The Abolitionist New  
Vol. 1, No. 5
May 2013
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I Have Finished The Race

            Opposition to the death penalty is an abstract theory for most people. Few individuals know the victim of a crime that entails capital punishment, and fewer still know the perpetrator of such a crime. And unless the crime is horrific, lurid details of the event are seldom shared in the media.


            The objections to capital punishment are based on myriad moral, religious, and philosophical tenets that have never been challenged by direct involvement in a capital case. This changed for many people on April 15, 2013.


            On that beautiful Monday afternoon, another senseless tragedy occurred that again rocked the country's sense of invulnerability. Unknown terrorists exploded two homemade bombs at the finish-line of the Boston marathon, injuring 260 and killing 3. Among the killed was an 8 year old boy.   


            By Friday night, April 19, one of the alleged bombers had been killed in a shootout with police and the second alleged bomber was captured alive. Information about the two alleged bombers continues to be uncovered daily. Suddenly, the two alleged killers have faces--with parents, friends, family, and a life. They have become real people, not a statistic.


            What do you think about the death penalty now that you have witnessed the carnage at Boston? Do some criminal acts deserve that the perpetrators be put to death? A recent poll showed that 74% of those responding favor the death penalty for the surviving terrorist. How does the new reality match your philosophy?


            Rumors have begun to surface that the death penalty will be sought for the surviving bomber, if he is convicted. There will be few people, including our religious friends, who will not have an opinion on the punishment that the alleged surviving bomber should receive. Many will argue that since the brothers were terrorists, they have forfeited their rights under our system of justice.


            Now, more than ever, opponents of the death penalty

 must clearly state our opposition to retribution. We must be able to articulate that regardless of how cowardly and heinous the attack in Boston might be, we are commanded to love our neighbors. The use of the death penalty transcends whatever crime is committed. It's not that we condone the crimes; we oppose the death penalty. 


           Since the two alleged terrorists were Muslim, we must also be vigilant against the growing number of influential voices in this country who want to limit religious freedom. Many Americans see no problem with putting restrictions on Muslims, without realizing that limitations could foreseeably be applied to other faiths.


            Episcopalians must be especially vigilant to prevent any abridgement of religious freedom. In the Constitutional Convention and the First Congress (which submitted the Bill of Rights to the states for ratification), Episcopalians held the highest percentage of all religious denominations in both bodies. Our religious forbearers helped insure that the government would not discriminate against any religion.


            If the religious rights of any faith become abridged, history clearly demonstrates that it's much easier to limit practices of other sects with which the majority disagrees. Within a short time, we will be living under some radical right religious allaytollah. No one who has experienced freedom wants to live under a theocracy.


            Let's learn from what occurred in Boston! We are a strong country that will not sacrifice our rights on the altar of extremism, fear, and distrust. Neither will we be part of any effort to diminish the religious rights of any group, regardless of who it angers. We, too, will be "Boston Strong."


Ronald T. Clemmons, Convener

Death Penalty Abolition Action Group



"I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance, or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others." ~ Thomas Jefferson


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Potpourri: U.S. Death Penalty News
            News about the death penalty across the country seems to surface almost daily. Below are a few items you may have missed:
            Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley capped a seven year lobbying effort by signing a bill to abolish capital punishment in that state.  Maryland is the latest addition to the list of eighteen states that have abolished the death penalty.
However, there is a petition drive afoot that would allow citizens to vote in 2014 to reinstate the death penalty. A January poll showed that even though the legislature abolished capital punishment, 48% of the people still wanted to retain the death penalty.
            Florida is on the verge of going backwards on capital cases. The "Timely Justice Act" is currently on the governor desk awaiting his signature. The purpose of the bill is to shorten the length of appeals and implement the death penalty shortly after the state supreme court rules. Fiscal considerations, rather than justice, seems to be a motivating factor in the legislation. Given the vagaries of Florida law, there's no doubt that innocent people would be executed if this bill becomes law, especially considering that 24 former death row inmates have been exonerated. To oppose this bill, sign the online petition.      
            Tennessee death row inmate Timothy McKinney had his conviction overturned in 2012 and was granted a new trial based upon errors committed during his original trial.  Three subsequent trials have all resulted in a hung jury and have failed to convict him of the murder of a Memphis policeman in 1997. State officials are currently deciding whether to retry him a fourth time. The Nation published an in-depth article about this case. 
            Mississippi Supreme Court reversed itself five hours before the execution of Willie Jerome Manning after the FBI informed the court that one of its scientists erred in his 1994 testimony about evidence at the original trial.  The same state court had refused Manning the right to introduce DNA evidence that might exonerate him. Perjury, racial exclusions in jury selection, and non-admission of evidence have been sidestepped previously by Mississippi courts. 

Compassion For Sale By Prisoners


            Inmates on death row are subjected to a dearth of human kindness. Oftentimes, once a person is sentenced to death row, little compassion is ever shown to them again.


            It's ironic, therefore, that a nationally distributed publication written and edited by death row inmates is named Compassion


            Published for the past twelve years, the prisoner-driven publication has a three-fold purpose: (1) to serve as a communications vehicle between inmates and murder victims' families, (2) to provide an outlet for inmates to express remorse and introspective feelings, (3) to establish a mechanism through which funds could be raised for college scholarships for victims' children.


            The eight-page newsletter is written by inmates on a voluntary basis, and they receive no remuneration for their efforts. The overriding objective of the articles is to focus on reconciliation with immediate families. Articles do not focus on individual cases, opinions of the death penalty, the justice system, or the institutions in which the inmates are housed.


            Compassion has awarded $36,000 in scholarships to the children of murder victims. Writing in the first edition of the newsletter, the editor stated, "Scholarships are...a compassionate gesture to those who have had a significant and unfortunate tragedy befall them. In no way are the scholarships to the immediate family members of murdered victims meant to atone for the loss they have experienced." 


Prisoner's Book

            The newsletter is sent free to all 3,400 death row inmates housed in the United States. Subscriptions for non-prisoners can be purchased at Donation-Subscription. You can also donate to keep the newsletter alive.


          In addition to the newsletter, the prisoners have  published

Today's Choices Affect Tomorrow's Dreams, a book of approximately one hundred essays written by death row inmates that outline decisions they made in their lives that resulted in them being incarcerated. 


            The book is sent free of charge to juvenile detention centers for distribution to young offenders in an attempt to turn them away from illegal behavior.


            For more information on the newsletter and book, go to Compassion's website.


            Fred Moor, a businessman and designated outside prison contact for the newsletter and book, is a member of St. Rose of Lima parish, Perrysburg, Ohio. He and the parish handle all money; no prisoner handles any funds. Mr. Moor has been associated with these projects since their inception. 

Death Penalty Will Never Be Fair: ACLU


            There are many factors that make it impossible that the death penalty will ever be fair or just, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. These factors include:


            Lack of effective counsel: Many capital defenders lack the resources and training to provide adequate counsel to their clients. Unfortunately, quality of counsel is a good predictor of who will live and who will face execution.

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            Execution methods: There are significant problems with the five methods currently used to execute people (lethal injection, electrocution, firing squad, hanging and the gas chamber), all of which violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.


            Executing the innocent: Hundreds of people have been released from death row after being found innocent of the crime for which they were convicted. For others, serious doubts about their guilt didn't come to light until it was too late. We cannot risk executing even one innocent person.


            Junk scienceToo often, unreliable testimony based on faulty methods

and beliefs are introduced in death penalty cases. This ranges from disproven fire science theories used to back arson charges to wrongful characterizations based on the race of the defendant.


            Racial disparities in the death penalty: Racial bias pervades the death penalty, from jury selection through decisions about who faces execution.


            It is increasingly impossible to ignore the truth that the death penalty is deeply flawed. More and more people are calling for its end, and 18 states have abolished the death penalty since it was reinstated. The ACLU will continue to work with its affiliates and partner organizations around the country to abolish it once and for all.


            The ACLU Capital Punishment Project (CPP) works to abolish the death penalty nationally through direct representation as well as through strategic litigation, advocacy, public education, and mentoring and training programs for capital defense teams. Read more about the  Capital Punishment Project.


This article courtesy of the ACLU.