Death Penalty

California Dems Adopt Death Penalty Resolution Drafted by Young Member of Democrats.com
Death Penalty

"'Therefore Be It Resolved That: the California Democratic Party encourages the California State Legislature to enact legislation calling for a moratorium on the death penalty until it can be conclusively determined that no individual on death row, or likely to be sent to death row, is innocent and until we can ensure that no one will receive a death sentence as a result of his/her race, socio-economic status or geographic location.' The resolution drafted by Natasha, a 12-year-old Democratic child, and revised with the assistance of Mike Farrell, was overwhelmingly approved by the California Democratic Party Resolutions Committee and California Democratic Party Executive Board, thereby immediately making it Democratic Policy in California." You Go, Natasha!

Poor Terminator! California Democratic Party Calls For Legislation Halting Executions
Death Penalty

Democrats.com member Natasha H, age 12, writes: "The Terminator better watch out. His terminating days may be numbered. The California Democratic Party is uniting behind its new hero, Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Waters, speaking to a thunderous applause, helped sway the California Democratic Party to adopt a new resolution calling for sweeping legislation, which, if enacted soon enough, certainly will put a halt to all currently planned executions in the state."

'The Barbarity of Mindless Vengeance': Supreme Court Clears Forced Medication for Death Row Inmates
Death Penalty

The UK Guardian reports: "Convicted murderers with severe mental health problems can be forced to take drugs that would make them clinically sane so that they can be executed, the US supreme court has ruled. Opponents of the death penalty yesterday described the court's decision to uphold an earlier ruling on the issue - without debating it - as shocking. The case concerns Charles Singleton who, in 1979, killed a grocery shop worker in Arkansas. He was convicted and sentenced to death later that year... This year an appeals court in St Louis ruled that it was acceptable to give Singleton the drugs, although the decision was not unanimous. A dissenting judge, Gerald Heaney, said: 'I believe that to execute a man who is severely deranged without treatment and arguably incompetent when treated is the pinnacle of ... the barbarity of exacting mindless vengeance.'"

Supremes to Hear Texas Death Penalty Appeal
Death Penalty

AP reports: "The Supreme Court said Monday it will hear an appeal from a Texas death row inmate who claims an inept defense lawyer and underhanded prosecutors denied him a fair trial 23 years ago. Delma Banks has been on Texas' death row longer than any other inmate, and has seen more than 300 fellow inmates taken to their execution. He was minutes away from his own execution when the Supreme Court gave him a reprieve last month. That reprieve will now be extended at least until next fall, when the high court will hear Banks' case. His new lawyers claim Banks was poorly represented at trial, prosecutors improperly withheld information and testimony from two prosecution witnesses was shaky."

China, Iran, and US - the 'Axis of Execution'
Death Penalty

At least 1,526 people were executed worldwide last year, with 80% of all known executions carried out in China, Iran and the United States, Amnesty International said... Some 111 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice but it is still imposed in 83 countries. "The death penalty is the most absolute form of a human rights violation," Amnesty said... More than 100 death row inmates who proved their innocence have been released in the 30 years since U.S. Supreme Court rulings led to resumption of executions. Number 100 was Ray Krone, a former death row prisoner in Arizona, released almost exactly a year ago after DNA testing proved his innocence... Krone, who spent more than 10 years in prison, including 32 months on death row, had previously served in the U.S. air force... "I am going to do everything that I can to expose the death penalty for what it really is - a tool used by prosecutors and police to gain career advancement and to put politicians in office."

BushCroft Forces Texas-Style Death Penalty on Rest of the Nation
Death Penalty

NY Times reports, "Ashcroft has ordered US attorneys in NY and Connecticut to seek the death penalty for a dozen defendants in cases in which prosecutors had recommended against or did not ask for capital punishment... Under the law, the attorney general has final approval on whether to seek the death penalty in federal cases... Ashcroft's aggressive approach in the New York region was criticized yesterday by lawyers who said the best way to eliminate geographic disparities in capital punishment was not to increase its use but to reduce it. No federal court jury in NYC has yet returned a verdict for the death penalty since the revised federal capital punishment laws were passed more than a decade ago. 'They want to set a consistent national standard for these cases,' said David Ruhnke, who represents a defendant in the new Manhattan case, 'but the standards they're using are the standards used by Texas district attorneys running for re-election'" - and Bushes running for President.

Ashcroft's Push for Execution Voids Plea Deal for Drug Ring Testimony; Puts Chill on Future Negotiations between Prosecutors and Lawyers
Death Penalty

William Glaberson reports for the NY Times: "Attorney General John Ashcroft has ordered federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty for a murder suspect, even though he had agreed to testify against others tied to a deadly Colombian drug ring in exchange for a life sentence...Mr. Ashcroft has stirred a controversy in federal prosecutors' offices nationally in recent months by insisting that they seek executions in some cases in which they had recommended against it. Under Justice Department rules, local federal prosecutors can only recommend whether to seek the death penalty; the final decision is up to the attorney general. Defense lawyers, and some current and former prosecutors, said the case here has taken that controversy to a new level because the previous cases had not involved potential cooperators. The decision in the case, they said, could have repercussions far beyond the death penalty in its effect on negotiations between prosecutors and lawyers."

Bush to Decide Fate of Death Row Inmate, Who Was Brain Damaged by Poison While a Gulf War Soldier
Death Penalty

Richard Serrano writes for the L.A. Times: "As he deploys tens of thousands of American troops to the Middle East, Bush now must decide whether to block the upcoming execution of a highly decorated career soldier who apparently suffers brain damage from his Gulf War experience. Louis Jones Jr. came home in 1991 a changed man after the war with Iraq, according to psychiatric reports and family testimony. He drank too much, divorced and eventually left the Army after 22 years, retiring as a master sergeant in the Airborne Rangers. His ex-wife described him as 'very crazed ... panicked ... spinning out of control.'"

Gov. George Ryan (R-IL) Commutes All 167 Death Row Sentences, Calling Death Penalty System 'Arbitrary and Capricious - and therefore Immoral'
Death Penalty

NY Times reports, "Condemning the capital punishment system as fundamentally flawed and unfair, Gov. George Ryan commuted all Illinois death sentences today to prison terms of life or less, the largest such emptying of death row in history. In one sweep, Governor Ryan, a Republican, spared the lives of 163 men and 4 women who have served a collective 2,000 years for the murders of more than 250 people. His bold move was seen as the most significant statement questioning capital punishment since the Supreme Court struck down states' old death penalty laws in 1972. 'The facts that I have seen in reviewing each and every one of these cases raised questions not only about the innocence of people on death row, but about the fairness of the death penalty system as a whole,' Governor Ryan said this afternoon. 'Our capital system is haunted by the demon of error: error in determining guilt and error in determining who among the guilty deserves to die.'"

Judge Finds Federal Executions Unconstitutional
Death Penalty

"A federal trial judge on Monday became the first U.S. judge to declare the current federal death penalty unconstitutional, a ruling that is sure to set off fierce national debate over the issue. U.S. District Judge Rakoff said the federal death penalty act 'deprives innocent people of a significant opportunity to prove their innocence' and 'creates an undue risk of executing innocent people,' thereby violating due process. Legal scholars believe he is the first judge to declare the current federal death penalty law unconstitutional since it was enacted in 1994. The ruling is expected to be appealed, but if it is upheld by the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, it could stop federal executions in New York, Connecticut and Vermont...The judge, who sits in Manhattan federal court, cited academic research on death row inmates who had been wrongfully convicted when he issued a preliminary finding on April 25 that federal executions are unconstitutional."

Supreme Court Overturns 168 Death Sentences
Death Penalty

"The Supreme Court overturned the death sentence laws of five states Monday, affecting more than 160 death row inmates, by ruling that juries and not judges must make life-or-death determinations about the fate of convicted killers. The 7-2 ruling means that executions ordered for 168 people will be reconsidered, although it is not clear how the affected states will respond. The decision concerned instances in which juries determined defendants' guilt or innocence and judges alone decided their punishment. The court held that such sentences violate defendants' constitutional right to trial by jury, rejecting the argument that judges can be more evenhanded. 'The Sixth Amendment jury trial right ... does not turn on the relative rationality, fairness or efficiency of potential fact-finders,' Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for a majority that included an unusual alliance of conservative and liberal-leaning justices."

All Hat, No Cattle Heads for a Showdown over the Death Penalty
Death Penalty

In a dramatic action, New York federal judge Jed Rakoff is challenging the government to prove the constitutionality of the death penalty. "If the court were compelled to decide the issue today, it would ... grant the defendants' motion to dismiss all death penalty aspects of this case on the ground that the federal death penalty statute is unconstitutional," Rakoff wrote. "'Our system of criminal justice, for all its protections, is sufficiently fallible that innocent people are convicted of capital crimes with some frequency,' wrote Rakoff... Innocent people are being sent to death row 'with a frequency far greater than previously supposed,' Rakoff said, citing the fact that 12 men sentenced to death have been exonerated by DNA testing since 1984." Since Bush led the nation in executions as governor of Texas, it will be interesting to watch his administration squirm its way out of this one!

Bush refuses to spare Hispanic Man's Life Despite Evidence of Ethnic Bias in Execution
Death Penalty

In the U.S. today, 75% of all federal prisoners on death row are minorities and even now, you are much more likely to be executed if you are a black killing a white than the other way around. A Justice Dept. review found that prosecutors are twice as likely to go for the death sentence for blacks and hispanics than for whites. Yet Bush says there is no evidence of systematic racial bias, a statement which outrageously implies that he believes blacks and hispanics are twice as likely to commit violent crimes! Proving his bigotry, this week Bush refused to spare Juan Raul Garza (convicted of involvement in three drug-related murders), despite impassioned pleas from around the world. Timothy McVeigh and Garza are the FIRST federal prisoners to be executed since 1963. Garza was sent to federal death row from Texas, which sends more fed and state prisoners to their deaths than any other state. Yet some people find Bush charming - the same way Chamberlain found Hitler charming.

Does Bush Understand Anything He Says?
Death Penalty

"How does the Bush administration view executing people with mental retardation? When asked this week, President [sic] Bush said: 'We should never execute anybody who is mentally retarded. And our court system protects people who don't understand the nature of the crime they've committed nor the punishment they are about to receive.' His answer surprised many, since as governor of Texas he declined to halt the execution of a mentally retarded man and opposed a flat legislative ban on this sort of execution... At this pivotal moment, President [sic] Bush cannot simply dodge the question by obfuscation. He justifies capital punishment as a deterrent to crime. But what deterrent effect does it have on individuals with childlike minds?" So writes Harold Hongju Koh in the NY Times.

Board Declares Inmate Genuinely Reformed and Remorseful - then Promptly Executes Him
Death Penalty

Even though the Delaware Board of Pardons concluded after lengthy deliberations that deathrow inmate Abdullah T. Hameen had shown true remorse for his past crimes and that while in prison, he had rehabilitated not just himself, but some fellow inmates and at-risk youths, was executed anyway. Hameen, who was sentenced to death for murdering a man during a drug deal, died Friday, May 24. Officials would not even consider commuting the sentence to a life sentence because they could "not overlook" Hameen's past crimes. The case proves that the death penalty is, first and foremost a form of revenge. It is little wonder that Shrub, known for being spitefully vengeful against those who cross him (even entire states) has so zealously embraced this form of punishment, regardless of the huge danger of miscarriage of justice it poses.

Will Bush's Blood-Soaked Hands Sign Death Penalty Reform?
Death Penalty

A bipartisan group in Congress has introduced a bill to tinker with America's internationally-condemned death penalty system. The bill would set national standards for death penalty lawyers and require the preservation of biological evidence. As governor of Texas, Bush vetoed a bill that would have provided minimally qualified lawyers for death penalty defendants. And as Salon reported, while Bush declared that all those executed under his watch were absolutely guilty, investigations have cast serious doubt on several of those convictions. In 1998, Bush ignored a confession by another inmate that would have exonerated two men convicted of rape and murder. Moreover, Bush spent an irresponsibly scant 15 minutes considering executions. And of course, there is his infamous mocking of Karla Faye Tucker, "Please don't kill me."

Cardinal George Takes on Born-Again George
Death Penalty

Chicago's Roman Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal Francis George, said that executing Timothy McVeigh would be tantamount to committing assisted suicide. George spoke to a group that included relatives of murder victims who have become opponents of the Death Penalty. Hey, Dubya! Next time you read the Bible, check out the part that says, "Thou Shalt Not Kill!"

We Were Just Too Busy Investigating the Clintons
Death Penalty

Veteran FBI Agent Robert Philip Hanssen was arrested for spying for the Russians. Apparently, he was able to get away with it for 15 years before being caught. If the FBI, Justice Dept., etc., hadn't spent all their time and money investigating the Clintons, he might have been caught earlier. A neighbor describing the Hanssens said, "They go to church every Sunday -- if that means anything." It might - if he can get Pat Robertson on his side. Hanssen could face the death penalty (and up to $2.8 million in fines). No doubt the Executioner in Chief is suffering withdrawal from breaking all execution records as Governor of Texas.

Shadows of Doubt Haunt Executions
Death Penalty

This investigation by the Chicago Tribune makes a compelling case against the death penalty. Given the current climate and our newly appointed President and Attorney General, it might be naive to hope that we could abolish the death penalty, as England did. However, we can still ask the Governors of every state to follow Illinois Gov. George Ryan's lead and declare a moratorium. Ryan, a staunch Republican, doesn't want the execution of even one innocent person on his conscience. Do you?

What You Can Expect to See During Sweeps Week
Death Penalty

As if the Oklahoma bombing wasn't upsetting and depressing enough -- now McVeigh wants his execution televised. It would be the first federal execution in over 40 years. One can't help but wonder if the former Texecutioner will invite his new Attorney General over to watch it on his big-screen TV...