The Death Penalty is Just the Tip of an Iceberg of Injustice

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).

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).

 

This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post under the title, “The Death Penalty Is The Tip of an Iceberg of Injustice.”

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.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Have You Seen This Powerful Statement From a Death Row Inmate?

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)

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.”

Amnesty International USA has issued an urgent action calling on Texas to not execute Ray Jasper on March 19th.

Mr. Nolan,

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.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

A Long Ride: Rev. Reynolds and Vera Thomas’ Journey Seeking Justice For Their Son

Reggie Clemons (Photo Credit: Private).

Reggie Clemons (Photo Credit: Private).

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.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Who Plays By the Rules? Not Rick Perry

Texas Governor Rick Perry may put our relations with other countries at risk if he does not grant Edgar Arias Tamayo clemency before his execution (Photo Credit: Stewart F. House/Getty Images).

Texas Governor Rick Perry may put our relations with other countries at risk if he does not grant Edgar Arias Tamayo clemency before his execution (Photo Credit: Stewart F. House/Getty Images).

By Andrea Hall, Mid Atlantic Regional Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator 

Let’s hope that Texas Governor Rick Perry was paying attention in kindergarten. Most likely, that’s where he first learned to play by the rules.

The rule, in this case, is article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR), to which the U.S. is a party. That document requires that foreign nationals who are arrested or detained be given notice “without delay” of their right to have their embassy or consulate notified of that arrest. Foreign officials can then assist defendants with their legal proceedings.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Is Executing A Man With A Brain Disorder “Timely Justice”?

Frank Walls

Frank Walls

As the state legislature of Florida debated the Timely Justice Act – a law designed to speed of executions in the Sunshine State – bill sponsor Matt Gaetz pointed to the case of Frank Walls, quipping that:

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.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The Racist Testimony That Helped Sentence This Man to Death

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).

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:

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The State of Missouri Has a Secret…

Missouri law provides members of an execution team with anonymity, and the pharmacy for Joseph Paul Franklin’s execution has been added to the team. Without knowing which pharmacy is providing the execution drugs, the drugs’ efficacy cannot be guaranteed (Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Newsmakers).

Missouri law provides members of an execution team with anonymity, and the pharmacy for Joseph Paul Franklin’s execution has been added to the team. Without knowing which pharmacy is providing the execution drugs, the drugs’ efficacy cannot be guaranteed (Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Newsmakers).

Legend has it that more than a century ago, a Missouri Congressman stated at a banquet that he was not impressed by fancy speeches or “frothy eloquence,” concluding “I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.” Since then, Missouri has been known as the “Show Me” State.

One thing the people of Missouri are not being shown is how their state is killing prisoners.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The Odd – But Welcome – Reason This Inmate Received a Stay of Execution

Ohio Governor John Kasich has granted a reprieve so that Ronald Phillips may donate his organs (Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images).

Ohio Governor John Kasich has granted a reprieve so that Ronald Phillips may donate his organs (Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images).

You can’t get too excited when it’s considered a sign of progress that a Governor stays an execution so the condemned inmate might donate his organs.

But, given the almost non-existence of executive clemency in U.S. capital cases, it is a relatively good thing that Ohio Governor John Kasich granted a reprieve to Ronald Phillips so that his request to donate his kidney and heart to ailing family members might be explored.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

4 States That Are Trying – and Failing – to Find a More Humane Way to Kill

The U.S. death penalty is floundering for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the growing awareness that errors can go uncorrected and lead to executions of the innocent (Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Newsmakers).

The U.S. death penalty is floundering for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the growing awareness that errors can go uncorrected and lead to executions of the innocent (Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Newsmakers).

At the end of this October, we learned that public support for the death penalty is at its lowest in 40 years. And while three states (AZ, FL, TX) did manage to carry out 5 executions (Arizona and Florida killed twice) this month, several states were forced to scramble to get the drugs they need to kill their prisoners “humanely.”

Of course, there is no humane way to deliberately kill a human being; it’s a fundamentally inhumane act. Pharmaceutical companies and health professionals continue to resist being dragged into this degrading quagmire. But U.S. states keep trying.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

On World Death Penalty Day, An Activist Reflects

Andrea Hall was among the activists looking on when Gov. Martin O’ Malley signed Maryland’s death penalty abolition bill this May (Photo Credit: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images).

Andrea Hall was among the activists looking on when Gov. Martin O’ Malley signed Maryland’s death penalty abolition bill this March (Photo Credit: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images).

By Andrea Hall, Regional Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator, Mid-Atlantic Region

I was late to the party, but I won’t be leaving early. I joined Amnesty’s death penalty abolition team in May 2011, just as the Maryland repeal campaign was kicking into high gear. I stood on the shoulders of giants, helping finish the decades-long work of those who came before me.

I joined the movement because I felt strongly that the death penalty is dead wrong. I grew up in Texas, where for many, executions are as revered as football, a cause for celebration. That lack of respect for the dignity of the human person has stayed with me.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST