Sunday, May 30, 2010

DNA & Reform: Texas Editorial

Credit for photo to
The Innocence Project

Moving toward reform in a post-DNA world OP Ed
first posted in Dallas News (featured also at MVFR)
Friday, May 28, 2010

Hank Skinner had eaten a double bacon cheeseburger, fries, onion rings and a milkshake. He was ready to die. But a last-minute delay ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court on March 24 spared his life.

On Monday, the court announced plans to fully review his case to determine if convicted criminals are entitled under federal law to DNA testing of evidence after their trials. It's one of the complex and frustrating legal issues that can block the path of the wrongfully convicted.

It seems so obvious when you step back from the labyrinthine appeals process: If you have DNA evidence that might point to someone else, test it. Especially when that inmate is on death row.

That Skinner's lawyer in 1995 did not seek such testing seems foolish in retrospect, now that 254 convictions have been overturned with DNA evidence.

Most murder cases lack the drama of a last-minute appeal or the made-for-TV plot twist of a second suspect and untested DNA evidence that might settle the case once and for all.

That's why it's welcome news that Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins is shifting the focus of his nationally respected conviction integrity unit. Having worked through most of the local cases involving DNA, the unit is beginning to look at other cases.

The unit could not take that step were it not for the lessons learned from the cases it explored using DNA evidence. For example, faulty eyewitness testimony played a role in all but one of the 20 cases where DNA helped set men free in Dallas County.

There's no logical reason to believe eyewitness testimony is somehow more reliable in non-DNA cases, so it stands to reason that cases built solely on eyewitness testimony may be ripe for a second look. The same can be said about other common flaws highlighted by DNA cases.

Still, these are DNA cases, where people believe the truth can be found in a series of lab reports. In truth, even in these cases, smoking guns, definitive answers and closure often prove elusive. Even in those 254 cases where DNA helped free the wrongfully convicted, less than 40 percent of the time did the evidence clearly identify the guilty party.

That's why it's welcome news to hear Watkins say his approach has shifted from simply freeing the innocent. He is moving to the next stage: reforming investigatory work to address the most common flaws uncovered in DNA cases.

Although it may be helpful to directly lobby lawmakers in Austin to address these issues, Watkins' conviction integrity unit still has a different, more important role. If his office demonstrates that these flaws infect non-DNA cases, reform should follow.
(End of Editorial}

(As Box with above Editorial at Dallas News)

Leading causes of wrongful convictions

The Innocence Project has tracked 254 cases where DNA evidence has been used to overturn convictions. In those cases, the following factors played a key role. In some cases, there were multiple factors:

• Eyewitness mis-identification testimony: 75 percent

• Invalidated or improper forensic science: 50 percent

• False confessions and incriminating statements: 25 percent

• Unreliable snitches: 19 percent

• Other factors include incompetent defense counsel, government misconduct or forensic science misconduct.

Injustice and Identification

Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions overturned through DNA evidence, playing a role in 75% of the 254 DNA exoneration cases. Simple factors at the crime scene and improper police lineups can lead to misidentifications and wrongful convictions. Learn how witnesses get it wrong and what the Innocence Project is doing about it.

(More info at the Innocence Project here

Find original link to the above article with the box insert here

In Death-Penalty Cases, Innocence Has to Matter

Hank Skinner, who is on death row in Texas, had a simple request. Before the state took his life, he wanted to test DNA evidence from the crime scene that could prove he was wrongly convicted. Texas prosecutors, whose love for the death penalty is legendary, refused.

Skinner then sued, claiming that federal civil rights laws gave him a constitutional right to do the testing. A federal appeals court ruled against him.
(See TIME's death penalty covers.)

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Skinner's case. That's good news. The Justices should use the case to expand the right to do DNA testing. But Skinner's case also gives the court a chance to confront a disturbing aspect of the nation's approach to the death penalty: the fact that the legal system does not always seem to care whether the people it executes are actually guilty.

There's no denying the crime Skinner, now 48, was convicted of in 1995 was a vicious one. Skinner's girlfriend and her two mentally challenged sons were stabbed, strangled and bludgeoned to death. But Skinner has always insisted he is innocent. The evidence against him is largely circumstantial, and his lawyers argue that the girlfriend's uncle, who they say had been harassing her that night and acted suspiciously after the crime, was likely the real murderer.

When students from Northwestern University's Medill Innocence Project investigated, they found evidence that raised serious questions about the prosecution's case. A toxicologist who testified for the defense said he had "never known a verdict of the jury to be so at variance with what I believe to be scientific fact."

It's not hard to believe Skinner could have been wrongly convicted. With the rise of DNA evidence, we now know that people are falsely convicted of crimes, including capital crimes, all too often. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 138 people have been released from death row since 1973 with evidence of innocence.
(Read "The Death Penalty: Racist, Classist and Unfair.")

Skinner has tried for 10 years to get access to key pieces of biological evidence — including his girlfriend's rape kit and two knives that may have been used in the killings. After prosecutors turned him down, Skinner sued, arguing that the refusal violated due process and constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
(Comment on this story.)

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, one of the most conservative courts in the country, rejected his claim in a brief decision. The judges focused on legal fine points without engaging the larger injustice of the situation — that Texas was seeking to execute a man while denying him access to evidence that could exonerate him.

Skinner's case never should have gotten this far. When someone facing the death penalty asks for relevant evidence for DNA testing, the state's answer should simply be yes. After all, the government's interest is not in seeing people put to death or in reflexively defending criminal convictions. It is in making sure that the guilty are punished and the innocent go free.

Prosecutors do not always see it that way. They defend all sorts of practices that call into question the reliability of the convictions they obtain. A while back, in an infamous case, Texas fought to execute an inmate even though his lawyer slept at his trial — repeatedly, and for long stretches of time. The Fifth Circuit ultimately ruled that the defendant was entitled to a new trial.

This callousness about death-penalty cases is not limited to states like Texas — or to prosecutors.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia set off a firestorm last summer when he wrote a dissent — joined by Justice Clarence Thomas — that the highest court in the land is not necessarily concerned with whether a person facing execution had actually committed the crime. The court "has never held," Justice Scalia wrote, "that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a ... court that he is 'actually innocent.'" Scalia was taking issue with the court's ruling that a lower court give Georgia death-row inmate Troy Davis a new hearing.

This idea that the Constitution allows innocent people to be put to death should be abhorrent to anyone who cares about justice. As Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz pointed out, Justice Scalia seemed to be saying that if a man was convicted of murdering his wife and then showed up in court with the wife, who was still alive, seeking a new trial, it should not matter. As long as the man's conviction was procedurally proper, Justice Scalia apparently believes, he should still be executed.
(See a photo gallery of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.)

The Supreme Court — which will take up Skinner's case in its next term — should rule that people accused of capital crimes can use federal civil rights laws to obtain the DNA evidence they need to prove their innocence.

And the Justices should use the case to underscore that we, as a nation, care whether people facing the death penalty have actually committed the crimes they were accused of.

By Adam Cohen, pubished in TIME on May 25th
— Cohen, a lawyer, is a former TIME writer and a former member of the New York Times editorial board

Friday, May 28, 2010

DNA : Alaska becomes 48th (The Innocence Project)

On May 14, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell signed a new state law allowing prisoners to seek post-conviction DNA testing in cases where it can prove innocence. The groundbreaking new law will help Alaska prisoners fight injustice and leaves only Oklahoma and Massachusetts without such measures.

Passed this month with unanimous support in both houses of Alaska’s legislature, the critical reform came about thanks to years of work by a coalition of advocates including the Alaska Innocence Project and the Innocence Project. Among other provisions, it provides for state funding in cases where a judge decides that DNA testing could prove innocence and requires the state to preserve biological evidence from crime scenes as long as a defendant is in prison (or for 50 years in unsolved crime).

In a guest post on the Innocence Blog this week, Alaska Innocence Project Executive Director Bill Oberly writes that the details of a DNA access law can make it or break it, and that Alaska’s includes several provisions critical to effectively overturning wrongful convictions. "The Last Frontier is not the last in justice," he writes.

Learn more about post-conviction DNA testing laws across the country. GO here

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Former Florida Warden Haunted by Botched Execution

Former Warden, Ron McAndrew Credit for photo to deathpenalty dot org

There is a striking video 'out' of Mr. McAndrew...if anyone knows about an url for downloading and/or viewing, please let us know via Comments below.)

Find original article here

Striking Ron McAndrew quote: "Here I want to say that one must be careful in searching his soul…one may just find that God is there and that He does not support the barbaric idea that man should execute man." (And for those who say, we'll, I didn't administer the state's 'choice of death' be reminded that any form of torture we as citizens and people of faith allow - 'the people' have been complicit.)

From Death Penalty Focus (deathpenalty dot org) or CLICK here

By Ron McAndrew

During my tenure as Warden at Florida State Prison it was my duty to oversee the executions of three men: John Earl Bush, John Mills Jr. and Pedro Medina. Remembering every gruesome detail of their deaths is haunting.

The flames that consumed Pedro Medina's head when the execution went seriously awry, the smoke, the putrid odor, and his death by inferno is deeply embedded in my brain.The memory of telling the executioner to continue with the killing, despite the malfunctioning electric chair, and being at a point of no-return, plagues me still.

When I became warden I learned that it was tradition for the "death team" to go out for breakfast the morning after an execution. On the early morning after John Bush's execution the 'traditional breakfast' was held 15 miles south of the death chamber at a Shoney's in Starke, Florida. This was my first execution and I felt that tradition was important and moreover, the well being of the 'team' was my responsibility. In this small town of 5000 most everyone works at the prison, is retired from the prison or has a family member in the business. Everyone in the restaurant knew who we were and what we had just done...there were even a few 'high five signs.' While stirring my scrabbled eggs into hot grits, I began to realize the full import of the spectacle around us. Looking across the room, I could see the female attorney who had represented Bush. I saw my own sickness on her sad face and decided that breakfast after executions just didn't fit. It was my first and my last traditional death breakfast. It simply appeared celebratory from too many angles.

Minutes before an execution it's the warden's responsibility to sit with the prisoner and read the death warrant aloud after explaining that it is a state law requirement. I asked the condemned men if there was anything that could be done for them or if there was anyone I could call or if they had something very personal and confidential they'd like me to pass on...following of course, their imminent death. While I shall never share any of the words passed to me during those quiet moments it can be said that the whispers were sincere and promises were kept.

Searching my soul for answers that would satisfy the question on just why were we killing people and why our governor and politicians would do their 'chest pounding' over these ghastly spectacles was difficult. I began to remember myself as the person who went to Florida State Prison with a firm belief in the death penalty. And even though I still professed this belief, the questions of why we were doing this and if it were necessary, would not leave my mind. While appalled by the physical act of tying a person to a chair and burning him to death, I did not deny the reasons for the act.

Here I want to say that one must be careful in searching his soul…one may just find that God is there and that He does not support the barbaric idea that man should execute man.

During the renewal of my faith and my conversion to the Catholic Church, I was asked to speak out about my feelings on the death penalty.

After twenty-three years in Corrections, I have come to the conclusion that killing people is wrong. We have no business doing it, except in self-defense, in defense of someone else or in defense of the nation. And it's wrong for us to ask others do it for us. Looking back I wish I had never been involved in carrying out the death penalty. We have an alternative that doesn't lower us to the level of the killer: permanent imprisonment. It is cheaper, keeps society safe and offers swift justice to the victims.

I have found that my experience and notoriety as a warden who carried out executions provides a good platform to reach the public. I say to the many groups I've spoken to in the past few years that I'll 'tell my story to anyone who'll stand in front of me long enough to hear it.'

Ron McAndrew is a 22-year veteran with the Florida Department of Corrections. He also served as Director of the Orange County Jail in Florida for one year. For the last three years he has worked as a prison and jail consultant, and as an expert witness He is a member of Saint John the Baptist Catholic Community in Dunnellon, Florida. To learn more about McAndrew's journey, visit RonMcAndrew dot com or CLICK here

Monday, May 24, 2010

CALIFORNIA Soon! World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

One-Day Free - San Francisco, California

2010 Annual General Assembly and Free One-Day Conference

This will be a landmark event -- the first meeting of more than eighty death penalty abolition organizations from around the world to be held in the United States.

Free One-Day Conference
Saturday, June 12th
8am - 5pm

University of California, Hastings College of the Law
198 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Directions and Parking

Tentative Schedule:

8am - Registration and Continental Breakfast
9am - Opening Remarks

Plenary 1: Mike Farrell, President of Death Penalty Focus

Panel Discussions A:
1. "Voices of Victims’ Families"
2. "Law Enforcement Priorities for Public Safety"

12pm - Box Lunch Provided

Panel Discussions B:
1. "Voices of the Exonerated Innocent"
2. "The Death Penalty in the US: Constitutional Bases, Procedures and Federalism"

Plenary 2: "The Latinization of Death Row and Ongoing Issues of Racial Inequity"

4:45pm - Closing Remarks: World Day 2010 & Cities Against the Death Penalty 2010

5:15pm - Hosted Reception


Registration Required. Register Today!

View a Detailed Draft Agenda (.pdf)

Please note: WCADP meetings on Sunday, June 13th are closed to the public.

Questions? Please contact: Elizabeth Zitrin at

For more information on the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty CLICK here

Find this "brochure" at deathpenalty dot org GO here

DNA test now granted for Hank Skinner (Texas )

Death Penalty and Execution News

MAY 24, 2010:


US Supreme Court Considers Texas Death Row Inmate's DNA Test Request----The Tarrant County case of Henry "Hank" Skinner could determine what access inmates have to DNA testing.

A Texas death row inmate, convicted of murder in Tarrant County, will get the chance to plead his case before the U.S. Supreme Court for a DNA test, that he claims will clear his name.

Henry "Hank" Skinner (is alleged to have*) killed his ex-girlfriend and 2 other people in 1993. He did not receive a genetic test at his trial, but he wants one now. The high court agreed to hear the case to decide whether inmates may use a federal civil rights law to do DNA testing.

"I really believe that technology should be used in a way to help people people who claim they are innocent," death penalty opponent, Rick Halperin, said.

The SMU professor says the case could open the door for many more inmates to press for the expensive testing.

"It raises questions about America's responsibility to people who are incarcerated and have claims that this will vindicate those claims."

The test can be life or death. Former death row inmate, Kerry Cook, spent 20 years on death row and came within 11 days of being executed before a DNA test exonerated him. A test also showed, Michael Blair was not guilty of killing a Plano girl, after he spent nine years on death row.

But, death row killer Ricky McGinn was executed after receiving two DNA tests that confirmed he killed his stepdaughter. Some fear inmates, like McGinn, may abuse the test. But, experts say Texas law doesn't allow for much leeway.

"I think many inmates recognize that in most cases DNA will not make a difference," said Mike Ware, Chief of the Conviction Integrity Unit at the Dallas County District Attorney's office.

Ware has seen a record number of DNA exonerations in Dallas County. He sees no downside to expanded testing.

"Our philosophy in most cases is to agree to the test. What is the worst that can happen? We will either confirm guilt, exonerate someone or maybe identify more perpetrators through DNA."

(source: KDAF-TV)

* the parenthesis was added in this posting as such claim deemed out of context with rest of article

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE----Supreme Court To Hear Case Of Texas Death Row Prisoner Seeking DNA Testing; DNA Evidence Must Be Fully Considered To Avoid Executing Innocent People, Says ACLU

The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to decide whether a Texas death row prisoner should be allowed to have evidence in his case undergo DNA testing which could establish his innocence. Henry W. "Hank" Skinner, convicted of 3 1993 murders, believes that he is entitled to DNA testing under a federal civil rights law.

Among the pieces of evidence that Skinner would like tested are blood taken from the murder weapons, skin taken from under the fingernails of one of the victims as well as a rape test from her that includes semen, and hair and blood found at the scene of the crime. A number of investigations into the crimes and the alleged involvement of Skinner, who has maintained his innocence, have sharply called into question his guilt.

DNA evidence has led to nearly 140 exonerations of death row prisoners during the past 3 decades.

The following can be attributed to John Holdridge, Director of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project:

"It is unconscionable, and at odds with our shared American values of fairness, due process and justice, that the state of Texas would seek to execute a man when the evidence in his case has not been exhaustively tested. The sheer number of death row exonerations resulting from DNA testing shows that our death penalty system is fraught with error and systemic injustices. We should do anything and everything in our power, including conducting DNA testing of evidence, to ensure that we don't ever execute innocent people."

(source: ACLU Press Release----The ACLU conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights)


What's NEW?

The following are from death penalty info dot org or CLICK here

Oklahoma Governor Grants Clemency
Posted: May 21, 2010
in Clemency Life Without Parole What's New What's New
Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry granted clemency to Richard Tandy Smith, who was originally sentenced to death for a 1986 shooting during an alleged drug deal. Earlier this year, the Pardon and Parole Board approved a clemency recommendation for Smith and forwarded it to the governor for approval. Governor Henry said, "This was a very difficult decision and one that I did not take lightly. I am always reluctant to intervene in a capital case, and I am very respectful of a jury's verdict, the prosecutors who tried the case and the victim's family who suffered because of the crime. However, after reviewing all of the evidence and hearing from both prosecutors and defense attorneys, I decided the Pardon and Parole Board made a proper recommendation to provide clemency and commute the death sentence. As a result, Richard Smith will be punished by serving the rest of his life behind bars without the possibility of parole."

Ohio Board Recommends Clemency Based on Questionable Expert Testimony
Posted: May 20, 2010
in Arbitrariness Clemency
The Ohio Parole Board recently recommended clemency for death row inmate Richard Nields, who was sentenced to death for killing his live-in girlfriend during an argument in 1997. The board questioned the validity of medical evidence used at trial that helped support the death sentence. Testimony provided by a doctor-in-training indicated the victim had been beaten and strangled. However, the deputy coroner and supervisor of the trainee told the parole board there was no scientific evidence to indicate when the victim had received those bruises. The board also cited concerns by the U.S. Court of Appeals that the death sentence barely fit the definition of capital punishment under Ohio's law, and similar concerns from a dissenting judge on the state Supreme Court. Justice Paul Pfeifer, who helped draft Ohio's death penalty as a state legislator in 1981, wrote that Nields's crime was not what lawmakers considered a death eligible case when the law was created. Gov. Ted Strickland will make the final decision on clemency.

NEW VOICES: Ohio Supreme Court Justice Calls for Review of State's Death Cases
Posted: May 19, 2010
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul E. Pfeifer recently said all current death row cases should be reviewed to discern which ones warrant execution and which ones should be commuted to life in prison without parole. "There are probably few people in Ohio that are proud of the fact we are executing people at the same pace as Texas," Justice Pfeifer said. "When the next governor is sworn in, I think the state would be well served if a blue-ribbon panel was appointed to look at all those cases." Justice Pfeifer was one of three Republican state senators who led the effort to reinstate the death penalty in Ohio in 1981 after the U.S. Supreme Court declared the old law unconstitutional. Pfeifer emphasized that the point of the review was to decide if death is the appropriate punishment for those presently on death row, predicting that if the majority of the old cases were tried today under current law and societal standards (including the availability of life without parole sentences), they would not result in capital punishment. He also said, "the number of people we have accumulated on death row has been rather staggering. It's improbable that all of those are going to be executed." Ohio only sentenced one person to death in 2009, but is currently executing inmates at a rate of one per month.

Lawyer For British National Had Many Clients Sent to Texas Death Row
Posted: May 18, 2010
in Foreign Nationals Representation What's New What's New
Twenty clients of Texas defense attorney Jerry Guerinot have been sentenced to death–a number higher than the death row populations of 18 death penalty states around the country. Guerinot also represented Linda Carty, a British national who was facing the death penalty for arranging a murder. She asserts she was wrongly convicted and poorly represented by Guerinot. He failed to visit her for three months after being appointed her counsel, did not call key witnesses who would have testified on her behalf, and neglected to contact the British Consulate for legal assistance. Regarding trial preparation, Carty stated, "I met this guy for less than 15 minutes. Once." David Dow, litigation director of the Texas Defender Service, which represents some of Guerinot's former clients who are now on death row, said the large number of death sentences reflect a failure to conduct simple investigations. "He doesn't even pick the low-hanging fruit which is hitting him in the head as he's walking under the tree." Steve Humphries, a filmmaker investigating Carty's case, said in a brief urging the Supreme Court to hear Carty's case, "It is no exaggeration to suggest that Mr. Guerinot has perhaps the worst record of any capital lawyer in the United States."

Federal Judge Asks U.S. Attorney General to Re-consider Death Penalty Over Costs
Posted: May 17, 2010
in About DPIC Costs Federal Death Penalty What's New
United States District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis recently wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking that the government reconsider seeking the federal death penalty in the trial of a reputed mob boss. According to Judge Garaufis's letter, preparations for the murder trial of Vinny Basciano in Brooklyn, N.Y., have already cost the government over $3 million in legal fees since 2005, and the trial proceedings have not yet begun. "Current circumstances require a candid reappraisal of whether the resources necessary for a death-penalty prosecution should be devoted to this case," Garaufis wrote. The defendant is already serving a life sentence without parole for the murder of another rival.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Because JOH cares about the treatment of the Imprisoned!

Be sure to see the link below to see Comments at original site

My Brother Faces a Lifetime of Solitary Confinement on a Spurious Terror Conviction
By Mariam Abu-Ali, AlterNet
Posted on May 12, 2010, Posted here on May 23, 2010

A version of this piece first appeared in The Hoya, Georgetown University's newspaper.

My brother, Ahmed Abu Ali, has spent the past five years in solitary confinement, under 23-hour lockdown, in a 7x12 cell. He has one recreational hour in which he must get strip-searched if he wishes to leave his cell. He gets one unscheduled telephone call a month to his family, and receives the newspaper by the time news becomes history. If I send him a letter wishing him a happy birthday, he gets it 60 days later. When I visit him, once a year, I speak to him from behind a glass window. He is literally in a dungeon, over 20 meters beneath the ground.

Ahmed is not in a foreign prison, nor is he in Guantánamo; he is in a super maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado.

Ahmed was not convicted of an act of violence nor was he charged with one. In 2003, Ahmed, a sociable 22-year-old, was studying abroad when he was detained in Medina, Saudi Arabia at the behest of the U.S government. My family, in tandem with several human rights organizations, filed a habeas petition demanding his return to the U.S., and the judge ruled in our favor.

After being held for nearly two years in Saudi Arabia without any charges or access to an attorney, Ahmed was transferred to U.S. custody. The U.S. government sought to avoid public embarrassment by charging him with nine counts of terrorism related conspiracy. The only evidence presented was a confession tape obtained under torture in Saudi Arabia, a country with documented prisoner abuse, as reported by the State Department. Additionally, the judge suppressed the defense's evidence of torture during the trial. During a pretrial hearing, Ahmed offered to show the scars on his back in the U.S. courtroom. The judge refused his request, but assured him he would not be mistreated in the United States.

Mistreatment would be an understatement, given the draconian conditions under which he is held. Ahmed was initially sentenced to 30 years, but the prosecution was not satisfied. They appealed to increase his sentence. Despite the fact that the so-called conspiracies, according to the judge, "did not result in a single actual victim," he is now serving a life sentence in solitary confinement under Special Administrative Measures (SAMs).

Created in 1996, SAMs were imposed for a maximum of four months when a prisoner was deemed violent. Now, SAMs can be designated by the Attorney General for up to a year, and renewed continually thereafter resulting in perpetual isolation, a form of torture under international law. The SAMs limit certain "privileges," including, but not limited to, correspondence, visits, media interviews and telephone use. SAMs also restrict conversations between inmates and their lawyers by allowing them to be monitored by prison officials, violating attorney-client privilege and depriving inmates of their right to effective counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. Ahmed was under SAMs even before his trial began. Imposing SAMs pre-trial cast a shadow of suspicion on a defendant, rendering him guilty until proven innocent.

Unfortunately, my brother's case is not an anomaly. Civil rights violations are an integral part of the "war on terror" and have become entrenched in the U.S. court system and in prison policy.

Fahad Hashmi is a young student from New York, who received his B.A from Brooklyn College and his master's from London Metropolitan University. In 2006, he was arrested at an airport in the United Kingdom and held in England's notorious Belmarsh prison for 11 months. Like Ahmed, Fahad was charged with conspiracy on the basis of flimsy evidence. While in the UK, he allowed an acquaintance to stay at his apartment for two weeks. The government alleges that this acquaintance had socks, raincoats and ponchos in his luggage during his stay that would later get delivered to Al-Qaeda. The government's case rested on secret evidence and on the testimony of an acquaintance who then became an informant to get a reduction on his own prison sentence.

Fahad was extradited back to New York, where was held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center without a trial under SAMs for the past three years. Under 24-hour electronic surveillance, he is required to shower and relieve himself in view of a camera. Furthermore, his limited family visits have been suspended for the past five months.

Extreme sensory deprivation often leads to hunger strikes and results in the deterioration of prisoners' physical and mental health. Medical and scholarly research has shown that such sensory deprivation results in depression, lethargy and psychosis in otherwise healthy prisoners. After studying inmates in solitary confinement, Craig Haney, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, noted that they "begin to lose the ability to initiate behavior of any kind -- to organize their own lives around activity and purpose … In extreme cases, prisoners may literally stop behaving," lapsing into catatonic states.

Senator John McCain, who spent more than two years in isolation while detained in Vietnam, has said that solitary confinement "crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment." Last year, Ahmed's conditions were so unbearable, he went on a hunger strike for two months, losing 50 pounds.

Fahad's health has degraded immensely, a fact that would have compromised his ability to participate in his defense during his trial, which was scheduled to begin on April 28. Instead, Fahad reached a plea bargain on the eve of his trial. In addition to facing the prospect of a 70-year prison sentence, the court granted the government's request for an anonymous jury with extra protection. The Center for Constitutional Rights called it "a clear attempt to influence the jury by creating a sense of fear for their safety and to paint Mr. Hashmi as already guilty." Fahad's plea should not be presumed as an admission of guilt; the biased circumstances led him to accept a chance for a lesser charge.

Ahmed's or Fahad's innocence is not the point, although I believe both are guilt-free. Rather, I write because regardless of their innocence or guilt, it is their right to be treated humanely. If we believe in the inherent dignity of each human being, then we should be outraged by these abuses. Unfortunately, abuse here in the United States rarely receives media attention. President Obama promised to close down Guantánamo; let us demand that he closes down the Guantánamo-style prisons on U.S. soil, too. Anyone with a true understanding of American values ought to demand an immediate end to these cruel and unusual punishments.

Mariam Abu-Ali is a senior at Georgetown University.
© 2010 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online here

COMMENTS at Alternet dot org CLICK here and plz add your courteous comment here on this site with at least a first name.

Friday, May 21, 2010

NORTH CAROLINA: Greg Taylor pardoned by governor

MAY 22, 2010:

Gov. Bev Perdue pardoned Greg Taylor this afternoon, clearing the way for the Wake County man to collect a payment from the state for 17 years of wrongful imprisonment.

Taylor was exonerated in February by a three-judge panel who dismantled a murder conviction that robbed him of nearly 2 decades of freedom. He was the 1st North Carolinian freed through the Innocence Inquiry Commission, a pioneering group created in 2006 to examine claims of innocence.

Taylor could now collect $750,000 in compensation from the state for its mistake.

"Gregory Taylor was forced to pay a debt to society for a crime he did not commit. No amount of money can buy back those 17 years, but at least this pardon of innocence will clear his name and make him eligible to receive compensation for his unjust imprisonment," Gov. Perdue said.

Taylor was convicted in 1993 of murder in the death of Jacquetta Thomas, a Raleigh woman who was beaten to death and ditched in a secluded cul de sac in east Raleigh.

Taylor swore his innocence from the start. By the time he appealed to the Innocence Inquiry Commission in 2006, he'd exhausted every appeal - and hope - of clearing his name.

Taylor's long-awaited journey in the free world has not been easy. Not a month after his exoneration, Raleigh police reopened Thomas' murder case and insisted on examining everything Taylor wore the night she was killed.

Perdue delayed her pardon until the test results confirmed - again- that nothing linked Taylor to Thomas' murder.

"I hope this puts to rest any speculation that I had anything to do with this," Taylor said Friday afternoon. "I feel like I've been exonerated again."

(source: News & Observer) Thanx to Death Penalty News & Updates (Dr. Rick Halperin)

Monday, May 17, 2010

How I forgave my daughter's killer

Nearly five years after her teenage daughter was murdered, Mary Foley has forgiven her killer. The alternative, she says, was to let hatred and anger destroy her own life

By Melissa Benn, The Guardian, Saturday 30 January 2010

The first time I meet Mary Foley she is addressing a rapt group of 15- and 16-year-olds in a humanities class on forgiveness. Tall, handsome and quietly spoken, she begins the session by taking out a few photographs and pinning them to the whiteboard. "This is Charlotte, my daughter. She was no angel, she had her challenges, but she was loving and caring, and popular among her peers. And here's Charlotte, joking around with her friends."

After a moment's pause, Mary pins up the next picture – a girl with her hair scraped back who seems to stare ­defiantly out into the room. Mary turns towards the class, her voice ­softening with pity. "And this is ­Beatriz, who killed her."

It is an extraordinary beginning to an extraordinary story: the tale of a terrible murder and its aftermath – the kind of crime that usually gets sensational tabloid treatment but scant ­human understanding. Charlotte, Mary's eldest child, was stabbed to death at a 16th birthday party in April 2005. In February 2006, Beatriz Martins-Paes, the girl with the defiant stare, was jailed for life for the attack.

Two girls, two wasted lives, and two devastated families left in their wake: it is only too easy to see how such a senseless crime could lead to years of terrible sorrow, bitter ­resentment and a desire for revenge.

But the most extraordinary part of this story is that Mary Foley has not only chosen to forgive her daughter's killer, but also to have regular contact with her. They have written to each other several times, and Mary is ­currently waiting for clearance to visit Beatriz in Holloway prison. Through the Forgiveness Project, which ­encourages reconciliation and conflict resolution, Mary ­frequently visits ­prisons to talk to ­violent offenders.

But what does it take for a parent to forgive such a crime? In 2008, just a few days after the murder of her son Jimmy Mizen in a south London bakery, a clearly devastated Margaret Mizen said publicly, "I don't feel ­anger – I feel sorry for the parents. We've got such lovely memories of Jimmy and they will have such sorrow about their son. I feel for them, I really do." Last November, Anglican vicar Simon Boxall said he and his wife, Rachel, ­"refused to be shackled by ­bitterness" and forgave the killers of their ­daughter Rosimeiri, who jumped to her death to escape her tormentors.

For many parents, this is an ­unimaginable act of faith – an almost foolish exercise of tolerance. We don't doubt the sincerity of the sentiment; we can understand that sudden burst of generosity born out of extreme circumstances. But we secretly ask ourselves whether such forgiveness is a statement of moral intent rather than an authentic emotional reality. And can it endure through the long years of grief?

To meet Mary Foley, 46, is to be convinced that forgiveness is entirely possible. She speaks with tenderness and sorrow for the trials of Beatriz's life that turned her, in Mary's words, "into a ticking time bomb". At the same time, she condemns the crime itself; she was angry when Beatriz recently applied to get her sentence reduced.

This does not mean that forgiveness is easy, quick or without its ­ambiguities. Rather, Mary describes it as a long road travelled – one that ­begins and ends with heartbreaking loss: "I have lost my eldest daughter. She has lost her life and her future. She will never have children. I will never have grandchildren. She will never look after me in my old age."

Mary, who has a teenage son and a younger daughter, does not shy away from her sadness. Standing ­before that humanities class, she cried openly, remembering Charlotte. You could have heard a pin drop. But, as she later tells the assembled teenagers, in the months and years following Charlotte's death, and with the help of her strong religious faith, she actively chose ­forgiveness, in part to help free ­herself "from the self-imposed prison of ­bitterness".

Charlotte, from East London, died in ambiguous ­circumstances at a 16th birthday party. Beatriz had come to the party "tooled up" with not one but two knives, in order to have it out with another girl, who she says had been bullying her. This girl was a casual acquaintance of Charlotte's and ­Charlotte may simply have been, in Mary's words, "in the wrong place at the wrong time".

Mary says, "Charlotte and Beatriz exchanged words on the dance floor and then Charlotte left the dance floor with a friend and went upstairs into the bedroom of the girl whose party it was. When she went to the toilet, Beatriz was on the top landing and asked Charlotte, 'What did you say to me downstairs?' Charlotte said, 'What do you mean?' Then Beatriz stabbed her once in the chest. Charlotte fell back into the bedroom into the arms of another friend who was sitting on the bed.

"She was bleeding profusely. Beatriz had severed a major heart artery. Everyone was screaming. Beatriz ran out of the party, followed by a pack of teenage boys. Luckily for her, she was picked up by a police car, which just happened to be at the end of the road, otherwise who knows what would have happened to her? She's so petite."

Mary was woken by a phone call from a hysterical girl who screamed ­"Charlotte's been stabbed" and then hung up. Three minutes later, the police rang and came to fetch her. ­"Robotic. That's what I felt like. A robot. When we were driving to the hospital, I knew it was serious because we were driving so fast and because of the sirens. When we got to the hospital, three doctors came to see me in this little room. I just knew she was dead. They looked so ­forlorn. Suddenly it hit me, this heat from ­inside, like a furnace."

But the worst part came later, seeing her daughter laid out for burial. "She had had her eyebrows done for the party. She looked beautiful. There were no bruises. All that was missing was breath.

"When Charlotte was murdered, ­forgiveness did not enter my mind. For a long time, I wanted to know, who is this wicked girl that took my daughter? Who did this evil? My baby was gone. I was just coming to terms with the loss. I had to weigh things up, to really allow my emotions to take their course."

She found it difficult to look at ­Beatriz in court. "She sat there, very defiant, her hair done, makeup done, looking nice. Arms crossed. She was trendy and fashionable, and I kept ­staring over at her. I wanted her to look at me, to look at the pain she had caused me, for her to see that Charlotte had a mum who loved her. I wanted her to show me how sorry she was."

Beatriz's mother was also in court. "She looked so closed, so ashamed … she wanted, through an intermediary, to come and say how sorry she was. But I just said, 'I can't do this right now.' I wanted her to feel a bit of my pain at losing my daughter." Later on, Mary felt able to meet ­her.

But she was still not ready to forgive until a pastor at her church approached her. "He had ­contacted Beatriz and she had written back. She had said to him, 'Would Mary mind me writing to her?' And I said, 'Let her write.'"

"When the letter arrived, I looked at it, with its childish ­handwriting. I opened it and then took a deep breath. I read it three or four times, trying to see if it felt real. At the same time I was ­thinking, wow, it takes some courage to write, when you've ­murdered a member of someone's ­family."

In this and subsequent letters, Mary came to understand more of Beatriz's background. "I learned about all the bullying and intimidation she had ­received, about all the things that had happened to her at home and at school.

"So I wrote back to her and said, 'I forgive you, I believe you didn't mean to do it, although there is a price to pay for the choice you made.' And then she wrote back – 13, 14 pages – ­talking about herself, and her problems, ­asking me what Charlotte was like. And I wrote back telling her about my ­beautiful daughter.

"The funny thing is, from some of the insecurities she described, I think she and Charlotte would have got on well. They could have become good friends." Mary has made it very clear that she is now willing to meet her, ­although Beatriz has yet to complete the necessary formalities.

Now, Mary is a picture of ­serenity. "When you don't forgive, you allow that person to control your life. Your anger and resentment are ­controlling you. When you choose to forgive, you release yourself, to ­become yourself again." She says of other family members who have not forgiven Beatriz, "there's a lot of ­sadness and regret there – a lot of 'if onlys' in their lives."

Mary now frequently visits prisons to meet offenders through the Forgiveness Project's restorative justice programme. "They can't believe it when I come. They ask themselves, 'Is she real?'" Mary smiles. As for her view of offenders, it is that "we don't know the circumstances these men and women have faced in their lives, which is not an excuse for what they might have done."

As for the future, she can see ­herself "talking to Beatriz, yes, maybe ­meeting up with her, after she is ­released". ­Certainly she wishes her "an ­emotionally stable life, a good life. I hope she turns out to be a ­wonderful mother. I don't wish her any evil. I don't wish her to lose a child. I would not wish that on anyone."

Further information from

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thanking everyone who helped to make this happen

First of all allow me to thank Connie for her kind words on our newly launched website. :-)

Putting together this new website of the German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has only been possible because lots of people were working on it. Quite a few of the members of the GCADP have spent lots and lots of hours of work.

But we've also gotten lots of help by people who are not members of the GCADP but other people from the abolition movement. We've had help from all over the world, from Great Britain, the US, Australia ....

I'm still moved and grateful to all these people who spent hours to help an organization they don't even belong to! And I do believe that this is nothing that can be taken for granted. So THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

I've said this before and I would like to repeat it here:

I've seen lots of movements and lots of organizations working on a common cause but I've never met so many really nice and helpful people as I've done in the abolition movement. This movement does really give me the feeling of belonging to a large family with the family members really caring for each other, no matter if they've known each other before or not.

And I do feel honored and grateful to be part of this family!

Susanne Cardona
Co-Blogger to this blog and
Chairperson of the
Initiative gegen die Todesstrafe e.V.
German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

NEW GCADP (German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty) HOMEPAGE!

ALL POSSIBLE PRAISES (and more) GO TO this angel-wizard SUSANNE CARDONA who has done such a stellar job putting this Website together!!!

SEE the GCADP's NEW WEBPAGE and more here

This has been created by our JOH Family member, the CO-BLOGGER here on this the JOH blog (as well as my dear understanding friend!)

Watch for more from/on this NEW website in the days - weeks - and months ahead.

Meantime, Tell Susanne what you think? Get out the word and use it for your own lists, Sites, Groups and for your WORK!

Watch for some photos and select items from this site to be posted SOON! Wish I could post these now but need to wait...yet couldn't fail to get this news out!

Here's just a sample page:


Capital Punishment worldwide

World-wide, people are still being hanged, shot or gased to death, poisoned by lethal injection, stoned to death, decapitated or executed by other means.

In the year 2009 at least 714 human beings plus ‘thousands of people’ in China, according to numbers of Amnesty International, were executed. And the figure for sentenced to death was 2001 people again plus ‘thousands’ in China. Amnesty International does not give any numbers concerning China since the country still treats the death penalty like a state secret and there are no official numbers concerning executions and death sentences.

And countries are still very creative when it comes to offenses punishable by death: These reach from murder, rape, kidnapping, treason, … to things like apostasy, adultery (which in some countries includes getting raped!) or being homosexual.

China was followed by the countries Iran (at least 388 executions), Iraq (at least 120), Saudi-Arabia (at least 69), the US (52), Yemen (30), Sudan (min. 9), Vietnam (at least 9), Syria (at least 8), Japan (7) and Egypt (at least 5)

The only European country still using capital punishment is Belarus. Since 1991, the year of the accession of power of the current gouvernment, assumingly 400 people were executed in this nation. In 2009 Belarus did not carry out any executions, therefore all of Europe was free of executions in this year. Nevertheless already in March 2010 two people were executed in Belarus.

After Burundi and Togo abolished the death penalty by law in the year 2009, today 150 nations worldwide have abolished the death penalty or at least have not carried out any execution in the past 10 years. But unfortunately there are still 46 countries and territories which keep capital punishment in their law and carried out executions in the past 10 years.

For More Stats on Death Penalty World-Wide, GO here Plz come back and tell your friends to tune in!

NOTE: Be sure to get permission from Susanne before using ANY of the photos here or on the GCADP website! THANX

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Attack Survivor Wants Condemned Ohio Killer Spared (Bruce Graham and SueZann Bosler)

Attack survivor wants condemned Ohio killer spared

Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Bruce Graham was driving to Cincinnati one day in June 1983 when he stopped to pick up a hitchhiker carrying a red gas can. The traveler, Michael Beuke, pulled out a gun, ordered Graham to drive him to a secluded area, then shot him as soon as Graham stopped the car.

Almost three decades later, as Beuke faces execution next month for a related fatal shooting, Graham has forgiven his attacker and wants him spared.

"I do not think one more life taken at this point would solve anything," Graham said in a letter to the Ohio Parole Board earlier this month.

It's rare, but not unheard of, for family members of murder victims to ask for mercy for condemned killers. Graham's is a more unusual gesture, in part because few victims of condemned inmates survive to make such requests.

Graham says he came to his conclusion after meeting Beuke face-to-face in prison last month.

"I wanted to know if he was reformed and had been rehabilitated," Graham said in his letter. "After meeting him and seeing him in person, I could tell he was sincere in his apology."

Relatives of Beuke's other victims aren't so forgiving. Susan Craig, whose husband, Robert, was shot and killed by Beuke June 1, 1983, said he took away her best friend.

"Michael Beuke should not be granted clemency," she told the parole board. "He should never be allowed to walk with people again."

Gregory Wahoff, who also survived an attack by Beuke but was seriously wounded, spent the rest of his life mostly paralyzed and in a wheelchair. He died in 2006 at age 51. His widow, JoAnn Walhoff, told the board Beuke shouldn't be spared.

The board ruled unanimously against mercy for Beuke, saying the brutality of his crimes outweighed his personal and spiritual growth behind bars.

Graham, of Rising Sun, Ind., has an unlisted phone number and did not respond to a letter seeking comment.

Several Roman Catholic ministers and other prison volunteers say Beuke is a changed man who has become a model prisoner and is extremely remorseful for his crimes.

Gov. Ted Strickland has the final say for Beuke, who is scheduled to die May 13.

In Florida, SueZann Bosler fought against the death sentence that James Campbell received for stabbing to death her father, the Rev. Billy Bosler, in 1986. Campbell also stabbed SueZann Bosler five times but she survived by playing dead. Campbell's death sentence was overturned and he's now serving life in prison.

Bosler, 47, knew her father was opposed to capital punishment and had once told her if he were murdered he wouldn't want a death sentence for his killer.

Though she fought for his release from death row, Bosler said it took several years to truly feel she forgave Campbell. She felt unexpected freedom when she did.

"I was finally letting myself live life again after that moment," said Bosler, of Hollywood, Fla.

Many family members of murder victims forgive perpetrators to let go of their anger and move on with their lives, said Beth Wood, executive director of Washington, D.C.-based Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation.

That doesn't always mean they oppose a death sentence, since people differ over how to hold perpetrators accountable, Wood said.

For people like Graham and Bosler, "What distinguishes them is they don't understand how the death penalty is going to fulfill any of their needs," Wood said.

In Indiana in the 1980s, Bill Pelke led successful efforts to spare Paula Cooper, sentenced to die for stabbing Pelke's grandmother to death in her Gary home in 1985.

In Illinois, sisters of murder victim Nancy Bishop Langert pushed to abolish the death penalty. In Texas, relatives of Andrew Lastrapes Jr. unsuccessfully opposed the 2004 execution of his killer, Dominique Green.

In Ohio in 2002, family members of Emily Murray, a Kenyon College student shot by a pizza shop co-worker, asked unsuccessfully that her killer receive a life sentence to spare the family further pain.

In 2009, Strickland spared Jeffrey Hill, who robbed and killed his mother in a cocaine-induced rage, after Hill's relatives pleaded for mercy.

Read more: here

Since this article referenced our friend and Journey family member SueZann Bosler, I am including a photo

...and quick note from SueZann on her dad:

"My father's favorite hymn was 'Let There Be Peace on Earth, and Let it Begin With Me.! Those of us who work against the death penalty are working for peace."

That was always my favorite as well since a child of 13. Thanx for the reminder SueZann!

TEXAS: A Son Forgives His Father

Photo by Mary Garrigan, Rapid City Journal staff Kevin Varga’s family members share a meal at a Livingston, Texas, restaurant on Tuesday after learning that Varga was denied a stay of execution by the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole. From left are Varga’s sons, Stephen Smith, Richard Varga and his mother, Beth Varga.

Another Story of Forgiveness

“I’ve finally forgiven him. That’s the one thing I told him today -- that I’ve finally forgiven him for that,” Stephen said. There was no answer, but the power of that forgiveness brought tears and a sense of peace to both father and son, he said.

SEE: Family of condemned man shares last full day - Posted: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 7:00 am | GO-- here

TEXAS/ROME Another Person Was Just Executed in Texas

A protest took place against Kevin Varga's execution and the death penalty in Rome in front of the Colosseum.

This journal has published the recent journal entries from Kevin Varga and just announced that Kevin has been executed. The administrator plans to publish more of Kevin's journal entries in the future - GO here (You may need to click twice?) Minutes Before Six consists of publicly viewable portions of the private journal of Texas Death Row inmate Thomas B Whitaker.

Here is Kevin Varga's last entry published:
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Death Watch Journal for Kevin Varga - DAY 73
I feel as if I am attempting to hold back the tide with my body/ No matter how I strain I will never hold back the passage of time. Each day continues to pass bringing me that much closer to the death chamber. I think of nothing else these days. I attempt to read or write but the thoughts of that date creep into my mind like a thief, and this thief is out to steal my very life.

Most of the people around me have taken my execution as a foregone conclusion. This type of thinking can really start to wear on a person. I cannot stop the tide, but maybe I can dam it slightly. Eventually the tide will tear away any dam that I am able to erect, but if built strongly enough, I can hold back that tide for just a little longer.

Nothing in life is as implacable as death, but that doesn’t mean that we run headlong into the arms of death. Howe can I turn death’s gaze away from me? My every though revolves around my impending death. If I could hold back that tide I would, I can only hope that by some miracle the tide is turned.

18 days to live.

Kevin Varga 999368
Polunsky Unit
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, TX 77351

© Copyright 2010 by Kevin Varga and Thomas Bartlett Whitaker. All rights reserved.
Posted by Tracey at 1:02 AM See 6 comments
Labels: Deathwatch Journal

Here is one of the Comments: A.Padar said...

I have no idea about your case, why you are awaiting execution or if your are wrongly convicted or not, all this does not matter for me... as state execution is murder done by state, strangly ironic when its done because an individual was accused to have done the same. So i hope the tide will turn for you as i see your situation as general injust. Also ironic that America, which is such religious (how about forgiving??) and sees itself as the moral center point of the world, is one of the countries which executes its citizens. Luckily we have given up this barbaric tradition in europe a long time ago. I wish you all the best and hope it will not come to the worse. If it comes to that keep in mind, we ALL meet on the other side.

Stories of Forgiveness (Bill Pelke Featured in This Book)

Happiness Awaits You! by Carol Costa, Liisa Kyle, and Maggie Terry Viale here
Try to get the book and to SEE Chapter 11, The Power of Forgiveness (Holding onto anger, hate and bitterness is destructive and the healing power in letting it go. ) SEE "I am a Happy Man" by Bill Pelke first of five stories in chapter 11.

Read the Short Bio for each of the 41 Contributers here on their Intro Page - including that of Bill GO here Then click on top to see how to buy, etc.

If anyone has or gets the book, send us your favorite excerpts - esp. from Bill and/or anyone else who's stories my fit and help us all here at The Journey of Hope Blog - plz! Thanx for tuning in!

East Texan honors mother by fighting the death penalty

The following blog post was written by Chris Castillo, who was just named to a new position with a national nonprofit group of murder victims' families that opposes the death penalty. For more information about Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, contact him at, or visit

My mother, Pilar Castillo, was murdered on Nov. 20, 1991 in Houston. Now, I am working as the Texas / National Organizer for Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, a national organization of family members of victims of both homicide and executions who oppose the death penalty in all cases. MVFR includes people of many different perspectives. Because violent crime cuts across a broad spectrum of society, its members are geographically, racially and economically diverse.

I was working as a daily newspaper reporter when I got the news that
my mother had died. I didn't know for hours that she had been murdered. The men who police believe killed her fled the U.S., and the crime remains unsolved.

It took me many years to find peace with my mother's death. The thing that had the greatest impact was volunteering within the walls of state prisons with a faith-based program aimed at showing inmates the impact crime has on individuals. It was then that I began to view inmates as people, not just criminals. Many of them are not much different from you and me. That really surprised me.

I became more involved with programs like Kairos in prison. The more I volunteered, the more I understood I could use this horrible act of violence to help others. I decided to help others instead of letting the pain and loss of my mother's death consume me.

I worked in public relations more than a decade until I was offered a job with MVFR. Since I don't believe in the death penalty, I really wanted this job. For me, it was the perfect fit.

I don't believe in the death penalty because I don't think anyone has the right to take a life. I also feel that the estimated $2.3 million spent on each death penalty case could instead be used to help us put more murderers behind bars and solve cases like my mother's. Money used for expensive death penalty trials also can be put aside to help crime victims and their families. After my mother died, my family was able to pay off funeral expenses with assistance from the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund.

It is my goal to make a difference within my world. I am honored to work with abolishing the death penalty in Texas and various other states. For me, this is more than a job. It is a calling.
(Source: Dallas News Death Penalty Blog)

Sunday, May 09, 2010

MARIETTA JAEGER-LANE (A May 9th 2010 Tribute)

We wish a Happy Mothers Day & Happy Spring Days Ahead to our Major Gardener/Nurturer/Encourager of our beloved JOURNEY OF HOPE family!

This is a mini-tribute to Co-founder & Board Member Marietta Jaeger-Lane

"Loved ones, wrenched from our lives by violent crime, deserve more beautiful, noble and honorable memorials than pre-meditated, state-sanctioned killings. The death penalty only creates more victims and more grieving families. By becoming that which we deplore -- people who kill people -- we insult the sacred memory of all our precious victims."

Bill said in his auto-biography and story of "Journey of Hope" Copyright 2003 when he first heard Marietta tell her story, "I knew that I had found a new soul mate. I praised God for meeting Marietta." Bill and Marietta are still soul mates in the Journey Family today and together have helped steer "the ship" over smooth and rough waters with wisdom and plenty of love to go around.

Last year, Marietta won the prestigious Jeanette Rankin Peace Award. Read what this Pulitzer Prize-winning Toledo Blade had to say about the award and about Marietta's story here Toledo Blade Winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize Murder victim's mom speaks out...

A Clip from Step by Step featuring Marietta here

Hear Marietta's Story and Testimony here

When I began doing abolition work and meeting with family members of prisoners on death row as well as family members of the murdered years ago, I envisioned something like a journey of hope or at least a safe place where family on "both sides" could find out how much grief they could find in common. I was told that this was simply impossible. Yet not until I met and heard Marietta speak years ago near my home town and soon after that heard Bill Pelke speak did I really see that the impossible WAS already happening.

I look forward to continuing to follow Marietta's beautiful journey of faithfulness to forgiveness in the months and years ahead.

THANX so much beautiful Marietta - from us all - for your heart of gold and faithfulness and the sure, loving STRENGTH which is your true name.

The following is FROM BILL:

Thank you Marietta for letting God's light shine through you so brightly is has been seen around the world. As I have said many times, there would not be a Journey of Hope if it were not for you and the inspiration you have given me. Your life is a perfect example of how God tells us to live. On this mothers day I think of Susie, and the precious memories you have given us all to keep her spirit alive.

Thank you and happy mothers day!

USA: Mother's Day and the Death Penalty

Carnations - red and pink ones worn on Mother's Day symbolize mothers still living, white symbolizes mothers who are deceased. What symbolizes mothers -- or children -- lost to homicide?

"My life changed forever on November 1, 2004, the night I received the call that my beautiful daughter Leslie Ann Mazzara and her roommate Adrienne (Insogna), had been brutally murdered," wrote Cathy Harrington, a Ludington, Michigan parish minister in the Unitarian Universalist faith, in the book, "No Human Way to Kill." She is on the Board of Directors of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation (MVFR), a national organization of murder victims' and executed prisoners' families opposing capital punishment in all cases.

Nearly a year later, Eric Copple, a friend of Insogna's, turned himself in.

Harrington sought counsel from Sister Helen Prejean, author of the book, "Dead Man Walking," who described murderers' mothers' anguish. "For the first time I felt a measure of compassion for Eric's mother, and I could feel my heart open, suddenly aware that it had been clenched tightly like a fist." Harrington negotiated a life sentence for Copple.

"I learned that the death penalty perpetuates the violence by holding the victims' families in trauma space, forced to protect themselves and their loved one's dignity for months, years, even decades. It creates more victims. When I recognized that the mothers (and other family members) of murderers were also victims, I knew that I didn't want to participate in causing more pain."

Bess Klassen-Landis of Windsor, Vermont, an art teacher and folksinger also active in MVFR, was a teen in Indiana when her mother was strangled and shot at home while she and her 3 sisters were at school and their father out of town. As the killer was never caught, Klassen-Landis grew up fearing she would also be murdered. For 37 years she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

In 2005, Klassen-Landis' older sister Ruth introduced her to the organization Journey of Hope...from Violence to Healing. Led by murder victims' family members joined by families of living and executed death row prisoners, and death row exonerees, Journey of Hope conducts speaking tours which address alternatives to capital punishment. "I went on the Texas tour. Not even my closest friends knew how 'crazy' I felt, because I thought it would put me in the same category as the 'crazy' killer. It was amazing to finally let my story out of the bag."

Klassen-Landis continues her activism in her mother's memory. "She would have been completely opposed to someone killing the person to make up for the violence that was done to her. I decided that I wanted to be like her, to get rid of my fears, and work toward abolishing the death penalty."

Each Mother's Day, "I focus on being a mother, honoring (the memories of) my mother and stepmother, and my daughter, who's a mother," adds Klassen-Landis. Harrington, whose mother lives near her, also celebrates Mother's Day with her church. "I hold in my heart the mothers who have sons and daughters in prison on Mother's Day and every day," says Harrington. "These mothers are the hidden victims that are often shunned and forgotten. On Mother's Day, I always light a candle and say a special prayer for them." Beyond Mother's Day, Harrington and Klassen-Landis draw purpose and meaning from tragedy by repairing a broken system -- which includes ending capital punishment.

(source: Margaret Summers is the Communications Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty)

Karl Keys : his beloved Grandmother who died cls to Mothers Day

NOTE: before my day is up, I plan to make a blog in tribute to Marietta's co-founding and nurturing of The Journey of Hope...if any have items to share, plz send them to me: - THANX! Connie

This by Karl reminded me of our Bill's dear grandmother!

Karl Keys (longtime faithful and brilliant lawyer for many various movements within the Abolition/Moratorium Movement to end the death penalty) recently sent the following to facebook:

A week ago my grandmother died, her age was at least 86 and possibly as much as 92, records in her part of SC aren't exactly "good". Today we held her memorial services. She was eulogized with most moving rendition of "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" I've ever heard. She was a contradiction & enigma, her husband slain by a... gunman she went on to spend 35+ years in prison ministry. [more in comments]

A "not so good" video capturing her last Thanksgiving grace is at here

Thursday, May 06, 2010

I Changed My Mind on the Death Penalty

by Eric Eimpson in The Huffington Post

There was a time when I believed that the death penalty was an act of justice, administered by the state for the punishment of crime.

The basic fallacy undermining my understanding had to do with a misconception of justice, which I saw only as a means of punishment, rather than as the figurative straightening of that which has been made crooked.

I understood the atonement as just in a legal way, God's wrath demonstrated on His son, rather than justice as a real and active aspect of Christ's manner of being, his life and actions.

I thought of love as an imposing force, the idea that the powerful are called to rule benevolently over the lesser, rather than as a power that moves one to extreme humility, exemplified by Christ who submits to capital punishment for sins he did not commit.

When I became an Orthodox Christian, my views began to change rather swiftly over a period of years, especially when I began to meditate on the meaning of divine Love, the reality of the existence of free will, and the testimony of the Church throughout time. Politically, I gradually moved from the extreme right towards more progressive views on the death penalty -- not as a child of the times (opposition to the death penalty is nothing new, as can be seen, for example, by the outlawing of the death penalty by St. Vladimir at the dawn of Holy Rus) but as a response to my understanding of who God is, what Christ accomplished, and what the Traditions of the Church teach.

I have come to understand that the death penalty is not a valid solution to crime. In agreement with Saint Cyprian of Carthage, an early Christian who lived in the 200s, I now affirm that murder is murder, whether it is executed by an evil individual or morally justified through a sophistry of logic by a systemically corrupt government that puts itself in the place of God.

My agreement with Cyprian, who was himself martyred, stems from my religious bias, which promotes a consistent ethic of life, emphasizing the dignity of the human person. Cyprian and a majority of the early Christians believed that vengeance did not belong to either individual people or the state but to God. The sanction of punishment by death is not valid because a representative democracy is not an impassable force; it is vengeance, and the rhetoric and appeal of those who promote it seek revenge, not justice.

There is a difference. Revenge is motivated by a desire to inflict the same harm upon another that one has suffered himself. Justice, on the other hand, is motivated by a desire to correct the fundamental pathology that has resulted in acts of evil. Capital punishment by death falls into the former category; murder is never the only solution available for punishing or correcting criminal behavior.

Since the death penalty is an act of revenge, sanitized by the state, then it cannot be an act of justice, since revenge is itself an unjust passion. The state that bears the sword in order to deter crime must act with virtuous motives; revenge is clearly not a virtuous motive. Therefore, in the murderous act of capital punishment, the state, acting in vengeance, partakes of (rather than resolves) the sin of murder. The criminal's initial act of ending a life is not punished justly, but rather, the state itself becomes stained with the blood of an act that is of itself evil.

The rhetoric surrounding whether or not capital punishment is a deterrent to further murders is fallacious on its face. Beating one's child senseless for disobedience might be a deterrent from bad behavior (in the short term), but we all agree that it is implicitly wrong. The result does not pragmatically justify the means.

The prospect of punishment does not prevent crime. People are well aware of the risk of punishment when they commit major crimes, and it is doubtful that most of them, on a subjective level, would reason, "If I get caught, it's only life in prison."

Regardless, even if it is a deterrent in the sense that it absolutely prevents one individual (the person who is executed) from murdering again, that in itself does not justify it. Despite the cynical rhetoric of those who claim that some people simply cannot change, there is always hope for everyone. Life does not end in prison, and there is always the potential possibility that one who murders might gradually come to experience an interior change, repent, and convert. The eventual healing of the murderer's corrupt heart is a true definition of justice. The death penalty puts an immediate end to any such hope.

People who commit crimes do so because of disorderly souls. They are indeed responsible for their own actions, and should be punished -- but the punishment cannot be carried out by the victim, or with the same motives that moved the criminal. The ancient principle of "an eye for an eye" was overturned by Jesus himself, though you wouldn't know it if you listened to the rhetoric of many "conservative" Christians. Jesus taught, to the contrary, that true justice embodies loving one's enemies.

According to basic principles of law and order in any civilized society, civil and criminal justice should be administered by the state with an objective and fair intent. Revenge is a dissolute and empty, unsatisfying passion, completely antithetical to the more difficult virtue of forgiveness. But where revenge is easily understood as a motive one might give in to, forgiveness is a sign of greater strength, and far better for one's own psyche.

Can one truly forgive a murderer, someone who has wantonly taken the life of another? A good friend, a Presbyterian pastor, did. The murder of his sister made national headlines when she was shot for no reason while vacationing in Florida. Yet both he and his brother-in-law (the victim's husband) found the courage to privately and publicly forgive the murderer. Why?

The drink of revenge distorts and embitters the soul, but the meat of forgiveness strengthens it. One who forgives proves himself to be of greater integrity, authority, and power than the person who has offended him. Forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting, nor does it mean not grieving, and it certainly doesn't mean pretending to like the murderer. Paths of forgiveness include the fire of grief, the wrenching and breaking (and cleansing) of the spirit. Forgiveness heals and frees the victim. Paths of revenge merely feed passions, and are bitter, spiteful, hateful and full of malice and darkness.

True justice, or true righteousness, is to forgive the offender while dealing clearly and without vengeance in administering punishment for his crime. Why should the state adopt a motive for punishment that not only indirectly repeats the initial offense, but also is rooted in a dissolute and empty passion?

Murderers are responsible for their behavior, not their mothers or their bad upbringing or the underlying power relationships of their environment. They have made a choice; the power of the will is involved in the decision to commit heinous crime. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting what the criminal has done, nor does it mean letting him off easily. Yet, all crime -- including murder -- is rooted in an interior disorder. Those who kill others, whether as an act of temporary emotion (such as someone who finds his spouse caught in an affair), or as an act of extremely defiled cruelty and violence, have wrecked interior lives. They live in misery, not necessarily on an emotional level, but depending upon the person, there are always psychological torments present in the lives of those who lack basic integrity.

It may seem radical to say, therefore, that the murderer is to be pitied rather than hated because he has made his soul a hellish place, whether it is felt by him on an immediate level or not. The cocksure smirks of the denizens of hell would be plastered across the psychopath's face whether we put him to death or not. It is a demonic sign, and where there are demons -- even if the demons are merely psychological afflictions -- there is torment. I see criminal smirks and empty bravado, even totally lack of affectation or regret, as signs of torment, and they do not bother me. For me to react in a similar fashion -- with violence and hatred -- by putting him to death does nothing more than carry me closer to his level of hell, whether it is sanctioned by the state or not. It does not satisfy my own sense of grief and loss.

Where the murderer lacks decency and compassion, we should show him what true decency and compassion is, otherwise we become just like him. Where the murderer has no value for life, responsible state policy should rather affirm life, rather than confirm the murderer's impulse to end it. Otherwise, we are doing nothing more than making a mockery of the principle of justice as exemplified by Christ himself.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Scott Turow: "Innocent" - Old character, new troubles: This time, it's his wife

Scott Turow (New book out - same famous "INNOCENT" character)

Find article here

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Scott Turow brings back his blockbuster characters: lawyer-writer weaves stories from wisps of L.A. life.

"Innocent" by Scott Turow; Grand Central. 406 pp. $27.99

Not again!

The last time lawyer Rusty Sabich had an affair, in Scott Turow's best-selling 1987 fiction debut, "Presumed Innocent," he ended up on trial for the murder of his mistress.

Rusty, now an appellate judge and candidate for the state supreme court, has strayed again. And whammo, he's back on the docket, accused of homicide.

Will this guy never learn?

This time, Rusty's wife is dead. An inherited heart condition, he says. But his old adversary, prosecutor Tommy Molto, wonders why Rusty waited 24 hours to notify anyone of her death. Could he have been waiting for traces of incriminating evidence to vanish from the corpus delicti?

The case, for obvious reasons, gets attention even beyond Turow's fictional stomping grounds, Kindle County (read Chicago):

"The sheer oddity of a supreme court justice-elect indicted for murder a second time, and by the same prosecutor, no less, has garnered press around the globe."

This sequel may be belated, but it's worth the wait.

The writing is elegant, the characters lived-in, and the legal and trial details expertly rendered. It's the suspense, though, that will keep you reading.

The narrative perspective and timeline jump around - first person for Rusty, his mistress, and his adult son; third person for Molto. None is perfectly reliable. They all have their prejudices and agendas.

Turow's neatest trick is to plant small inconsistencies or omissions in their accounts. These pockets of doubt allow readers the satisfaction of detecting weaknesses and contradictions in the case before the characters do.

When Rusty's son, Nat, observes during the trial, "Molto is doing a great job of harping on the little pieces of evidence that have nagged at me all along," you're thinking, "Ha! I was aware of all that 30 pages ago."

"Innocent" has a curiously unsatisfying resolution, but until that late stumble, it's a breathtaking sprint.

Also see "Death Penalty News and Updates" with Rick Halperin for another story on Turow and find an interview and more on Turow on a number of Law sites...

Another inmate exonerated for wrongful conviction

Tom Dodge | Dispatch Ray Towler was presented with a LeBron James jersey by his attorneys moments after he was freed from prison.
Ray Towler
While not directly related to the death penalty, this sure is one of our issues what with so many in our Journey of Hope family who also spent plenty of time in prison for a wrongful conviction!

Nationally, more than 250 inmates have been exonerated nationally for wrongful convictions. Only a handful of them served more time behind bars than Towler.

Find the following article with related references here

Wrongly convicted man goes free - Judge breaks down

Long-awaited DNA tests prove man is innocent of rape

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 2:54 AM

By Mike Wagner

Ray Towler was presented with a LeBron James jersey by his attorneys moments after he was freed from prison. Photo Tom Dodge / Dispatch
CLEVELAND -- Cuyahoga County Judge Eileen A. Gallagher broke down on the bench this morning as she freed a man who has served 29 years for a rape he did not commit.

After a 10-minute hearing, Gallagher approved a prosecutor's request to release Ray Towler from his life sentence and declared him innocent.

Gallagher stepped down from the bench, approached Towler with an extended hand, and said, "You're a free man, Ray Towler," as she shook his hand, tears streaming down her face.

Towler beamed throughout the hearing, waved to family members in the back of the courtroom, and again showed no signs of anger or animosity for losing so many years behind bars.

"I just waited for the sun to come up today and it did. And for the first time in a long time, I get to walk in the sun outside of prison," Towler after his release.


Towler served almost 29 years in prison for child rape and kidnapping he did not commit

Tuesday, May 4, 2010
By Mike Wagner

A Cleveland man who has served nearly 29 years in prison for rape and kidnapping is expected to be freed Wednesday after DNA tests proved he was innocent of the crimes.

Ray Towler has just one last court appearance in Cuyahoga County Wednesday before he can walk from the Grafton Correctional Institution as a free man.

"This is the greatest day of my life. I prayed and hoped for all these years, and finally we have the truth. I'm only feeling pure joy no hate or anger toward anyone," Towler said. "I feel very sorry that the victim went through this, and I wish her nothing but the best. I certainly have no anger toward her."

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office received the test results today.

"The prosecutor's office and the defense are asking the court to immediately vacate Towler's conviction and release him from prison," Prosecutor Bill Mason said in a written statement. "The prosecutor's office is also contacting the testing facility to arrange for additional testing of crime scene evidence to determine the identity of this rapist."

Nearly 18 months ago, the 52-year-old Towler believed his release was imminent after test results on the 12-year-old rape victim's underwear produced genetic material that didn't match his.

But prosecutors called the results inconclusive and agreed to follow-up testing. The follow-up testing proved he didn't do the crime.

"DNA has proved his innocence, and prosecutors have agreed that he is innocent," Mark Godsey said today. He is director of the Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati.

Towler has been serving a sentence of 12 years to life for rape, felonious assault and kidnapping for the May 24, 1981, abduction. The victims in the case, a 12-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy, said a man lured them into the woods at the Rocky River Reservation in Cuyahoga County.

Towler is one of about a dozen prisoners who are still grinding through Ohio's post-conviction DNA testing program after being featured more than two years ago in the Dispatch series "Test of Convictions." The series exposed flaws in the DNA testing system, reviewed more than 300 cases with the Ohio Innocence Project and then highlighted 30 prisoners as prime candidates for DNA testing.

Results have been mixed for about 20 inmates who have either completed or hit dead ends in the testing process. Tests exonerated two men and confirmed the guilt of four others. Five could not be tested because their evidence was lost or destroyed. Five were denied testing. Some were tested, but the results were inconclusive.

The others continue to wait for test results or for judges to rule on various appeals.

Towler said in March that the most recent round of DNA testing was his last chance for freedom. "I've been in limbo for a while now," Towler said two months ago. "I try not to think about what could happen. Nothing is worse than false hope."

(Again - plz note) Nationally, more than 250 inmates have been exonerated nationally for wrongful convictions. Only a handful of them served more time behind bars than Towler.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Group to censure physicians who play role in lethal injections

What are they thinking? Credit for the photo goes to James Renner November 11 story on his wordpress blog
See Titled article By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 2, 2010

Find original here

Reference on Lethal Injection - here

A national physicians organization has quietly decided to revoke the certification of any member who participates in executing a prisoner by lethal injection.

The mandate from the American Board of Anesthesiologists reflects its leaders' belief that "we are healers, not executioners," board secretary Mark A. Rockoff said. Although the American Medical Association has long opposed doctor involvement, the anesthesiologists' group is the first to say it will harshly penalize a health-care worker for abetting lethal injections. The loss of certification would prevent an anesthesiologist from working in most hospitals.

About half of the 35 states performing executions, including Virginia and North Carolina, require a doctor to be present. Other states have also recruited doctors, including anesthesiologists, to play a role in executions involving lethal injections. In some jurisdictions, anesthesiologists consult prison officials on dosages. In others, they insert catheters and infuse the three-drug cocktails.

While death penalty opponents welcome the move because it raises yet more questions about lethal injections, capital punishment supporters contend that doctors are not needed during the procedures, which can be administered by prison employees. But as questions mount about the types and combinations of drugs used and whether they cause undue suffering, states have been turning to doctors for advice and assistance. With 3,200 prisoners now on death rows across the country, most of the 50 executions performed each year since 2008 have used lethal injections.

"If I were lying there on the gurney and someone was administering a paralyzing drug . . .I would want someone there who knew what they were doing," said Ty Alper, associate director of the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California at Berkeley's School of Law. "Just like if I was getting surgery -- I wouldn't want a prison guard administering the anesthesia."
Loss of certification

Under the policy, which the group's 40,000 members learned about in February, any of these activities could lead to a loss of certification. Anesthesiologists can get state medical licenses without certification, but most hospitals require it.

Thus far, no doctors have been disciplined, Rockoff said, but several anesthesiologists, including some who have worked as execution consultants or testified in capital punishment litigation, said the step has had a chilling effect.

"They are clearly drawing a line in the sand and saying, 'If you cross this, we'll come after you,' " said Bryan A. Liang, a law professor at California Western School of Law and a professor of anesthesiology at the University of California at San Diego.

"It sure will deter me. For the ABA to threaten to pull your board certification is a big deal," said one anesthesiologist who has consulted for prison officials in his state about drug dosages. Arguing that the decision should be left up to individual doctors' consciences, none of those who criticized the policy agreed to be named, saying they feared repercussions.

Executions were halted in the United States from 2007 until 2008 until the Supreme Court decided in a Kentucky case that a commonly used three-drug cocktail did not violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Now Ohio and Washington state have started using one anesthetic, similar to animal euthanasia.

"Before haphazardly making the single injection the new standard, we need to know if this will solve the problem of botched executions," said David B. Waisel, an associate professor of anesthesiology at Harvard Medical School. "If we are going to have capital punishment, it should be done humanely, with no additional harm to the inmate."

The 12-member anesthesiologist board, however, concluded that physicians can never violate the obligation not to do harm.

"This puts anesthesiologists in an untenable position," Rockoff said. "They can assuredly provide effective anesthesia, but doing so in order to cause a patient's death is a violation of their fundamental duty as physicians to do no harm."
A humane death

Critics have argued that prisoners may experience excruciating pain while rendered unable to cry out because one of the three drugs used in most states paralyzes them before they receive the next two, which can cause an intense burning sensation before death. Reports of chaotic, horrific executions have increased calls to involve those with more expertise, namely medical professionals trained in delivering and monitoring anesthesia.

"When execution gets botched, it's usually because of two major problems: because of difficulty inserting the catheters to inject the drugs or because something goes awry with the poisons -- either the prisoner is not unconscious and there's pain involved or the drugs cannot be administered," said Rockoff, an anesthesiologist at Children's Hospital in Boston. "So some states have thought, 'Why don't we get anesthesiologists involved to help us?' "

Because the identities of executioners are kept secret, no one knows how often doctors assist in executions. But in California, a judge in 2006 ordered that a doctor be present for executions. Two anesthesiologists who had agreed changed their minds at the last minute, however. In Missouri in 2006, a judge ordered the state to revise its procedures and consult an anesthesiologist. Although that decision was overturned, the state recruited an anesthesiologist anyway.

Maryland's executions have been on hold since 2005, and the District does not have capital punishment. In Virginia, the role a doctor plays in an execution and the type of physician involved is unknown.

While not taking a stand against capital punishment per se, the Raleigh, N.C., board decided that not only was the participation of an anesthesiologist unethical, but also it could make patients wary about standard medical procedures.

"When any of us go into surgery, it's a frightening time," Rockoff said. "If lethal injections are medicalized, it could make it look like operating rooms are like death chambers, that anesthesiology drugs are death drugs and anesthesiologists are executioners. That would all undermine public confidence in the medical profession."

Some death penalty supporters said nurses or emergency medical technicians are well-equipped to perform executions.

"Some think it's an effective argument to say you need a doctor to do this," said Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which supports the death penalty. "You don't need a doctor to do this. It's a counterfeit argument."

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