Executing Innocents: What We Can Learn From Glenn Ford

Glenn Ford (pictured here in 1984) is living proof of just how flawed our justice system truly is (Photo Credit: Private).

Glenn Ford (pictured here in 1984) is living proof of just how flawed our justice system truly is (Photo Credit: Private).

By Tessa Murphy, USA Campaigner at Amnesty International

There are two lessons the U.S. should learn from the release of Glenn Ford, a 64-year-old man who spent 28 years on death row in Louisiana for a crime he didn’t commit.

The first lesson is that the death penalty is never the answer, including because it carries the inescapable risk of executing innocent people. The second is that there are some serious problems with Louisiana’s justice system.

Glenn Ford walked out of the southern state’s infamous Angola prison late yesterday, after spending nearly three decades behind bars for a crime he’s always claimed he never committed.

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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.

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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.

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We Must Stop Kansas from Moving Backwards

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).

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.

Nationally, since the death penalty was reinstated, 143 people who faced the death penalty have been released due to wrongful conviction. The most recent exoneree, Reginald Griffin, was sentenced to death in 1983 and spent 30 years on death row in Missouri. If this bill passes the Kansas House and is signed into law, the resulting changes would enhance the risk to the innocent in Kansas. 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.

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BREAKING: Abdullah al-Qahtani Again Under Imminent Threat of Execution

532069_10151342611886363_1783006419_nThere has been a horrendous, sudden spike in executions in Iraq.

Sources indicate that Abdullah al-Qahtani is once again under imminent threat of execution.

Your immediate action could spare his life.

Abdullah is one of six men who were reportedly tortured into confessing to murder and terrorism.

He was initially detained for immigration violations. Abdullah’s attorneys say they have compelling evidence of his innocence. He deserves to have his evidence heard by a court in a fair trial.

Last year, after four of his co-defendants were executed, Abdullah could have been executed at any time – but his life was spared.

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Edgar Arias Tamayo & the Cost of Killing

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).

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.

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“Anyone Who Witnessed That Execution Will Never Forget”

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).

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.

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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.

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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.

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