Posted by Kendall Harmon

The recent news about the botched execution of an Oklahoma death row inmate has not affected the way Americans view the death penalty. Sixty-one percent say the death penalty is morally acceptable, similar to the 62% who said so in 2013, although both figures are down from a high of 71% in 2006.

The results are based on Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs poll, conducted May 8-11. On April 29, an Oklahoma death row inmate given a lethal injection appeared to suffer for an extended period of time until finally dying of a heart attack. That incident led to the postponement of a second execution scheduled in Oklahoma that day and raised questions about the methods used to execute prisoners.

The case did not fundamentally alter Americans' perceptions of the death penalty, however, with a solid majority viewing it as morally acceptable. This percentage is similar to the 60% who say they favor the death penalty as punishment for murder in Gallup's October update.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchCapital PunishmentHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesLife EthicsReligion & CultureSociology* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 16, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Bishops* Culture-WatchCapital PunishmentLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralState Government* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

5 Comments
Posted October 11, 2012 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Bishops* Culture-WatchCapital PunishmentLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

8 Comments
Posted June 14, 2012 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The campaign to abolish the death penalty has been freshly invigorated this month in a series of actions that supporters say represents increasing evidence that America may be losing its taste for capital punishment.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchCapital PunishmentLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 25, 2012 at 6:42 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The execution of Troy Davis last night in Georgia has reinvigorated public debate over the death penalty. Davis was convicted in the 1989 murder of Georgia police officer Mark MacPhail. The execution made headlines because there were questions raised about the evidence in the case, including recantations by seven of the nine witnesses against Davis.

The execution was condemned by Pope Benedict XVI, former president Jimmy Carter, and governments around the globe. In the U.S., most Christians support the use of the death penalty to punish murders. Unlike Catholics and mainline Protestants, evangelicals support for capital punishment remains high even among those who say their views are shaped most by their religious beliefs.

Public opinion on the death penalty has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades. According to polls by Gallup, support for the death penalty was highest in the late 1980's and early 1990's. At that time, 80 percent of Americans said they favored executing murderers. Since then, support has dropped to 64 percent.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchCapital PunishmentHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesRace/Race RelationsReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

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Posted September 24, 2011 at 9:44 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Early on the morning of Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent’s season of penitence, Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois went through some final, solitary rumination. For much of his political career, he had supported capital punishment, albeit with reservations, even debating it at the dinner table with his mother. Now a legislative bill abolishing it was waiting for his signature, or his veto.

In the preceding weeks, he had heard arguments on the subject from prosecutors who spoke of the death penalty’s deterrent effect and from the grieving relatives of murder victims who saw in it fierce justice. He had reacquainted himself with about 20 capital cases overturned by DNA evidence or tainted by judicial error.

But on that decisive morning of March 9, he laid aside the secular factors and opened his Bible to a passage in II Corinthians about human imperfection. He prayed. And when he signed the bill striking down the death penalty, he cited one influence by name: Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchCapital PunishmentLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralState Government* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

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Posted March 26, 2011 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The death penalty has sparked intense debate in Maryland in recent years -- but attitudes among residents haven't changed much.

Sixty percent of Marylanders favor use of the death penalty for people convicted of murder, while 32 percent are opposed, according to a new Washington Post poll.

Those figures don't tell the entire story: Given a choice, more say they prefer the punishment of life in prison with no chance of parole than the death penalty -- by 49 percent to 40 percent.

Neither result has changed much since The Post asked the same questions three years ago.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchCapital PunishmentLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralState Government

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Posted May 13, 2010 at 5:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As the number of death sentences declined nationwide in 2009, death verdicts in California rose to their highest total in nearly a decade, the American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday.

All but five of the 29 California death sentences last year were handed down in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties, the ACLU said.

Only two of the death sentences came from Bay Area courts, both in Contra Costa County. Darryl Kemp was sentenced in June for a 1978 rape and murder in Lafayette, a case in which he was identified through DNA evidence in 2000; and Edward Wycoff was condemned in December for murdering his sister and her husband in the couple's El Cerrito home in 2006.

Nationally, death sentences fell to 106 in 2009, their seventh straight year of decline and the lowest total since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, according to an earlier report from the Death Penalty Information Center, a separate organization.

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Posted April 1, 2010 at 12:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A measure being considered by the Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee to repeal the state’s death penalty picked up eight supporters on Friday.

In a letter to the Kansas Legislature, eight bishops of the Episcopal Church, Roman Catholic Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church and United Methodist Church in Kansas signed a letter asking for reconsideration and repeal of the Kansas death penalty.

Signing the letter, dated Jan. 28, were Bishops James M. Adams Jr., Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas; Paul S. Coakley, Catholic Diocese of Salina; Ronald M. Gilmore, Catholic Diocese of Dodge City; Michael O. Jackels, Catholic Diocese of Wichita; Scott J. Jones, Kansas Area United Methodist Church; Gerald L. Mansholt, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Joseph F. Naumann, Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City; and Dean Wolfe, Episcopal Diocese of Kansas.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Bishops* Culture-WatchCapital PunishmentLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralState Government* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches

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Posted January 31, 2010 at 3:22 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Proper training of prison officials could have prevented a botched execution in Ohio last year that led the state to overhaul its method of execution, lawyers for several death row inmates have argued in court filings.

The filings contend that Ohio prison officials have shown a consistent disregard for their own rules in carrying out executions, including failing to ensure that execution staff members attend required rehearsals and training.

And they contend that one of the people who helped conduct the botched execution on Sept. 15, involving an inmate named Romell Broom, was inadequately trained and had failed to attend all the required rehearsals.

That employee is a licensed emergency medical technician, but has not worked as one for several years, does not regularly establish IVs and was out of practice at the time of Mr. Broom's attempted execution, according to the court documents filed Friday in Federal District Court in Columbus.

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Posted January 12, 2010 at 12:38 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It could be the start of a groan-worthy joke.

A Catholic priest, a rabbi, an Episcopal rector, a Methodist minister and a Lutheran pastor sit down for some interfaith dialogue.

But yesterday at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in East Liberty, there was no joking about the discussion topic, the death penalty.

The Judeo-Christian religions have come a long way from the Old Testament notion of an eye for an eye, the panelists said. Representatives of the five religions said their churches have officially come out strongly against America's use of the death penalty.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchCapital PunishmentLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture

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Posted November 9, 2009 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Gov. Martin O'Malley is preparing to move forward with regulations to allow executions to resume in Maryland now that his effort to repeal the death penalty appears to have failed, a spokesman said yesterday.

The Senate abruptly ended debate on O'Malley's proposal yesterday morning, instead embracing a bill that would tighten evidence standards in death penalty cases. That bill is expected to pass the Senate today by a wide margin and head to the House of Delegates for consideration.

Maryland has had a de facto moratorium on capital punishment since December 2006, the month before O'Malley (D) took office, after the state's highest court ruled that lethal injection procedures had not been properly adopted.

O'Malley, a longtime capital punishment opponent, has declined to issue regulations since then, saying the legislature deserved a chance to permanently repeal the death penalty. Such bills have been considered during each of the past three years.

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Posted March 6, 2009 at 8:18 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Gov. Martin O'Malley said Monday his effort to get the votes to repeal capital punishment in Maryland "is not done," and he asked the religious community to help by petitioning lawmakers facing a difficult decision.

"I need your help, I really and truly do on this death penalty legislation," O'Malley told about 300 people attending the African Methodist Episcopal Church Legislative Day. "It is not done."

The governor also urged repeal supporters not to take any votes for granted on the issue.

"I need your help writing letters. I need your help persuading. I need your help even talking to delegates and senators that you may think are probably already with us," O'Malley said. "You never really know."

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Posted February 18, 2009 at 7:17 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As the Maryland General Assembly prepares to convene on Wednesday, we hope that legislators will decide against the death penalty in Maryland. Doing so would represent an enormous moral failure for the state and for civil society.

For decades, many religious groups have voiced strong public opposition to capital punishment, believing that every human being is given life by God and that only God has the right to deny life. Of course, we understand that the state must seek justice and prosecute wrongdoing, but we cannot condone the state pronouncing a sentence of death for wrongdoing -- no matter how violent and brutal the crime. There is simply no moral justification for the state to execute a child of God in the name of justice.

The Episcopal Church has carefully studied the application of the death penalty in many states. In every case, it has concluded that the death penalty is unjust and ineffective. It is immoral to any who are seriously committed to the ethics of Jesus, who continually forbade violence as a means to solve problems caused by evil. It is unjust because of the hugely disproportionate number of poor and black defendants who receive the death sentence. It is a sad truth that many who are wealthy in our society are able to "buy" their way out of being executed by the state. When it comes to the death penalty, true justice comes with a price tag: "Justice paid is justice won." It is ineffective in that it has never been shown to deter the commission of violent crime, nor has it lowered the murder rate in any state that regularly executes its most violent criminals.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Bishops* Culture-WatchCapital PunishmentLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

16 Comments
Posted January 13, 2009 at 4:07 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As Christians, church leaders and bishops in the Episcopal Church, we urge the General Assembly to act to abolish the death penalty ("Report fuels death debate," Dec. 13).

As Christians, we are guided by the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Here he specifically rejects retribution by stating that even the teaching in the Old Testament of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" is to be rejected in favor of the teaching that calls for reconciliation (Matthew, 6:38).

Responding to killing with more killing will not make society less violent. Retaliating for death with death is not simply punishment but a further justification of violence as a way of life. We simply cannot kill our way out of the violence.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Bishops* Culture-WatchCapital Punishment

11 Comments
Posted December 18, 2008 at 8:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Fourteen bishops of the Anglican Church in the Province of the West Indies, meeting in the House of Bishops and Provincial Standing Committee in Nassau, Bahamas, November 11-14, under the chairmanship of the Archbishop of the West Indies, the Most Rev Drexel Gomez, have registered their opposition to the death penalty, while calling for intervention by government and cooperation of the Church as part of civil society, to deal with the situation which facilitates the upsurge of crime and violence in the Caribbean region.

In a communiqué dated November 14, the West Indian Bishops state that they are "of one mind in calling our people to stand with us in our opposition to the death penalty".

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesWest Indies* Culture-WatchCapital Punishment

19 Comments
Posted November 28, 2008 at 11:06 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We applaud and praise Governor O’Malley’s moral courage to place a moratorium on state-sponsored executions in Maryland. We hope and pray that this commission will conclude that the death penalty should be abolished in this great state.

For decades, The Episcopal Church has voiced strong public opposition to capital punishment. Our essential question today is whether, without exception, the death penalty should be imposed on someone convicted of murdering another human being. Our unequivocal answer is “no.” The Christian faith is rooted in both testaments of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. In the Bible, we find that every human being is given life by God, and only God the righteous Judge has the right to deny life. Of course, we understand that the state must seek justice and prosecute wrongdoing, but we cannot condone a decision by the state to pronounce a sentence of death for wrongdoing---no matter how violent and brutal the crime of the perpetrator may have been. Because of our belief in a just and moral God, there is simply no moral justification for the state to execute a child of God in the name of justice.

The Episcopal Church has carefully studied the application of the death penalty in many states. Invariably, in each case, we have concluded that the death penalty is immoral, unjust and ineffective. It is immoral, first of all, because as Christians we are commanded to adhere to the ethics of Jesus who continually forbade violence as a means to solve problems that are caused by evil. Second, the death penalty is unjust because of the hugely disproportionate number of poor and black defendants who receive the death sentence. It is a sad truth that in our society, it is the wealthy are able to “buy” their way out of being executed by the state. As one prominent Episcopalian lawyer in Maryland told me recently, “true justice comes with a price tag---justice paid is justice won.” And third, the death penalty is ineffective in that it has never been shown to have deterred anyone from committing a violent crime, nor has it lowered the murder rate in any state that regularly executes its most violent criminals.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Bishops* Culture-WatchCapital Punishment

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Posted August 29, 2008 at 8:41 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Gov. Martin O'Malley tapped a former U.S. attorney general yesterday to lead a panel examining Maryland's death penalty, opening another chapter in the state's long-running legal and political drama over the issue.

Benjamin R. Civiletti, who served under President Jimmy Carter from 1979 to 1981, was introduced at an Annapolis news conference along with others chosen by O'Malley (D) and legislative leaders to serve on the 23-member Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, which the General Assembly created this year.

The diverse group -- which includes law-enforcement officials, religious leaders and family members of murder victims -- is expected to make recommendations to the legislature before it reconvenes in January, and death penalty opponents try for the third year in a row since O'Malley's arrival to abolish capital punishment.

"I think the legislature will be very interested in hearing from this commission," said O'Malley, who has urged a deeply divided legislature to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Death penalty proponents did not criticize the commission directly yesterday but suggested that its aim was transparent.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchCapital Punishment* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General

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Posted July 14, 2008 at 7:17 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

But there is another even stronger reason to abolish the death penalty, wonderfully exemplified in the case of Billy Moore. On Death Row he discovered the names and addresses of the family of the man he killed and wrote to them to say sorry. Not only did they write back to say they forgave him but they continued to write to him encouraging him to turn his life round and use his experience as an incentive to help other people: and that's what he did, starting a Bible Study Group in prison, and saying to his fellow inmates "Its bad enough us being in here with the state trying to kill us, but while we are waiting to die, we can treat each other right".

When Billy Moore had lost all his last appeal and was faced with his final execution date the Georgia appeals board heard his case. Five members of his victim's family were there to petition for his death sentence to be commuted. He was released, is now ordained as a Pentecostal Minister, and has been campaigning ever since. In short, people can change. One of the most moving stories in the New Testament concerns the criminal crucified beside Jesus who said "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" and who hears the words. "Today, you will be with me in paradise." However battered and brutalized by life a person may be the Christian faith does not allow us to give up on them.

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Culture-WatchCapital Punishment

24 Comments
Posted May 1, 2008 at 5:23 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld Kentucky's use of lethal injections for executions, clearing the way for a number of states to proceed with scheduled executions.

In a 7-2 decision, the justices rejected a constitutional challenge to the procedures in place in Kentucky, which uses three drugs to sedate, paralyze and kill inmates.

"We ... agree that petitioners have not carried their burden of showing that the risk of pain from maladministration of a concededly humane lethal injection protocol, and the failure to adopt untried and untested alternatives, constitute cruel and unusual punishment," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

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2 Comments
Posted April 16, 2008 at 5:39 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Executions in California may resume by the end of the year -- with one inmate being put to death by lethal injection each month -- as a result of today's Supreme Court ruling, a high-level state prosecutor said.

Chief Assistant Atty. Gen. Dane Gillette, who has defended the state's lethal injection procedures against a federal court challenge, said he believes it is "certainly feasible" to resume executions by the end of the year.

U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose had ordered a temporary halt to executions in California after finding the state's lethal injection procedures were unconstitutional. A decision by Fogel on whether a new execution protocol by the state meets constitutional requirements is pending.

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Posted April 16, 2008 at 5:37 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Defense lawyers and prosecutors agreed Wednesday that California's death penalty system was deeply troubled but split over the causes and solutions.

During a hearing in Los Angeles before a state reform commission, prosecutors called for quicker appeals and amending the state Constitution to permit the California state Supreme Court to transfer some of the initial review of cases to state appeals courts.

Defense attorneys opposed the proposal, saying it would make the process more cumbersome.

Instead, they asked that the state pare the list of crimes that qualify for the death penalty and provide more funding for lawyers who represent accused killers.

But John Van de Kamp, chairman of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice who previously served as Los Angeles County district attorney and state attorney general, said the prospects of increased state funding were bleak.

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Posted February 23, 2008 at 3:51 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday that electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment, outlawing the electric chair in the only state that still used it as its sole means of execution.

In the landmark ruling, the court said the state Legislature may vote to have a death penalty, just not one that offends rights under the state constitution. The evidence shows that electrocution inflicts "intense pain and agonizing suffering," it said.

"Condemned prisoners must not be tortured to death, regardless of their crimes," Judge William Connolly wrote in the 6-1 opinion.

"Contrary to the State's argument, there is abundant evidence that prisoners sometimes will retain enough brain functioning to consciously suffer the torture high voltage electric current inflicts on a human body," Connolly wrote.

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Posted February 10, 2008 at 6:55 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Leading judges and scholars provided a grim verdict Thursday on how well the California justice system is carrying out the ultimate punishment as a state commission began an unprecedented review of the death penalty.

From California Chief Justice Ronald George, a death penalty supporter, to law professors who oppose capital punishment, the theme was consistent: The state's death penalty system is a mess.

George and six other witnesses, including a federal appeals court judge and Florida's former chief justice, named a string of reforms to improve death penalty justice in California, where there are now nearly 670 inmates on death row who typically spend decades awaiting execution.

But for the most part, many of the proposals called for spending more money - just as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger elsewhere in the building was proposing dramatic cuts in education and prisons to cope with a $14 billion budget shortfall.

"The current system is not functioning effectively," George told the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice. "We're at a point now where choices must be made."

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Posted January 15, 2008 at 5:26 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Stephen Dear has spent the past 10 years waging an uphill battle to abolish the death penalty in the American South. He's had virtually no help from the region's powerful evangelical clergy.

But unlike in years past, Dear has new confidence that within six months, he can round up 100 conservative clergy in North Carolina alone to sign an open letter denouncing the current system of capital punishment.

"Even five years ago, I wouldn't have thought of doing this," said Dear, executive director of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, based in Carrboro, N.C. "It's easier now to be an abolitionist church leader who opposes the death penalty on biblical grounds and to be accepted for that."

These are hopeful times for death penalty opponents. On Monday (Jan. 7), the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether death by lethal injection violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. New Jersey recently became the 14th state to ban executions.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchCapital PunishmentReligion & Culture

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Posted January 10, 2008 at 5:14 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

With conservative justices questioning their motives and liberal justices questioning their evidence, opponents of the American manner of capital punishment made little headway Monday in their effort to persuade the Supreme Court that the Constitution requires states to change the way they carry out executions by lethal injection.

Donald B. Verrilli Jr., the lawyer for two inmates on Kentucky’s death row who are facing execution by the commonly used three-chemical protocol, conceded that theoretically his clients would have no case if the first drug, a barbiturate used for anesthesia, could be guaranteed to work perfectly by inducing deep unconsciousness.

But as a practical matter, Mr. Verrilli went on to say, systemic flaws in Kentucky’s procedures mean that there can be no such guarantee, and the state’s refusal to take reasonable steps to avoid the foreseeable risk of “torturous, excruciating pain” makes its use of the three-drug procedure unconstitutional.

It was here that Mr. Verrilli met resistance from both sides of the court, and the closely watched case appeared to founder in this gap between theory and practice.

Of the 36 states with the death penalty, all but Nebraska, which still uses only the electric chair, specify the same three-drug sequence for lethal injections.

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Posted January 8, 2008 at 7:18 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday on whether a common lethal injection method is unconstitutional. The case, which has prompted a temporary halt in executions, comes at a crucial time for capital punishment nationwide.
The dispute from Kentucky tests standards for when a method of execution is cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Although the basic constitutionality of capital punishment is not at issue, the case has galvanized larger questions about the death penalty.

Executions in 2007 dropped to a 13-year low of 42, largely because states began putting executions on hold soon after the justices announced they would hear the Kentucky case. Thirty-five of the 36 states that permit capital punishment carry out executions with a lethal drug combination.

In 2007, 110 defendants were sentenced to die, the lowest number since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. At the end of 2007, New Jersey became the first state to pass a law abolishing the death penalty in more than 40 years

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Posted January 5, 2008 at 1:57 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The number of executions in the United States has declined to a 13-year low, according to a study by a research group that has been critical of the way the death penalty is applied.

The 42 executions recorded in 2007 are the fewest since 1994, when there were 31, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which compiled the report and released it Tuesday. In 1999, there were 98 executions, the highest number since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.

The group attributes the decline to numerous factors, including public sentiment over innocence and fairness, but most notably the decision by the Supreme Court on Sept. 25 to hear a challenge to the constitutionality of lethal injection, causing a de facto moratorium on executions.

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Posted December 20, 2007 at 12:55 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

New Jersey will become the first state in four decades to abolish the death penalty under a measure lawmakers approved Thursday and the governor intends to sign within days.

Assembly members voted 44-36 to replace the death sentence with life in prison without parole. The state Senate approved the bill Monday, and Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat, has said he will sign the bill within a week.

A special state commission found in January that the death penalty was a more expensive sentence than life in prison, hasn't deterred murder and risks killing an innocent person.

"We would be better served as a society by having a clear and certain outcome for individuals that carry out heinous crimes," Corzine said. "That's what I think we're doing, making certain that individuals would be imprisoned without any possibility of parole."

The measure would spare eight men on the state's death row, including Jesse Timmendequas, a sex offender convicted of murdering 7-year-old Megan Kanka in 1994. That case sparked a Megan's Law, which requires law enforcement agencies to notify the public about convicted sex offenders living in their communities.

Marilyn Flax, whose husband Irving was kidnapped and murdered in 1989 by death row inmate John Martini Sr., said she seethes at the thought Martini will remain alive "while my innocent, loving, adoring husband lies in a grave."

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7 Comments
Posted December 14, 2007 at 6:18 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

New Jersey's legislature may soon be the first in the country to repeal a death penalty law. While courts in other states have struck death penalty statutes, this would be the first time a legislative body eliminated executions since the Supreme Court reinstated them 31 years ago.

New Jersey has the death penalty, but the state hasn't actually executed anyone since 1963.

Listen to it all from NPR.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchCapital Punishment

7 Comments
Posted December 10, 2007 at 6:34 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Here are Two:

To the Editor:

Statistical analysis may sound scientific, but people don’t behave according to economists’ mathematical formulas. If the death penalty deterred killers, we would be able to find at least one, in a state without the death penalty, who expected to be caught and imprisoned for life but committed murder anyway. No rational person would make that exchange.

Economists will keep debating the numbers, but they should support public policy that sends clear, rational messages. Here’s one: Killing people is wrong — whether they’re walking in a dark alley or strapped to a gurney.

Howard Tomb
Brooklyn, Nov. 18, 2007



To the Editor:

Even if we have no clue whether or not the death penalty actually deters, crime prevention is only one of a handful of reasons that a jurisdiction might consider when choosing to mete out the ultimate punishment.

Retribution and the community’s expression of moral outrage are at least as important. Failure to deter doesn’t inevitably drive us to the logical conclusion to execute the death penalty itself.

Jonathan Lubin
New Haven, Nov. 18, 2007
The writer is a student at Yale Law School.

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24 Comments
Posted November 20, 2007 at 8:44 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The appellants are fighting not for their lives but for a more efficient cocktail of deadly drugs. In the current protocol, the first drug is intended to produce unconsciousness, the second to paralyze the muscles and the third to stop the heart. In some cases, the appellants say, the first drug fails, leaving prisoners awake but unable to move or speak as they die of cardiac arrest.

It is the inverse of the guillotine. Rather than painless for the convict but gruesome for witnesses, the three-drug cocktail may be easy on witnesses but brutal for the victim — an inert body suffering unspeakable pain.

The Supreme Court may end up banning the cocktail, but such a ruling would only inspire state officials to mix up a new set of drugs. The new protocol may at first appear to work smoothly, but decades of executions have taught us this: Technical systems are prone to failure, and human bodies are irreducibly complex and idiosyncratic. Whatever the technique, executions will go horrifyingly wrong.

Pain is often a necessary part of death. That fact seems unfortunate yet unremarkable in cases of natural death, but when the killing is done deliberately, on our behalf, we keep seeking ways to spare ourselves the dreadful truth.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchCapital Punishment

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Posted November 5, 2007 at 1:08 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Moments before a Mississippi prisoner was scheduled to die by lethal injection, the Supreme Court granted him a stay of execution on Tuesday evening and thus gave a nearly indisputable indication that a majority intends to block all executions until the court decides a lethal injection case from Kentucky next spring.

There were two dissenters, Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr., but neither they nor the majority gave reasons for their positions. Because only five votes are required for a stay of execution, it is not clear whether all the remaining seven justices supported it.

The stay will remain in effect until the full court reviews an appeal filed Monday by lawyers for the inmate, Earl W. Berry, who is on death row for killing a woman 20 years ago.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchCapital PunishmentLaw & Legal Issues

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Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The United Methodist Church here is the kind of politically active place where parishioners take to the pulpit to discuss poverty in El Salvador and refugees living in Meriden. But few issues engage its passions as much as the death penalty.

The last three pastors were opponents of capital punishment. Church-sponsored adult education classes promote the idea of “restorative justice,” advocating rehabilitation over punishment. Two years ago, congregants attended midnight vigils outside the prison where Connecticut executed a prisoner for the first time in 45 years.

So it might have been expected that United Methodist congregants would speak out forcefully when a brutal triple murder here in July led to tough new policies against violent criminals across the state and a pledge from prosecutors to seek capital punishment against the defendants.

But the congregation has been largely quiet, not out of indifference, but anguish: the victims were popular and active members of the church — Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11. On July 23, two men broke into the family’s home. Mrs. Hawke-Petit was strangled and her daughters died in a fire that the police say was set by the intruders.

The killings have not just stunned the congregation, they have spurred quiet debate about how it should respond to the crime and whether it should publicly oppose the punishment that may follow. It has also caused a few to reassess how they feel about the punishment.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchCapital PunishmentReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodist

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Posted October 30, 2007 at 12:22 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An eleventh-hour reprieve in Nevada last night for condemned murderer William Patrick Castillo marked the latest victory for opponents of the death penalty who do not regard lethal injection as the humane method of execution that its supporters say it is.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the subject in the coming months, and death penalty opponents plan to argue that the three-chemical cocktail used by most of the 37 states that carry out lethal injection immobilizes the condemned and hides the pain they experience before they die. They say the process violates the Eighth Amendment's ban against cruel and unusual punishment.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchCapital Punishment

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Posted October 16, 2007 at 4:03 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The federal appeals court in San Francisco yesterday upheld a death sentence from a jury that had consulted the Bible’s teachings on capital punishment.

In a second decision on the role of religion in the criminal justice system, the same court ruled Friday that requiring a former prisoner on parole to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous violated the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion.

In the capital case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit split 9 to 6 on the question of whether notes including Bible verses prepared by the jury’s foreman and used during sentencing deliberations required reversal of the death sentence imposed on Stevie L. Fields in 1979.

Mr. Fields, on parole after serving time for manslaughter, committed a series of rapes, kidnappings and robberies, and murdered Rosemary Cobbs, a student librarian at the University of Southern California.

After the jury convicted Mr. Fields and while it was deliberating his sentence, the foreman, Rodney White, conducted outside research, consulting several reference works and preparing a list of pros and cons on the death penalty that he shared with fellow jurors. On the pro side, he quoted passages from the Bible, including this one from Exodus: “He that smiteth a man, so that he dies, shall surely be put to death.”

Judge Pamela Ann Rymer, writing for the majority, said there was no need to decide whether there had been juror misconduct, “because even assuming there was, we are persuaded that White’s notes had no substantial and injurious effect or influence.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchCapital Punishment

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Posted September 11, 2007 at 12:46 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

No modern debate in America is as muddled by facts as that of the death penalty.

For a long time, the contentious issue of deterrence—whether the threat of capital punishment prevented homicides—was at the center of the debate, serving as a core justification for proponents. Meanwhile, the opposition cited a mounting body of evidence that debunked the claim.

New data this week is not likely to do much to clear things up. A poll from the Death Penalty Information Center, a clearinghouse for data on executions and public opinion on capital punishment, found that only 38 percent of respondents believed that the death penalty deters would-be murderers. The poll, conducted in March, surveyed 1,000 adults and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Meanwhile, a widely discussed Associated Press article on Monday drew attention to a series of published studies by economists that report statistical evidence in favor of deterrence.

"I don't think we're close" to a consensus, said DPIC Executive Director Richard Dieter. "I've been reading the studies for years, and they go both ways. They're getting to a high level of expertise in terms of criticizing one other."

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchCapital Punishment

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Posted June 13, 2007 at 11:14 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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