It’s Time For Biden To Fulfill Pledge To End The Federal Death Penalty

On January 17, 1977, Gary Gilmore was executed by firing squad, shot through the heart, at Utah State Prison. He was the first person to be executed after the death penalty had been reinstated in the United States in 1976. This year, to mark the 45th anniversary of this execution, which coincided with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Death Penalty Action and a coalition of death penalty abolitionists gathered in Washington, D.C. calling for an end to the federal death penalty and all executions in the United States.

After a 17-year hiatus, the U.S. resumed federal executions a year and a half ago. Between July 2020 and January 2021, the Trump administration executed 13 people who were on federal death row, a number surpassing the total number of federal executions that had taken place over the preceding 70 years (1949-2019) spanning 11 presidential administrations.

Continue reading

Lynchings By Law

The U.S. death penalty has always been a symbol of white supremacy and a violation of human rights law.  Having already executed 11 people this year, the Trump administration plans to execute five people (four of them Black) during a lame-duck session. This would be the first time a president has carried out executions during a lame-duck session since the Cleveland administration  carried out the execution of an Indigenous man in 1890.

The profound anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells once said: “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” 

Continue reading

Racist Roots: Origins Of North Carolina’s Death Penalty

Right now, our nation is in a moment of reckoning with our criminal punishment system. We are finally seeing clearly what should have been obvious long ago: The system has its knee on the necks of Black people.

In North Carolina, as we begin a long-overdue conversation about the future of police and prisons, we must confront the punishment that sits at the top of that system, condoning all its other cruelties — the death penalty.

When citizens have acclimated to the state strapping a person to a gurney and killing them in front of an audience, it becomes harder to shock them.

Continue reading

The Execution Of Elephants And Americans

This first execution in 17 years was performed by lethal injection because hanging has a bad rep these days. It feels too Wild West, though it is carbon neutral. And electrocution has been on the outs because I imagine the environmentalists were furious the electricity was coming from coal power plants. (Don’t quote me on that.)

I mean, if you’re going to turn a guy into a shish kabob, don’t use dirty energy to do it, okay? Maybe he could pedal a bike that powers his own murder. That’s eco-friendly. Or how about death by a wind turbine? I’m sure if you got a guy close enough to one of those things, the blades would knock his head clean off. That would be completely environmentally sustainable and fun for the whole family.

Continue reading

End Federal Executions, Racist Death Penalty

In just four days, the U.S. government doubled the number of federal executions since Congress reauthorized the federal death penalty in 1988. Three men were put to death in the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., on July 14, 16 and 17. 

After a flurry of last minute appeals, stays of execution, the lifting of stays, injunctions and petitions regarding the nature of the drugs to be used, witnesses fearing exposure to COVID-19 and victims’ families asking for a halt — Daniel Lee, Wesley Purkey and Dustin Honken, all white, are now dead. Another federal prisoner, Keith Nelson, is scheduled to be executed on Aug. 28.

Continue reading

Gorsuch Just Handed Down The Most Bloodthirsty And Cruel Death Penalty Opinion Of The Modern Era

The Supreme Court’s opinion in Bucklew v. Precythe, which it handed down Monday on a party-line vote, is at once the most significant Eighth Amendment decision of the last several decades and the cruelest in at least as much time. Neil Gorsuch’s majority opinion tosses out a basic assumption that animated the Court’s understanding of what constitutes a “cruel and unusual” punishment for more than half a century. In the process, he writes that the state of Missouri may effectively torture a man to death — so long as it does not gratuitously inflict pain for the sheer purpose of inflicting pain.

Continue reading

Another Christmas On Death Row (Updated)

For the past 33 Christmas holidays, Cooper has inhabited an 11-by-4 ½-foot cell in California’s San Quentin State Prison, the last eight waiting for Brown to grant him a new hearing and advanced DNA testing that would support what federal Appellate Judge William Fletcher has said: “Kevin Cooper is on death row because the San Bernardino sheriff’s department framed him.”

Cooper, at the top of the list to be killed when the state resumes executions, talks to Robert Scheer in the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence” about the unfairness of the justice system and the difficulty of proving one’s innocence once convicted.

Continue reading

Washington Supreme Court Declares State’s Death Penalty Unconstitutional

Finding that the death penalty “is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner,” a unanimous Washington Supreme Court has struck down the state’s capital-punishment statute as violating Washington’s state constitutional prohibition against “cruel punishment.” The court’s ruling, authored by Chief Justice Mary E. Fairhurst and issued on October 11, 2018, declared: “The death penalty, as administered in our state, fails to serve any legitimate penological goal; thus, it violates article I, section 14 of our state constitution.” The decision also converted the sentences of all eight people on the state’s death row (pictured) to life imprisonment without possibility of release.

Continue reading

UN Resolution Condemns Use Of Death Penalty To Target LGBTQ People

By Zack Ford for Think Progress – The United Nations approved a resolution Friday condemning the use of the death penalty in a discriminatory fashion, including its use to punish “apostasy, blasphemy, adultery, and consensual same-sex relations.” But the United States joined a minority of states who voted against it. ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association, highlighted the outcome of the vote. Executive director Renato Sabbadini noted in a statement how atrocious some countries’ anti-gay laws are, saying, “It is unconscionable to think that there are hundreds of millions of people living in States where somebody may be executed simply because of whom they love.” Four countries punish homosexuality with death (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen), as do certain provinces in Nigeria and Somalia and ISIS-controlled territories in northern Iraq and northern Syria. The nations of Afghanistan, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates also permit the death penalty, but rarely enforce it. There are far more countries where homosexuality is illegal but not punishable by death. Brunei Darussalam previously passed a death penalty law, but it has not been implemented. Uganda considered such a law just a few years ago.

Continue reading

Judge Who Blocked Use Of Execution Drug Protests Death Penalty

By Kim Bellware for The Huffington Post – He criticized the University of Arkansas’ lack of racial diversity in 2002 and attacked President George W. Bush for the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War in 2005. The latter may have been part of the reason he lost his re-election bid for the Arkansas Court of Appeals a few years later. In 2011, he won a seat on the state’s 6th Circuit court. “We have never, in my knowledge, been so afraid to admit that people can have personal beliefs yet can follow the law, even when to follow the law means they must place their personal feelings aside,” Griffen told The Associated Press on Saturday. Griffen’s ruling on Friday had put another wrench in the state’s plan to start the series of eight executions on Monday and complete them before its supply of one hard-to-obtain lethal injection drug expired. Two of the eight prisoners had already been granted stays of execution when a federal judge on Saturday halted those of the remaining inmates on grounds that the state’s hasty schedule denied them due process. McKesson Medical-Surgical moved to lift Griffen’s temporary restraining order following the federal court ruling, arguing that the order had become unnecessary.

Continue reading

Challenging The Death Penalty In The South

By Rebekah Barber for Facing South – “I understand this is a controversial issue but what isn’t controversial is the evidence that led to my decision,” Florida state prosecutor Aramis Ayala said last week as she announced she would not seek the death penalty for cases in the Orange-Osceola jurisdiction where she was recently elected to serve as Florida’s first African-American state prosecutor. The state’s death penalty — which was found unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court in 2016 — was reinstated just days before Ayala’s March 16 announcement when Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed legislation requiring a unanimous jury to sentence someone to death. Following Ayala’s announcement, Scott removed her from the high-profile murder case of Markeith Lloyd…

Continue reading

End The Death Penalty Or Speed It Up

By Liliana Segura for The Intercept – ON THE DAY a California jury sentenced 25-year-old Irving Ramirez to die, Dionne Wilson went out to a bar to celebrate. “We had a major party,” she told me. Ramirez had shot and killed her husband, Dan, in 2005 — the first Alameda County cop to be murdered in the line of duty in almost 40 years. The district attorney tried the case himself; when the death sentence came down two years later, Wilson felt satisfied she could finally move on with her life.ON THE DAY a California jury sentenced 25-year-old Irving Ramirez to die, Dionne Wilson went out to a bar to celebrate.

Continue reading

Death Penalty for Heroin Dealers?

By Maya Schenwar for Truth Out – April, former Attorney General Eric Holder told Frontline that the drug war “is over.” Over the last part of his final term, President Obama has echoed that refrain, granting clemency to hundreds of people incarcerated for drug offenses and emphasizing that the US has relied too much on the criminal punishment system to address drug-related problems.

Continue reading

Death Penalty Is Largely Driven By A Small Number Of Overzealous Prosecutors

By Jordan Smith for The Intercept – “COWBOY” BOB MACY was a legendary — and infamous — prosecutor in Oklahoma City. Elected the top law enforcer in his county five times, Macy, who died in 2011, was known for his wide-brimmed cowboy hat, his classic western bowtie, and carrying his gun in court. He was also known for his passionate advocacy in support of the death penalty. During his 21 years in office, Macy was personally responsible for sending 54 individuals to death row, an accomplishment that earned him the dubious distinction of deadliest prosecutor in America.

Continue reading

Supreme Court Makes Slip-Up In Death Penalty Case

By Cristian Farias for The Huffington Post – Evincing that things may be in a bit of disarray since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court on Monday made a misstep when agreeing to hear the case of a prisoner seeking to challenge his death sentence. The case was one of two death penalty appeals the court added to its docket for its next term, which begins in October.

Continue reading