Those Most Affected Help Analysts Mull Death Penalty

Death_penalty_3 If you are regular reader of this blog you know that I am against the death penalty for a variety of reasons. I am a father of two children killed by a three time drunk driver so I am no stranger to violent tragedy.

The Psychiatric News had an interesting article in the March 7, 2007 issue entitled "Those Most Affected Help Analysts Mull Death Penalty" which reports on a meeting of the New York branch of the American Psychoanalytic Association where two brothers, one of a killer and one of a man killed, discuss their thoughts and feelings about the death penalty. Here is a brief snippet from the article:

At the latest death-penalty session, which was part of the winter meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association in New York City, the brother of a murderer and the brother of a murder victim presented their views on the death penalty. 

One was David Kaczynski, the brother of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski (see Terrible Dilemma: To Tell or Not to Tell?). The other was Alan Pottinger, whose brother was killed in a pub shooting in 1991 by a man named Edward White. White had been serving a 25- to 50-year sentence for a 1989 murder when he escaped. After that, he entered the pub where Pottinger's brother worked as a bartender. White demanded money from everyone in the pub. Pottinger's brother attempted to intervene. White shot him, killing him. 

While Kaczynski's and Pottinger's experiences differed sharply in many ways, they resembled each other in one: each man was tempted to seek revenge for the psychological anguish he was experiencing—Kaczynski against the prosecutor who wanted the death penalty for his brother, Ted, and Pottinger against the man who had murdered his brother. Pottinger's desire for revenge was fueled even more by comments from friends and acquaintances, such as "You ought to kill that sonofabitch."

To understand the death penalty issue from a personal level, I recommend this brief article. To read the whole article, click on the link below.

Link: Those Most Affected Help Analysts Mull Death Penalty -- Arehart-Treichel 43 (5): 6 -- Psychiatr News.

Capital Punishment ... and Sodom and Gomorrah

Capital_punishment The weblog, The Journey, posted a great article on March 4th on Capital Punishment. What if we execute innocent people? And indeed we do.

The article is well worth reading. To access it click on the link below.

Link: The Journey: Capital Punishment ... and Sodom and Gomorrah.

I am disappointed to learn that Barack Obama is pro death penalty

Nader_2 While I am currently favoring the candidacy of Ralph Nader, in the actual Presidential election, I am thinking that Barack Obama will be elected our next president. So I am disappointed to learn that Barack Obama is pro-death penalty. Bill Clinton executed a mentally retarded man during his run for President, Billy Ray Rector, and Hillary supported the death penalty during her campaign for U.S. Senator from New York. This support came after Republican Governor George Pataki re-instituted the death penalty in New York State after Democrat Governors Mario Cuomo and before him Hugh Carey had consistently vetoed the death penalty bills passed by the New York State legislature for the death penalty for almost two decades.

The death penalty is no deterent and since 1989 there have been over 200 post conviction DNA exonerations in the United States according to the Innocence Project.

Ralph Nader is the only honest and just candidate in this Presidential campaign who has a reasonable policy on the death penalty. He is against it as all other first world industrialized nations are.

The Unitarian Universalist Association has had a position against the death penalty since 1961.

Link: Abolish the Death Penalty: Barack Obama and the death penalty.

N.J. bans death penalty

Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye makes us both blind." The state killing people to teach them that killing other people is wrong never made any sense to me. Finally, the great people from the state of New Jersey are leading the way of sanity and reason in the United States abolishing the death penalty.

Yahoo News reported on 12/17/07 an article distributed by the Associated Press. Here's what it says in part.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed into law Monday a measure that abolishes the death penalty, making New Jersey the first state in more than four decades to reject capital punishment.

The bill, approved last week by the state's Assembly and Senate, replaces the death sentence with life in prison without parole.

"This is a day of progress for us and for the millions of people across our nation and around the globe who reject the death penalty as a moral or practical response to the grievous, even heinous, crime of murder," Corzine said.

The measure spares eight men on the state's death row. On Sunday, Corzine signed orders commuting the sentences of those eight to life in prison without parole.

The article reports that some family members of people killed are angry that justice isn't being done. While my heart goes out to them for their loss and suffering, furthering the killing of human beings does nothing to bring about long term justice. I can say this having had two children killed by a  3 time drunk driver in 1993. Seeing my children's killer killed does not honor the memory of my children.

I salute the people of New Jersey and I hope that my state, New York, follows suit. This should be a campaign issue for 2008 at the state level and the Federal level. Where do the presidential candidates stand on capital punishment? The United States is the only first world country that has retained it. We like to think of ourselves as progressive, fighting for freedom and democracy around the world, and the moral leader of the free world, but if you are knowledgable about our social policies and practices, the United States is a pretty backward nation as compared to other first world countries. Our view of ourselves is actually often inaccurate and when it comes to the death penalty we are out of step with the more civilized world.

Link: N.J. bans death penalty - Yahoo! News.

Another possibly innocent man scheduled for execution in Alabama, September 27, 2007. What's wrong with Gov. Bob Riley?

Could another innocent man be executed in Alabama tomorrow? Here is a blurb from the Innocence Project's web site.

Unless Alabama Gov. Bob Riley or courts intervene, Thomas Arthur will be executed tomorrow despite his claims of innocence and the possibility of DNA testing in his case. Less than two months ago, Darrell Grayson was executed after Riley refused to step in and allow DNA testing that could have proven Grayson’s guilt or innocence. The Innocence Project advocated for DNA testing in the courts and through the political system in both cases. But over the last few days, Riley has refused to even learn more about how DNA testing could prove Arthur’s innocence.

“As we told the governor’s senior advisers, 42 states in the country now allow post-conviction DNA testing. In 42 states, Darrell Grayson or Thomas Arthur would have been able to get DNA testing that could resolve their cases and maintain public confidence in the criminal justice system. Governor Riley, who has refused DNA testing before executions twice in the last two months, has made it clear that he isn’t concerned with getting to the truth in these cases,” said Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld.

It would seem that when there are tools to use to obtain further evidence, they should be used before the ultimate penalty, taking away a person's life, is used. It makes you wonder about a Governor who wouldn't want the evidence before allowing such a drastic action to be taken.

Link: The Innocence Project - News and Information: Press Releases.

The death penalty is a conspiracy to murder in a pre-meditated, calculated, deliberate, and most intentional way

The National Radio Project's program, Making Contact, is a great radio show and on May 3, 2006 they had a show on death penalty abolitionists 25 mile walk in California which is worth listening to for the human interest and for inspiration. Here is the synopsis of the show from the National Radio Project's web site:

Opposition to the death penalty comes in many forms, but few individuals express their opposition as fervently as a group of California religious leaders who walk - rain or shine - 25 miles for every state held execution. This time they walk for Michael Morales and Terry Winchell. Morales was convicted of raping and murdering 18-year-old Winchell in 1983.

On this edition, Making Contact's Sarah Olson takes us on this 25-mile journey on a cool, sunny day on February 20th. The walk begins near the Presidio in San Francisco... crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge... winding through Marin County... and ending up at the gates of San Quentin prison. It's a walk of protest, peace, and compassion.

A couple of the interviews point out that we conspire in pre-meditated cold blooded murder when we allow the government to kill people in our name. And this act, in most cases, is far more calculated, deliberate, and intentional than most of the acts for which the offender is being put to death. When looked at from this point of view, whose moral culpability is greater, the offender being executed, or the people who knowingly conspire and promote organized murder in their name?

There is a great deal of evidence that the death penalty is not a deterent to homicide. In fact, the data seems to show the opposite, that is, in states that have the death penalty and use it, the homicide rate, in general, is higher than in states that do not have the death penalty. How can such observations be explained? It may be as simple as concluding that you don't teach people not to kill by killing. It seems to be the height of hypocrisy.

Work towards the elimination of the death penalty in your state if it has it, and in the nation and around the world.

To go to the National Radio Project's web site, click on the link below.

Link: The Long Walk to Abolish the Death Penalty.

The poor can't pay for justice like the rich can in our plutocracy

Anne Erickson has a great article yesterday, February 26, 2006, in the Albany Times Union entitled "Injustice For Most".

One of the things that money can buy is legal representation and advocacy. With the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, increasingly more Americans are disenfranchised from legal recourse simply because they cannot afford it. Of course large companies and corporations and governmental units often have attorneys on staff or access to legal representation on retainer.

Poor folks are out of luck. They are on their own, and the power imbalance is often extremely skewed.

Each time we recite our nation's Pledge of Allegiance, we reaffirm our shared commitments to each other. "With liberty and justice for all," we pledge. But does our nation deliver on the promise to provide justice to all?

Not by a long shot, according to a recent national study, "Documenting the Justice Gap in America." The study, undertaken by the federal Legal Services Corporation found that 80 percent of the civil legal needs of low-income Americans are not being met. This means thousands of people confront daunting legal issues everyday and when they seek access to justice, when they seek assistance in navigating their legal problem, they are turned away.

Interestingly, President Bush cut 4.9% in federal funding for Legal Services which leaves the burden on the states and New York, with $6.6 million lags behind New Jersey which invests $16.4 million, California which invests $10 million, $14.3 million in Ohio, and $12.3 million in Minnesota.

You'd think New York could cough up $10 million at least.

I have many clients who are told that they have the right "to a hearing" when they have been turned down by the HMO, or evicted, or denied child care assistance, or a disability application, and they have not a clue how to proceed or where to begin. Private lawyers are more than willing to take the case for a $2,500 retainer and then bill at the rate of $150.00 or $200.00 per hour, but the attorney's hourly rate is often a week's take home pay for some of my clients.

If there is truly to be "liberty and justice for all" we have a collective responsibility to make that happen, and not just passively watch the rich and their lawyers rig the system to their advantage.

Read Anne Erickson's article and then let your representatives know what you think about our justice for hire system.

Link: Injustice for most -- Page 1 --

Should Doctors Assist Executions?

Should physicians assist the state in killing people?

The "TalkLeft" blog has an interesting article this morning 02/17/06, on the ethical question of whether physicians should assist in state sponsored executions. Here is what the article says in part:

Drugs used in California executions "can cause excruciating pain, in violation of the Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment." A federal judge reviewing evidence of prior executions isn't convinced that inmates are rendered unconscious before they experience any pain. During the scheduled execution of Michael Morales on Tuesday, the judge wants California "to allow an anesthesiologist to observe and examine the inmate during the execution." That ruling has triggered a debate about using a doctor to assist the death of a healthy man.

Link: Should Doctors Assist Executions? - TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime.

122 people on death row exonerated in U.S. in last 30 years

There have been 122 exonerations of people on death row in the United States since executions were restarted in 1973. The states with the largest number of exonerations is Florida with 21 and Illinois with 18.

There were 12 exonerations in 2003 and 6 in 2005.

It is hard to know for sure how many innocent people have been executed but there are 7 probable cases listed on the Death Penalty Information Center web site.

Click on the link below for more information.

Link: Innocence and the Death Penalty.

Kelly's account of John B. Nixon, Sr.'s execution

Hey Dad.
I tried to post a follow-up comment today, but the Typepad software wouldn't let me. It accepted my sign-in, but won't let me post. Very odd. In any case, here's what I tried to post ...
Hi Dad.
I've done my journalistic duty and covered what I hope will be my first and last execution. Next time, someone else can handle the assignment. One execution is enough and too much for anyone. At least for me. Suffice it to say that it was a difficult, disturbing thing to witness. Something I won't soon forget, if I ever do.
One of the most terrible aspects of it for me was that Nixon's sister and niece were also witnesses. The eight media witnesses were randomly assigned to be in a viewing room with either the victim's family or the inmate's family. I was assigned to the inmate's family. So we stood there, the four of us, taking notes while this elderly woman watched her brother be strapped to a gurney and killed by the State of Mississippi. Just awful. And that's not to say Virginia Tucker didn't die a horrible death at the hands of John B. Nixon, just that there's nothing to be gained by killing her killer, and much to be lost.
The whole thing felt a little surreal -- like I was in a movie, and the director would yell "cut," and we'd all go have a snack or a smoke or something.  It's one of those occurrences where your brain can't quite process what your eyes are seeing. Or it just doesn't want to. In any case, I'm glad it's over. Hope I get assigned a feel-good story about a Toys for Tots drive or some damn thing tomorrow. I've could really use a palate cleanser.
Hope you're well.