursday that would abolish the death penalty. Pictured are Gail Canzano, at podium, Elizabeth Brancato of Torrington, State Representative Gary Holder-Winfield of New Haven, Rev. Walter Everett , Cindy Siclari of Monroe and Anne Stone of Farmington.”  So the Governor’s invocation of wishes of the families of victims rings hollow.

We can all easily understand how appealing revenge on killers might be, but the overwhelming majority of civilized societies in the world have now abandoned that barbarian argument.  Rell chooses, however, to dress up the old canard in victims’ rights clothing.  The fact is that she’s not doing anything for victims’ families by permitting the state to kill killers.  And she’s certainly not doing anything for the rest of us, in whose names these state killings will be carried out.  State killing doesn’t deter killing, and it doesn’t bring “closure” to the families of victims.

Governor Rell’s vowing the veto because she allegedly “believes” in the death penalty.  And when Republicans enact policies just because they believe in them– surely the memory of George W. Bush has not been forgotten– you know that irrationality has prevailed.

You might want to tell Governor Rell that the death penalty is a bad idea, that we can live without it, and that she’s making a mistake if she vetoes this bill.

Please telephone Governor Rell (860.566.4840) or email her (Governor.Rell@ct.gov) and let he know that it’s time for Connecticut to step into the 21st Century.  It’s time for her to sign the death penalty abolition bill.

May 22

Please Ask Connecticut Governor Rell To Sign The Death Penalty Abolition Bill

Cross posted from The Dream Antilles

Early this morning the Connecticut Senate voted to abolish Connecticut’s death penalty.  The vote was 19-17.  The bill now goes to Governor Jodi Rell (R).  She sounds like she will veto the bill.  So, if you care about the value of human life and making Connecticut and America more just and ending the barbarism that is the death penalty, this is an important time to spend a few moments to call or email Governor Rell to ask her to sign the bill.  The phone is 860.566.4840.  The email: Governor.Rell@ct.gov.  

Mar 15

Please Ask Gov. Richardson To Sign The Death Penalty Abolition Bill (Updated x 2)

cross-posted from The Dream Antilles

This morning, I re-wrote my dailyKos diary from yesterday, put it up, and again asked people please to call New Mexico Governor Richardson and to ask him to sign the Death Penalty Abolition Bill.  Here’s what I wrote:

I posted this diary yesterday.  I’m posting it again today because Governor Richardson is taking comments on the New Mexico Death Penalty Abolition Bill until Monday evening.

Friday, I wrote that the New Mexico legislature passed a bill calling for the abolition of that state’s death penalty.  The bill (pdf) has been sent to Governor Richardson for his signature.  That’s where you, my fellow Kossacks, come in.  We all need to call the Governor and ask him to sign the bill.

Governor Richardson has formerly supported the death penalty, but he says he has not made up his mind about this bill:

Richardson, a second-term Democrat, has opposed repeal in the past but now says he would consider signing it.

“I haven’t made a final decision,” the governor said this week.

I want you, fellow Kossacks, to help him make his final decision, a decision to sign the abolition bill.

You can make a lasting contribution to the abolition of the death penalty in New Mexico and ultimately in the entire US, by making a single telephone call to New Mexico Governor Richardson and asking him courteously to sign the death penalty abolition bill.  Just ask that he sign the bill.  Here’s the number:  (505) 476-2225. The number will record your request.  There is no human being on the phone, just a recorder.

Please spend 30 seconds making this call and make this request.

The logic for this is clear.  The more calls the Governor receives, the more he understands that there is enormous support for him and for abolition and for his signing the bill.  Huge support for signing makes it more likely that the Governor will sign the bill.

It’s unbelievably simple what is needed.  But it requires you, dear Kossacks, to take action, to make the call, to spend 30 seconds.

Please make this call.  Please bring abolition of the death penalty to New Mexico.

Despite their directness, neither diary/essay generated a large response.  Today’s had about 20 recommendations; yesterday’s, about 40.  I have no idea how many people actually called Governor Richardson’s number (505) 476-2225 and left a recorded message asking the Governor to sign the bill.  I know that I did, and I trust that those who said they called in the comments actually called.  Of course, I have no idea how many people just made the call after they saw the essay and didn’t bother to click anything on dailyKos.

I also sent the first request for calls essay to a number of well known, large, leftwing blogs to ask them to help out with this, to ask them to ask their readership to call the Governor.  This morning I awoke to see that none had responded to the request.

I don’t really claim to understand how something that seems to me to be so important and so easy to carry out can have so lame a response.  I’m not whining about this.  I’m just saying that I don’t understand it.  I have no intention of spending additional time or energy trying to figure this out.  I need to devote myself to trying to bring about results and not shunt myself onto some abandoned siding to analyze the meta.

So, dear readers, I am asking you to call Gov. Richardson and ask him to do the right thing, sign the bill, end the death penalty in New Mexico.  It’s easy.  And it’s the right thing to do.

Update (3/15, 3:35pm ET):  Richardson apparently is taking this decision very seriously.  Here’s the local Sunday story:

The governor said he is looking for the public’s input before he decides.

“I want to hear compelling argument, factual arguments. I want to hear from the clergy-conscious arguments,” he said.

Although the death penalty is still common in places like China, Africa and Middle-Eastern countries, The United States is on an increasingly short list of western nations that still execute prisoners–something the governor says he’s aware of.

“It bothers me that America is one of the few countries that still has the death penalty,” he said.

The governor’s office has been flooded with thousands of calls and e-mails on the issues, with opinion split evenly. Now, the governor says he wants to go face-to-face with voters.

“We’re going to be available all weekend to hear from constituents,” he said. “I’m going to meet with constituents on Monday–anyone that wants to talk to me about this issue,” he said.

You can call the governor at 505-476-2225. You can also e-mail him through his website under the “contact the governor” link.

Put another way, your call is especially urgent.  And, of course, you can email as well.

Update (3/16, 1:53 pm ET):  Last chance to make this call is today, Monday.  I’m doing what I can to solicit responses, including this at GOS.  Anyone else is, of course, free to post similar solicitations. Thanks for all the attention to this.

Mar 14

Seven Years Of Writing About State Killing (with Action Update!)

cross-posted from The Dream Antilles

To be completely honest, when I began, I never expected that over the course of the next seven years I would write more than 200 essays about ending state killing in America.  But today I noticed– I usually miss the date– that March 18, 2009, is the seventh Anniversary of my starting a listserv about ending the death penalty.  And I see that I’ve written more than 200 essays about the topic.

When I started the listserv I described it like this:

The views and opinions of an experienced criminal defense lawyer who is also a buddhist. About pending executions, legal developments, the media, the abolition movement, contemplation, prayer, and engaged, nonviolent activism. Sent sporadically. Only for those who value all lives and are opposed to the death penalty. Not for debate.

Please make the jump.

Mar 13

Breaking: New Mexico Legislature Abolishes State Killing

Long story short, the NM legislature has passed the bill abolishing capital punishment in New Mexico and has sent it on to the governor for signature.

This happened about 15 minutes ago.  Here’s a first link to prove it’s so.

Now you can open that bottle of champagne and offer a toast to New Mexico and to the abolitionists who worked so hard and well to bring about this wonderful victory.


Feb 03

Saving 49 Lives (Part 3)

cross-posted from The Dream Antilles

There are 49 people presently facing the federal death penalty.  If we want to, we might be able to spare them.  We might be able to get the new Attorney General, Eric Holder, to review the decisions by the three Bush Administration Attorney Generals to pursue the death penalty in these cases, and if the new Attorney General thought, if there were convictions, that the defendants shouldn’t be killed, he could require prosecutors not to seek the death penalty, to be satisfied with a maximum sentence of life without parole.  This would be a remarkable development.  It would save lives.  The United States would join the civilized world that has stopped state killing.  The essential hypocrisy of an eye for an eye would be abandoned.  It would be a new era.  We would not have these people’s blood on our hands.

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