Death penalty repeal: if not now, when?

DeathPenalty (1)

By Rachel Livingston, Field Organizer at The Delaware Repeal Project

There is a growing call from the Black community throughout the nation for reform of the criminal justice system. We hear the bellowing of the now-famous phrase “Black Lives Matter” because Black and Brown citizens of the world are demanding that they have value and that the world should be outraged by their deaths just as much as the world is outraged at the death of most human beings.

Repeal of the death penalty is another piece of this movement that cannot be divorced from this struggle for Black Lives. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

ACT NOW: End the Death Penalty in Delaware

Delaware is closer than ever to abolishing the death penalty - but we need your help to win (Photo Credit: Mike Simons/Getty Images).

Delaware is closer than ever to abolishing the death penalty – but we need your help to win (Photo Credit: Mike Simons/Getty Images).

By Abraham J. Bonowitz, Delaware State Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator

I have been in the heart of the campaign to end the death penalty for years, and Delaware is closer than ever to abolishing this ultimate denial of human rights – but we need your help to win.

Even if you have already done so, if you live in Delaware, it’s time again to tell your legislators to vote “Yes” on SB-19, Delaware’s Death Penalty Repeal bill.


Who’s Next To Abolish The Death Penalty – Delaware?

The state of Delaware is known as the “Small Wonder”, but it has a surprisingly large death row.  With 17 men (10 of them African American) facing execution, Delaware’s death row is more than twice as big as Virginia’s, and more than 3 times the size of Maryland’s.  And Delaware has the third highest per capita execution rate of any state in the U.S. (behind Oklahoma and Texas).

But now, a bill making its way through the state legislature may mean than no one else will be sent to Delaware’s death row.  A death penalty repeal bill has already cleared the Delaware Senate, and will be taken up by the House on April 24.

There are deep concerns about costs, about wrongful convictions, and about the racial disproportionality of Delaware’s death penalty (the subject of a Cornell University study). These concerns, amplified by powerful appeals from family members of murder victims, and by the voices of those forced to become complicit in state killing (like this juror from a recent Delaware capital case), may be enough to bring about a second successful state death penalty repeal this year.


One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley speaks for death penalty repeal,  surrounded by supporters and the media.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley speaks to supporters and the media for death penalty repeal.

Montana and Maryland, what do they share
With big Colorado, and small Delaware?
Big Sky Montana’s a red state, it’s true,
While Maryland’s one of the bluest of blue.

There’s one thing they all share – now take a deep breath –
They all might abolish the punishment of death!
Yes, these red and these blue states, the large and the small
Might soon not conduct executions at all!

And you can take action if you live in these states,
Because human rights change can’t be left to the fates.
Just click on the links or pass on to a friend
And in these 4 states executions may end.

Colorado | Delaware | Maryland | Montana

Don’t live in these states?  Don’t worry, because
You can forward the actions to someone who does.

Destined for Disaster?

When, last September, Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich stopped the execution of Joseph Murphy and granted him clemency, he reasoned that a childhood of “severe and sustained verbal, physical and sexual abuse from those who should have loved him” had left Murphy “destined for disaster.”

In that statement, Governor Kasich acknowledged our society’s cycle (really, progression) of violence – from child abuse to murder to execution – and acted to stop it.  (At least for this one case – Ohio has 14 more executions scheduled between now and January 2014.)

Delaware’s Board of Pardons and Governor face a similar choice in the case of Robert Gattis, who is slated to be put to death on January 20.  Gattis suffered through a childhood experts have described as “catastrophic to his development.”  Beginning as a small child, he was raped and molested and otherwise physically abused, by multiple abusers, including close family members.  This seriously impaired his ability to function as an adult.