Maryland Legislature Passes Death Penalty Abolition!

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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.


Documenting the Execution of Troy Davis

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More than 700 protesters gathered at the Georgia Capitol on the night of Troy Davis's  execution. (Photo by Scott Langley)

More than 700 protesters gathered at the Georgia Capitol on the night of Troy Davis’s execution. (Photo by Scott Langley)

One For Ten (“a series of films about innocence and death row”) has a beautiful piece today on photographer Scott Langley and his wrenching experience documenting the execution of Troy Davis. Scott is also Amnesty International’s New York State Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator, and has photographed the US death penalty abolition movement for many years.

In September 2008, as Scott arrived to document Troy’s second of what would be four execution dates, the prison guard checking him in told him: “I just hope the truth comes out.”


6 Things You Can Do To Keep Troy Davis’ Legacy Alive

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troy davis

At 11:08 pm, at the exact minute that Troy Davis died, Troy’s sister Martina Correia looks toward the prison while Amnesty’s Laura Moye collects the contact info of a young student who wants to get more involved. © Scott Langley

On this day one year ago, Georgia killed Troy Davis.  Join with us today to remember Troy Davis and how he and his story impacted you.  Scroll down to the comments section and share your experience.

At dinner yesterday, a friend from the NAACP passionately recounted to me and Kim Davis how she felt on September 21, 2011.  I thought about the power of collective memory and the enormous well of energy it represents.  The execution of Troy Davis was deeply personal to countless people.  Whether they were outside death row in Georgia, at the Supreme Court in Washington, marching in Harlem, gathered outside the US embassy in London or glued to the media coverage, countless people have recounted to me where they were and what they felt that night.

From the prison grounds in Jackson, Georgia, where I was that night, I remember various feelings including adrenal rushes and fatigue from our tireless campaign to prevent what was about to happen.  I also remember my anger.  How could this state that I had lived in for 16 years see neither a moral nor pragmatic reason to take death off the table for Troy?


What If Troy Davis Was Innocent?

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Protest execution Troy Davis

Troy Davis was executed by the State of Georgia in 2011 despite a strong case for innocence. © Scott Langley

If Troy Davis was innocent, the justice system failed and made murderers of us all. The state of Georgia ended Troy Davis’ life on behalf of its citizens and the federal courts, on behalf of all U.S. citizens, allowed it to happen.

Of course, murder is an unlawful homicide and execution is a lawful homicide.  So, technically speaking, we are not murderers because it is lawful in the United States to execute the innocent.  In Herrera v. Collins, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to rule that it would be unconstitutional for an innocent person to be executed as long as he or she had access to the judicial process.  Legal nonsense aside, Troy Davis’ blood is on all of our hands.

It is no wonder that a million signatures were amassed on petitions calling on Georgia to halt Troy Davis’ execution and that the media was all over the story.  Nobody wanted to have to answer the question, “Was Troy Davis innocent?” after the fact.  You didn’t have to be on the ground, like I was, outside the prison or at any of the number of demonstrations around the world the night of Troy Davis’ execution, to feel the palpable shockwave of disbelief.


Is Reggie Clemons the Next Troy Davis? 10 Facts that Will Make Your Blood Boil

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As we approach the first anniversary of the execution of Troy Davis, another man on death row urgently needs our help.  If Reggie Clemons’ hearing on September 17th goes poorly, then Missouri could join Georgia by executing a man convicted amid a great cloud of doubt.

Check out the shocking similarities and facts about the two cases below and then take action to stop the execution of Reggie Clemons.

Reggie Clemons Troy Davis Graphic

The Death Warrant

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It was drizzly outside when I looked down at my Blackberry, making my usual obsessive check for new emails.  I’d left the office and saw in my inbox, “Troy Davis Warrant” in the subject line.  One of Troy’s lawyers had sent me the order signed by a Chatham County judge.  I swallowed hard.

We will never forget Troy Davis, we will not let the world forget him and we won’t let those in power off the hook.

The attached PDF was the trigger we had been waiting for with dread to kick off what would become our final appeal to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles for clemency.  Within an hour, we released a press statement and communicated with the many supporters who had joined the snowballing movement for Troy Davis over the past four years.  We asked people to organize events around the world, observing a “Global Day of Solidarity” for Troy.  We rolled out a twitter campaign proclaiming that there was #TooMuchDoubt to execute, and we started organizing a major march through downtown Atlanta.

Every week in the United States, execution warrants are signed.  Each one, a short and stiff legal document, creates a wave of terror.  An execution warrant instructs public servants to kill a human being.  It informs the prisoner of the time and date on which he or she will be killed.  It lets the prisoner’s family know when they must prepare for the calculated death of someone they love.  It promises the murder victims’ families the intangible sense of closure, but re-exposes them to the difficult spotlight of media attention on the worst moment in their lives and represents yet another step in the grueling process of the death penalty.


Race And Criminal Justice: A New Hope?

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Marcus Robinson will not be executed but instead spend the rest of his life in prison after a judge ruled that his death sentence was tainted by racial discrimination.

Our justice system has a racial bias problem, both in the way it treats suspects, and the way it treats victims.

The cases of Troy Davis and Trayvon Martin underscore this.  If the races were reversed would Troy Davis’ execution have been pursued so relentlessly, would he even have received a death sentence, would police have been so quick to ignore other potential suspects?

And, had the races been reversed, wouldn’t the reaction to Trayvon Martin’s killing have been … different?

But knowing there is racial bias and doing something about it are two different things.  In North Carolina, something is being done.


2011: Five Good Signs For Death Penalty Abolition in the US

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stop the execution death penalty protesters

© Scott Langley

Given the dramatic events of the “Arab Spring” and “Occupy Wall Street”, Time Magazine has dubbed “The Protester” as its Person of the Year for 2011. Seems fitting enough, but someday we may also look back on this past year as a turning point in the history of death penalty abolition in the U.S.

On September 21, the crowds amassed around the world to protest the killing of Troy Davis were the most visible sign that opponents of capital punishment were turning up the volume.  But that wasn’t the only sign. Throughout the year more and more voices from across the U.S. spoke out against the death penalty.


Death Penalty Downward Spiral Continues

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Exonerated Gary Drinkard death penalty

Gary Drinkard was on death row in Alabama for 6 years before he was exonerated. © Scott Langley

As we approach the end of another year, the time for annual reports is at hand.  For the death penalty, this means the yearly report from the Death Penalty Information Center, as well as the year-end report from the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.   Both reports show that in 2011 the downward trends we have been observing for several years in the United States continued or even accelerated.

Texas carried out its lowest number of executions (13) since 1996.  Nationwide, the 43 executions carried out represented about half the number that were put to death in the year 2000, and U.S. death sentences dropped well below 100 for the first time since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.


Death Penalty Abolition: Five States That Could Be Next

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witness viewing room death penalty

Witness viewing room © Scott Langley

Three states have abolished the death penalty legislatively in recent years: New Jersey in 2007, New Mexico in 2009, and Illinois in 2011.  Inevitably, more states will follow; but can a state or states abolish the death penalty in an even-numbered (read: election) year?  We will find out in 2012.

As Politico reported on Friday, states that are poised to end their experiment with capital punishment next year include Connecticut, Kansas, Maryland, and Ohio, as well as California (through a ballot initiative).  This is quite a diverse collection of states, ranging from small to large and from conservative to liberal, which goes to show how mainstream an issue death penalty abolition has become.