10 Reasons to Abolish the Death Penalty

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This blog post is brought to you by the number 10.  It was after 10 pm last night when Georgia put Brandon Rhode to death, less than a week after rushing madly to save his life after his failed suicide attempt.

October 10th, 2010 (10-10-10) will be World Day Against the Death Penalty, and the focus this year is on the USA.  There has never been a more important or better time to get involved in ending capital punishment in the USA, and here are 10 reasons why:

1) The death penalty is absurd and cruel.  The ridiculous spectacle of putting a man to death just days after saving his life, is a perfect illustration of that.

2) The death penalty is degrading.  It turns states into prescription drug abusers, killing prisoners with drugs like sodium thiopental that manufacturers are on record as stating should only be used to healing purposes.

3) High profile cases, often with racial undertones, create political pressures that can lead to police and prosecutor misconduct.  Reggie Clemons was convicted as an accomplice in the murder of two white women in St. Louis.  Four federal judges have agreed that the prosecutor’s conduct was “abusive and boorish,” and Clemons alleges police brutality during his questioning. Witnesses attest to Clemons’ face being swollen after his interrogation.

4) It is not limited to the “worst of the worst”.  A recent example: the execution of Teresa Lewis in Virginia on September 23; she was put to death as the “mastermind” of a crime despite her 72 IQ, and despite the fact that the men who actually carried out the crime did not get the death penalty.

5) The death penalty is not limited to cases where there is no doubt about guilt.  Convicted by flimsy witness testimony, and unable to exonerate himself with those same witnesses, Troy Davis remains on death row despite serious doubts about his guilt.  His birthday is on October 9!

6) The times are changing.  In Ohio, Governor Ted Strickland granted clemency in the case of Kevin Keith, despite his belief that Keith was probably guilty, because some doubt remained.

7) In Texas, a hearing on whether Cameron Todd Willingham was wrongfully executed will take place October 6-7.  Skepticism about the application of the death penalty continues to build in the Lone Star State.

8) Death sentences continue to drop.  Last year barely over 100 were sentenced to death , compared to an average of close to 300 in the 1990s.

9) One-by-one, states are abandoning capital punishment, particularly in odd numbered years. (New Jersey in 2007, New Mexico in 2009).  In the coming year (2011), many more states will have serious debates and possibly votes on abolition

10) There is so much that can be done for World Day Against the Death Penalty, from taking action on specific cases, to joining your local state-based coalition’s efforts to abolish the death penalty.

The death penalty abolition movement is growing, and some progress is being made, but there is a lot of work yet to be done.  This World Day is the perfect time to get started.

Musician Tom Morello wants to thank you!

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Our 10,000 Against Torture campaign is now over. You’ve helped us achieve extraordinary results, with 90,000 actions to stop illegal detention and ensure accountability for torture – including mailing 283 letters to the editor, holding 145 local events, and sending tens of thousands of letters and emails to President Obama and Congress, not to mention the volume of calls to the White House and Senator Graham’s office. Thank you for this!

But there are still some major obstacles standing in our way:
• Senator Graham’s legislation may have been capped for now, but he’s still got his sights on gutting fair, federal trials and legislating indefinite detention. President Obama seems ready to play a game of ‘let’s make a deal’.
• The Obama administration has yet to announce a new date for closing Guantanamo after it missed its self-imposed deadline.
• The President and Congress continue to shirk responsibility on ensuring accountability for U.S. torture, as required by law: with a full investigation, prosecution where warranted and remedy for victims.

Musician Tom Morello also wants to thank you for standing against torture. Musician and anti-torture activist Tom Morello would like to share a limited download of his cover song “Human” with those of you who helped us stand (more than) 10,000 strong against torture.

Visit www.store.limewire.com and sign up for a free account.

Go to Redeem Gifts and enter the code: L627EMH2743375559

Please stay tuned for more information on how to take more action and pressure the administration to holder torturers accountable and close Guantánamo in a way that respects human rights.

We're Going to #CloseGitmo!

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closegitmoAnother January 11th  Guantanamo  anniversary has come and gone, and still 198 men are detained at the facility (and hundreds more at Bagram). Over the last year there has been some progress, but not with the kind of momentum that we had hoped for last January.  Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the Executive Order that President Obama drafted to have the Guantanamo Detention Facility closed within a year, but unfortunately, the detention facility is still open.  The military commissions process continues. And some in the Obama Administration seem to be flirting with the idea of indefinite detention (just in a US-based facility vs. Gitmo). The failed Bush-era policies on torture and indefinite and illegal detention sadly continue to linger on.  And thus the need for our important human rights work continues!

Last week on January 11th, we launched 10,000 Against Torture, a project to demonstrate to the White House and Congress, that Americans want both security AND respect for the rule of law. Over the next weeks, we’ll be doing weekly actions calling for the closure of Gitmo (in a way that respects human rights!) and accountability for these failed policies on torture and indefinite detention.

To mark the missed deadline tomorrow, we’ll be joining MoveOn, ACLU, Human Rights Watch and artists like Coldplay, Tom Morello, and others, by using Twitter and Facebook to get everyone online talking about closing Guantánamo.

Join us by taking action online today, January 21 and tomorrow, January 22:

  • Tweet messages with the “#closegitmo” hashtag (if you follow the  Amnesty USA, you can re-tweet messages that we will be posting)
  • Spread the word! Our goal is to make #closegitmo a top trending topic, and our success depends on reaching many people in a short amount of time to jump-start the conversation. Help us deliver this important message by asking others to join us (especially those with large followings online!)

Written by Njambi Good, Director of Counter Terror with Justice (CTWJ) campaign for Amnesty International USA