We have ended the death penalty in two thirds of the countries around the world and in 18 states in the United States. On Wednesday, New Hampshire may get a bit closer to becoming the 19th (Photo Credit: Mike Simons/Getty Images).
For much of my working, adult life, I have been witness to the consequences of our country’s addiction to the death penalty, and to the damage it does even as we loosen its grip.
This week, we at Amnesty International USA and anti-death penalty activists around the country hope to witness a moment we will one day say was another important step towards our collective recovery.
Wednesday, March 12, the New Hampshire House of Representatives will vote on a bill that, when signed into law, would end the death penalty in the state. Thirty-two states throughout this country have yet to rid themselves of a punishment that is not just cruel, unfair and expensive, but is tainted with human error.
In December 2013, Gawker sent letters to all U.S. death row inmates who had executions scheduled in the upcoming year. They received their first reply from Ray Jasper, who is scheduled to be put to death on March 19 (Photo Credit: Gawker)
On March 19th, 2014, Ray Jasper is scheduled to be executed in Texas. Amnesty International USA is sharing his words below from a letter posted on Gawker where Ray Jasper acknowledges that this letter “could be my final statement on earth.”
When I first responded to you, I didn’t think that it would cause people to reach out to me and voice their opinions. I’ve never been on the internet in my life and I’m not fully aware of the social circles on the internet, so it was a surprise to receive reactions so quickly.
Anthony Graves is one of the 143 exonerated death row inmates who have been released due to wrongful conviction since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S. Graves spent 18 years in jail, including 16 years on death row, for a crime he didn’t commit (Photo Credit: Chantal Valery/AFP/Getty Images).
By Donna Schneweis, Amnesty USA’s Kansas State Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator
On Feb. 13th, 2014, the Kansas Senate passed a bill that would speed up the appeals process for people sentenced to death. If this becomes law, it would increase the possibility of Kansas executing someone who was wrongfully convicted of capital murder.
By Meredith Reese, Amnesty International USA’s Missouri State Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator
In the early morning hours of February 4th, Reggie Clemons’ parents found themselves once again preparing for a long ride across the state of Missouri to yet another court hearing. This one was to be held in Jefferson City in front of the Missouri State Supreme Court and has been a long time coming.
Reggie’s parents were joined by a large enthusiastic group of supporters who gathered 130 miles away in Saint Louis, in the gray, pre-dawn light to board a bus for the long ride to Jefferson City. Many of them taking off work, skipping school and losing countless hours of precious sleep between them, just to be there for this crucial moment.
The execution of Edgar Arias Tamayo raises issues of fundamental fairness and a willingness to comply with obligations bigger than state law (Photo Credit: NationalJournal.com).
By Andrea Hall, Mid Atlantic Regional Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator
How much is it worth to keep executions moving forward? What is the price of our machinery of death? In addition to the expense that is above and beyond keeping a prisoner jailed for life, there are the intangibles – the toll on the families of both the victims and the condemned, as well as on the prison staff, and the cost of perpetuating the cycle of violence in our society.
In the case of Edgar Arias Tamayo, executed tonight in Texas, the price may be much higher. We may very well have put our relationships with foreign countries, as well as the safety of Americans living and traveling overseas, at risk.
An activist fasts with other death penalty opponents in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. (Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images).
By Abraham J. Bonowitz, State Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator for Delaware & Ohio for Amnesty International USA
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty as a violation of the right to life. Further, AI considers death row itself to be cruel and unusual, setting aside that an execution method which does not deliver death within seconds might be better termed “death by torture.”
What else can you call it when witnesses describe a prisoner coughing, snorting, and heaving against his restraints for upwards of 20 minutes before finally dying? This is exactly what happened last week when Ohio executed Dennis McGuire.
By Natalie Butz, Communications Specialist at Amnesty International USA
It’s rare Amnesty activists get a moment to stop and take a breath. But with the start of a new year comes the opportunity to take stock of the progress we’ve made and the successes we helped accomplish in 2013. There’s still much to be done, but we hope the list below will help inspire all of us in the year to come:
Yorm Bopha was 29 when she was arrested on September 4, 2012 on spurious charges. She is a prominent activist from the Boeung Kak Lake community who is facing up to five years’ imprisonment if found guilty at her trial. She is a prisoner of conscience (Photo Credit: Jenny Holligan).
1. In 52 years, Amnesty International activists have helped free tens of thousands of Prisoners of Conscience around the world. In 2013, we continued that trend. Human rights activists freed this year included Yorm Bopha in Cambodia, Kartam Joga in India, Filipino poet Ericson Acosta, Yemeni journalist Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi’ and Iranian human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh.
If the Timely Justice Act becomes law, Mr. Walls is going to have to start thinking about what his last meal is going to be.
The Timely Justice Act has become law, and Frank Walls, who was sentenced to death for the murder of Ann Peterson (and life for the murder of Edward Alger) is under consideration for clemency. If clemency is denied, then he indeed will be eligible for an execution date.
Frank Walls was convicted of heinous crimes. But, State Representative Gaetz’s disturbing enthusiasm for his execution notwithstanding, Frank Walls should be granted clemency. He is a remorseful prisoner with brain disorders that have left him functioning at the level of a 12-year-old.
Duane Buck was sentenced to death by a Texas jury that heard an “expert” say his race made him a “future danger” (Photo Credit: North Dallas Gazette).
Like the Precogs in Phillip K. Dick’s The Minority Report, Texas jurors are asked to peer into the future and determine if capital defendants are likely to commit future crimes. “Future dangerousness” is a factor Texas juries must consider before issuing a death sentence. To accomplish this prognostication, these juries often rely on expert – some would say “expert” – psychological testimony.
Sometimes those “experts” are racist. Like Dr. Walter Quijano, who testified in several cases that defendants were “future dangers” because of their race. In the case of Duane Buck, he had the following exchange: