Maryland Legislature Passes Death Penalty Abolition!

Today the Maryland House of Delegates followed the lead of the state Senate and passed the death penalty repeal bill. The bill now goes to Governor Martin O’Malley who almost certainly will sign it, making Maryland the 18th state to abandon capital punishment (Photo Credit: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Today the Maryland House of Delegates followed the lead of the state Senate and passed the death penalty repeal bill. The bill now goes to Governor Martin O’Malley who almost certainly will sign it, making Maryland the 18th state to abandon capital punishment (Photo Credit: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Today the Maryland House of Delegates followed the lead of the state Senate and passed the death penalty repeal bill. The bill now goes to Governor Martin O’Malley who almost certainly will sign it, making Maryland the 18th state to abandon capital punishment, and the 6th state in 6 years to join the abolition club.

This culminates a decades-long campaign, stretching back to the 1980s, in which Amnesty International – in coalition with other groups – has always played an integral part. For me personally, it caps 6 years of thoroughly meaningful and rewarding work with a terrific collection of Amnesty staff and activists and coalition partners.

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Connecticut’s Death Penalty Repeal Bill Going To The Governor!

The Connecticut House of Representatives, by a vote of 86-62, has approved the bill abolishing that state’s death penalty.  It will now go to Governor Dannel P. Malloy for his signature.

With Connecticut set to join, there will soon be 17 states (plus Washington, D.C.) in the abolitionist club.  Five years ago, there were only 12.

And other states seem likely to follow in the near future.  Maryland already has a majority in its legislature that supports repeal.  Oregon now has a Governor-imposed moratorium on executions.  Montana and Colorado, with just two and four people on their respective death rows, have been close to ending their death penalties in recent years.  New Hampshire and Kansas have had no executions since 1939 and 1965 respectively.  And in California, some 800,000 citizens have endorsed a November 2012 ballot initiative that would replace their state’s incredibly expensive death penalty.

Governor Malloy is expected to sign Connecticut’s bill into law soon.

Connecticut Committee Endorses Abolition

Yesterday Connecticut’s Judiciary Committee voted in favor of repealing the death penalty.  It will now be up to the full House and Senate to vote up or down on whether Connecticut will finally get rid of capital punishment.

Last year, a similar bill was stymied by the fact that a high profile death penalty trial was ongoing. In 2009, a repeal bill passed both houses but was vetoed by then Governor Jodi Rell.  The current Governor has said he supports repeal, and 179 murder victim family members signed a letter in support of ending Connecticut’s use of the death penalty.

Meanwhile in Maryland, repeal bills with 66 House and 19 Senate cosponsors, and with a majority ready to vote for them, remain stuck in committees.  No state is more ripe for repeal than Maryland, where there hasn’t been a jury-issued death sentence in 10 years, and where a 2008 study commission set up by the legislature found that capital punishment is “more detrimental” to victims’ families than the alternatives.

If you live in Connecticut or Maryland, you can take action now to help push repeal across the finish line.

Connecticut Victim Families Fight for Death Penalty Abolition

against the death penalty

(c) Scott Langley

A bill to repeal Connecticut’s death penalty was introduced on Wednesday.  It has an excellent chance of passing, largely because an increasing number of murder victim family members have been calling for an end to capital punishment in their state.  There’s a blog on which many of them discuss their reasons, and this piece in the New London Day and this piece in the West Hartford News both do a good job of outlining why so many murder victim family members have had it with Connecticut’s death penalty and believe they will be better off without it.

There are many reasons victim family members may oppose the death penalty.  There is the endless process that turns the killer into a celebrity while forcing the family to constantly relive the worst moment of their lives.  There is the waste of resources that could be spent on counseling and other real support for survivors of homicide.  And there is the false promise of an execution which will most likely never happen (especially in Connecticut where there has been only one execution in the last 50 years) and may not provide the expected “closure” even if it does.

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New Bill Would Abolish California's Death Penalty

According to a recent study, if California were to rid itself of the death penalty and everyone on death row received the next highest penalty on the books (life without parole) it would save tax payers $184 million per year.

Execution witness viewing room (c) Scott Langley

No state, certainly not California, can afford to waste public money like this. This is a state that has cut valuable social services and funds for education in the face of serious budget shortfalls.

The death penalty is a public policy failure that does not represent the best of our values as a society that says it is committed to human rights. It is a distraction from real solutions that could prevent violent crime and bring valuable services to murder victims’ families.

What could the state do with $184 million per year to improve the lives of Californians?

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Maryland Death Penalty Meets Globalization

As Maryland officials attempt to develop a lethal injection protocol that is acceptable to the courts, they have run into an unexpected roadblock – Globalization.   Pharmaceutical companies that produce the drugs used in executions are for the most part multi-national entities, either headquartered in Europe or with large business interests in that region. Capital punishment has been banished in Europe.  Extraditing suspects who might face the death penalty is forbidden, and exporting materials that might be used for executions has now come under intense scrutiny.

Sodium thiopental, the anesthetic Maryland (and all other executing states) had been using as the first drug in its three-drug protocol, was produced by Hospira, at a factory in Italy.  Now, because of controversy over its use in executions, Hospira will no longer make the drug at all.  A generic version of sodium thiopental is manufactured by a subsidiary of Swiss-based Novartis, but that company has announced it will take all steps necessary to prevent its export to the US.  An alternative to sodium thiopental, pentobarbital, which has been used in Oklahoma and may soon be used in Ohio, is made by a company called Lundbeck, based in Denmark.  That company has already gone on record objecting to the use of their drug in executions, and it may only be a matter of time before Lundbeck takes steps to ensure that their drug doesn’t wind up in US execution chambers.

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Montana Senate Votes to Abolish Death Penalty

By a 26-24 vote, the Montana Senate yesterday voted to repeal the death penalty.   Twenty-two Democrats and 4 Republicans voted for the measure (SB 185), which now goes to the House.   This is the second straight legislative session in which the Montana Senate has endorsed repeal. 

This year, an abolition bill has already passed in Illinois, where it awaits action from the Governor.  And other repeal bills have been filed in states across the country, from Maryland to Connecticut to Kansas to Washington.

Abolition has become more appealing to state legislators in recent years as they have become more aware of capital punishment’s exorbitant financial cost, the dangers of executing the innocent, and the grueling toll the death penalty process takes on victim families.

To Midwife or Not to Midwife…..?

By Cynthia Walsh, Field Organizer for Amnesty International USA

Pregnant with my first child! Excitedly, I began immediately searching for a nurse midwife who would guide me and serve as my health advocate throughout my pregnancy.

Living in  West Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer for a time, I had several wonderful encounters with Traditional Birth Attendants or TBA’s.  The TBA’s that I worked with were a small group of dedicated women ranging in age from early 30′s to mid 60′s who assumed the role of everything from family counselor, marriage intermediary, women’s advocate, family planner, nutrition counselor, pre-natal care provider to birth attendant in their small respective villages.  Often these villages are located days’ journey by foot from any sort of rural health clinic so the presence of a TBA is critical to the life or death of  pregnant women and her unborn children.

In the United States, my own personal experience with my nurse midwife “Judy” was more than I could have imagined and I definitely felt as though I was fully engaged and informed in all phases of my prenatal care, delivery, and post-partum recovery.

Please  take urgent action on this very important piece of legislation – the Massachusetts Midwifery Bill – Senate 2341.  The Health Care Finance Committee must vote by Wednesday, April 28. Without passage, 1.4 million families in the state will still not have the kind of access to midwives that families in many other states do.

Take a moment NOW to call your MA legislators and let them know that the Midwifery Bill is important to you.

Find out your Massachusetts State Senators and Representatives.

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