Sunday, January 20, 2013

"Hate Multiplies Hate; Violence Multiplies Violence" : In Honor of Victor Hugo and MLK

Maryland and the Death Penalty:  Maryland's governor, Martin O'Malley, chose Jan. 15, the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., to announce his determination to repeal the state's law allowing capital punishment. "Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence," he said, quoting Dr. King.

The death penalty does not deter murders, the governor said, since states with the penalty have had higher murder rates than states without it. And prosecuting a capital case in Maryland costs 3 times as much as pursuing a homicide conviction that carries a sentence of life without parole. In short, the penalty has been a huge waste of taxpayer money on a policy that manifestly does not work. Significantly, he said, the state has gathered sobering proof that its use of the death penalty has been so unfair - so arbitrary and capricious - as to be unjust and immoral.

The Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment reported in 2008 that the "administration of the death penalty clearly shows racial bias" and that the chances of a state prosecutor's "seeking and imposing a death sentence differs alarmingly across jurisdictions in Maryland, even when the cases are similar."

In addition, the reversal rate in Maryland death penalty cases has been stunningly high; it was 80 % for the years 1995 to 2007, the commission reported. Prosecutors have withheld potentially exculpatory evidence. Judges have made decisions that were unfair to defendants. The police have forced involuntary confessions.

4 years ago, the Maryland Legislature chose not to repeal the state's death penalty law and instead made it the most stringent in the country. A person cannot be sentenced to death without DNA evidence tying a defendant to the murder, a videotaped voluntary confession or a videotape of the crime. But this law makes the state's administration of capital punishment even more arbitrary and capricious, since this evidence is so rarely collected.

As a practical matter, Maryland cannot execute anyone now. Its highest court ruled in 2006 that the state cannot use the lethal injection protocol devised by the corrections department because the Legislature did not review and approve it, as state law requires. In fact, the state has not executed anyone since 2005. But the law remains on the books, and the time has come to abolish it.

As Governor O'Malley said: "We know what does not work. And we know that the way forward is always found through greater respect for the human dignity of all."
(source: Editorial, New York Times)


The same author who wrote the original "Les Miserables"  also spoke the following

Plea Against the Death Penalty:

Look, examine, reflect. You hold capital punishment up as an example. Why? Because of what it teaches. And just what is it that you wish to teach by means of this example? That thou shalt not kill. And how do you teach that "thou shalt not kill"? By killing.

I have examined the death penalty under each of its 2 aspects: as a direct action, and as an indirect one. What does it come down to? Nothing but something horrible and useless, nothing but a way of shedding blood that is called a crime when an individual commits it, but is (sadly) called "justice" when society brings it about. Make no mistake, you lawmakers and judges, in the eyes of God as in those of conscience, what is a crime when individuals do it is no less an offense when society commits the deed.

Victor Hugo, Speech at the Constituent Assembly, September 15, 1848

(Dr. Rick Halperin features the Hugo quote above as a constant reminder on his "Death Penalty: News & Updates".)

For more from Rick,  see the column of links on the right side of this blogsite -- Go there often and support an end to the death penalty.


Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Year Updates Part One (Rick Halperin's News & Updates)

USA: Death penalty is a tool for tyrants Your recent article with state Rep. Claire Levy questioning the death penalty addresses a difficult issue, especially in light of recent horrendous mass murders. She notes how death penalty prosecutions are so expensive that they undermine our ability to adequately fund other criminal cases. However, this misses many bigger problems. First is the often ignored principle that violence (state executions) begets more violence. Another is one we rarely dare mention. Simply put, I do not trust government bureaucrats to decide who shall be put to death. Though not worried for myself, I am concerned for those most effective in speaking truth to power and corruption. Our democracy depends on encouraging and not intimidating the outspoken, perceptive courageous few, not unlike our Founding Fathers. They were equivalent to "terrorists" for the ruling British aristocracy. Many governments use the death penalty on their most hated political adversaries.

The death penalty is the tool of tyrants. Our country already employs solitary confinement as a form of torture that is effective in silencing the offender. Such treatment of Private First Class Bradley Manning is an example, (even if you disagree with his whistle-blowing). The most effective, permanent means to silence political enemies is the death penalty. Is it not possible some associated with our government could be so desperate? The 2012 Defense Authorization Act in its ambiguity could enable indefinite detention of anyone considered a threat, even U.S. citizens not involved with armed conflicts. Will more political enemies as supposed terrorists be targeted for elimination, like an expedited administrative death penalty? Abolishing our state death penalty would be a symbolic yet significant first step in protecting our remaining constitutional rights and reducing our potential for unexpected tyranny.

JOHN C. BOLLINGER----Lafayette (source: Letter to the Editor, (Boulder, Colo.) Daily Camera) 


Rare NYS death penalty case may reach Brooklyn in 2013 The year 2013 will bring a number of new beginnings to Brooklyn. In Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 2 will open with courts for bocce, handball, and basketball. The Prospect Park Lakeside Project, to open in fall 2013, will possess 2 ice rinks. And in the Brooklyn courts, a rare death-penalty case may be heard. The case of Ronell Wilson, convicted cop killer, may come to the Federal District Court in Brooklyn in the new year. Wilson was convicted in 2007 of the 2003 double murder of undercover NYPD Detectives Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin. A Brooklyn jury found Wilson guilty of the murders, which stemmed from an illegal gun buy sting gone wrong, and sentenced Wilson to die by lethal injection -- the 1st time in New York that a federal defendant was sentenced to death since 1954. Wilson's attorneys appealed the decision, and the U.S. Court of Appeals threw out the sentence, but not the conviction due to prosecutorial error. The prosecution, the court said, violated Wilson's constitutional rights by telling the jury that Wilson's decision to go to trial demonstrated his lack of remorse and refusal to accept responsibility. A new jury was set to again decide whether or not Wilson would face death row.

The new trial was hit with a number of delays, primarily the issue of whether or not Wilson had the mental capacity to face a death penalty sentence. "We are concerned for his mental health, as he has no contact with his family and friends and no access to his legal materials so that his ability to assist his legal team is compromised," one of the lawyers wrote in an Aug. 15 letter to the warden at a Brooklyn lockup. This set the stage for Wilson's mental health defense. The United States Supreme Court has long ago ruled that inmates who are mentally insane - or developmentally disabled - cannot be executed. Wilson's attorney's asserted that Wilson is intellectually impaired following a childhood of deprivation and neglect, with a drug-addicted mother who was largely absent from their broken home. During a December 2012 special hearing to address the issue of Wilson's mental capacity, an expert witness for the prosecution, Dr. Raymond Patterson, found Wilson fit and sane enough to face the death penalty. "[Wilson] said that if the judge finds that he was mentally retarded, he cannot face the death penalty," Patterson said to validate his finding that Wilson was narcissistic and articulate. The defense however, presented a number of witnesses to refute the prosecution's findings. Johns Hopkins neurologist Bruce Shapiro told Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis, that Wilson "was functionally illiterate and functionally innumerate." "This young man could not work. He had significant limitations. He could not do many practical household activities," Shapiro said, noting that as a young man Wilson needed instruction on "how to clean himself and how to shop." The issue is now in the hands of Hon. Garaufis, who will eventually rule on whether Wilson is mentally fit to face the death penalty. If the court finds Wilson mentally fit, he will face a new penalty phase trial this spring, where a new jury will decide if Wilson will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole or be executed by lethal injection. (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

More News/Op Ed items for the New Year 2013 to follow...

The Innocent are Executed! New Year Letter from Witness to Innocence

Dear Friend,

One of the most compelling reasons to abolish the death penalty is that the innocent are executed.

Witness to Innocence is the only national organization of exonerated death row survivors, representing the 141 innocent men and women who have been released from death row since 1973, after spending a decade on average awaiting execution. Our members tell their stories in every corner of the country and around the world, as we empower them and their loved ones to take a leadership role in the death penalty abolition movement. Over the past five years, we have helped bring about abolition in five states.

We may never know how many innocent people have been executed. But we do know America has executed the innocent throughout its history.

In 1944, George Stinney became the youngest person executed in the U.S. This 5-foot-1, 90-pound black boy was convicted of the impossible crime of beating two young girls to death with a 20-pound railroad spike. George was interrogated for hours without his parents present, and reportedly was offered an ice cream cone for confessing. At trial his defense counsel did not cross-examine witnesses. And the all-white male jury deliberated for all of 10 minutes before finding him guilty of first-degree murder. The state of South Carolina electrocuted George despite no evidence of a confession, other than the word of a deputy, and no physical evidence linking him to the crime.

A year later, Lena Baker became the first and only woman to be executed in Georgia's electric chair. Baker, who was African-American, was found guilty by a white jury of murdering her white employer. The man reportedly enslaved and beat Baker, and threatened to kill her if she left. 60 years later, the state of Georgia gave Baker a full and unconditional pardon.

Fast forward to today, and America's death machine continues to kill the innocent for the same reasons--including police coercion, witness misidentification, prosecutorial misconduct, bad lawyering and racism in jury selection. The only way to guarantee this doesn't happen again is to get rid of the death penalty altogether. It is a fundamentally broken system that cannot be repaired.

2012 was a busy year for WTI. Our death row survivors worked closely with state abolition groups, lawmakers and communities across the country to bring about an end to executions. We helped shape public opinion and move California closer to repeal of the death penalty. WTI joined the Innocence Network and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty. We testified at UN headquarters and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. We spoke at the Coliseum in Rome in celebration of the repeal of the death penalty in Connecticut. And WTI met with European Union officials in Brussels.

And 2013 will be an even bigger year for us. WTI plans to help repeal the death penalty in other states this year. Our gathering in Atlanta will empower our members with the tools to become more effective anti-death penalty activists. We will reach out to new allies, engage communities of color, expand our presence in the South, and fight for federal compensation for the wrongfully convicted.

(Although my policy on The Journey of Hope blog is not to rais funds for other groups, you may want to go to the source to find out this info.  Connie )

Yours truly,

David A. Love
Executive Director

P.S. Victory is in sight, but we can't do this without you. End the death penalty in 2013