Starting Monday, February 8, 2016 there will be a march/rally from 11:00 a.m.to 1:00 p.m. in Dover. We will move as a group around Legislative Hall. We will carry signs and have some singing and chanting. The purpose of this action is to get the attention of state lawmakers and the public. This action is planned for each Monday in February. Meet in the parking lot on the east side of legislative hall Wear your Repeal buttons. Bring signs and lots of enthusiasm.
Join us at our Monthly DCODP Meeting as we plan to repeal Delaware’s death penalty in 2015. Learn about the current campaign. Find out what you can do to help end Delaware’s ineffective, costly, and biased death penalty. Monday 2/23/15 from 5:30 to 7:00pm. LOCATION: Wilmington Friends Meeting House, 1st floor Social Room, 401 N. West St, Wilmington, DE 19801. Park in the parking lot on the 5th Street side or on the street. Ring the doorbell at the West Street entrance. Call 302-379-0488 for info. All are welcome! Invite a friend.
Daily Kos, a liberal news site and blog, published a disturbing blog earlier this month about a man who was freed from death row after three decades of being on the brink of death. In the early ’80s, Henry McCollum and Leon Brown were charged with the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl, and, not surprisingly, confessed to the crime after hours of pressure. They were found guilty and handed the death penalty, decisions that were later overturned. At a second trial, Brown was handed a life sentence, while McCollum again faced the death penalty. However, they were eventually exonerated by DNA evidence, as many others have been over the years. The defendants, whose IQs were below 70, had appealed to the Supreme Court in 1994 but were denied the request.
In May, CNN published another frightening story regarding the death penalty. In this case, the Delaware Supreme Court overturned the conviction and death sentence of 41-year-old Jermaine Wright. At the age of 18, Wright was convicted of having killed liquor store clerk Phillip Seifert in Wilmington, Delaware. Again, not surprisingly, the evidence presented against Wright was doubtful; he confessed while sleep-deprived and high on heroin. A jailhouse snitch who had a history of cooperating with prosecutors testified that Wright had confessed the crime to him (the testimony was later recanted). No fingerprints, shell casings or any other hard forensic evidence was presented. To add more doubt, four other witnesses confirmed that Wright was with them at the time of the crime, and those who witnessed the robbery could not positively identify Wright as the perpetrator. So flawed and unfair was the conviction that the Delaware Supreme Court gave Wright a new trial.
The idea that the state is powerful enough to kill and that it could accidentally kill an innocent person should be sickening enough to turn anyone and everyone against it. Just think about it: You could be stuck in prison for decades waiting to be murdered by the state, all because some prosecutor chose to win the case as opposed to serving justice. This primitive practice is still applauded by the masses. What does it take to satisfy the bloodlust of the populace? The death of three innocents in the aforementioned cases? Residents of this state who have a conscience can be proud that this state eliminated the death penalty last year, but the country as a whole has much room to improve.
Let’s keep in mind the following: The Innocence Project reports that, since 1989, 318 people have been exonerated while on death row thanks to DNA testing. How many more could be freed? How many were slaughtered who were innocent? The answer can never be known, as the dead cannot defend themselves. The absolute disrespect for the right to life shown by the justice system is unacceptable and must not be tolerated under any circumstances.
Gonzalo Molinolo is a junior history major. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Join us at our Monthly DCODP Meeting as we strategize about next steps in the effort to end Delaware’s ineffective, costly, and biased death penalty. Help us plan for tabling during the Summer Festival season. Monday 6/23/14 at 5:30 pm. LOCATION: Wilmington Friends Meeting House, 1st floor Social Room, 401 N. West St, Wilmington, DE 19801. Park in the parking lot on the 5th Street side or on the street. Ring the doorbell at the West Street entrance. Call 302-379-0488 for info. All are welcome!
A new Washington Post-ABC News Poll reports that support for the death penalty continues to decline. “But for the first time in Post-ABC polling, more than half of Americans say they prefer life sentences for convicted murderers, rather than the death penalty. Fifty-two percent of those polled said they would choose life in prison, while 42 percent said they favored execution.” Check out the full article here.
Delivering Justice without Death Penalty
Capital punishment continues to divide public opinion; with a dedicated cadre of proponents and detractors on each side of the issue. For many, it is a matter of morality and decency, rather than a public safety issue. On the other side of the argument are those committed to the death penalty’s place within the justice system, pointing to its effectiveness as a deterrent and form of social control.
Capital punishment has a long and storied history, appearing in civilizations BC, well before making its way to America’s settlements. The 1600’s marked the first executions of criminals in the Colonies, spurring a debate about capital punishment that continues today. Revisions have continually changed the place of capital punishment on American soil, including prohibitions and endorsements from the United States Government as well as those put-forth by individual states and territories. The early 1970’s saw the structure of today’s capital punishment laws established, through a series of court actions that first prohibited the practice in 1972, and then codified its legal status in 1976.
The vigor with which executions are carried out varies across individual states, with California and Florida currently leading the way for inmates sentenced to death. Altogether, more than 3000 inmates currently sit on death row, reflecting a total that has exceeded 3000 individuals annually since 1995. On the other hand, more than 1300 prisoners have been executed by individual states and federal authorities since capital punishment was enacted in 1976.
Ironically, the Supreme Court had issued decisions prior to 1976 identifying the death penalty as a form of cruel and unusual punishment, yet 30 years later we have failed to return to the wisdom the courts clearly saw. Recent developments, however, illustrate a sea change in the way capital punishment is viewed by the current court, so the tide may again be turning toward compassion and common sense.
Florida Case Supports Less Killing
Hall v Florida involves a man of limited mental capacity sentenced to death for his role in a decades-old crime. At issue is Florida’s standard for determining who may be executed. According to the decision handed down in 2002, states largely control how they judge who’s fit for execution. In the Florida case, the convicted death row inmate, Freddie Lee Hall, missed the cut off by as little as a single point. In other words, had Hall’s test score fallen one point lower, sufficient mental limitations would have been deemed present, barring Mr. Hall from execution in the state.
The Supreme Court ruled that the standard for determining mental competency is too rigid in Florida, a decision that will impact other states as well. According to the precedent set by the 2002 Atkins case, states were given loose guidelines to follow determining whether inmates are fit for execution. The general standards furnished by Atkins require low I.Q., significant social and practical impairment, as well as the presence of both conditions prior to reaching adulthood.
Although this session’s Hall case fell within the established guidelines extended by the Atkins court, today’s Supreme Court determined that the mechanical approach does not account for the whole picture in some cases. According to the decision, analysis of co-existing mental conditions and other extenuating factors serve justice, rather than simply assigning numbers to death row inmates’ cognitive abilities.
One would hope the trend supported by this week’s decision is one toward further limitations of arcane justice practices like capital punishment. In light of the ruling, several states will be required to adjust their approaches to the death sentence, including those with an established I.Q. threshold on the books. This overt repudiation from the courts is one step closer to justice without the death penalty.
Author: Daphne Holmes contributed this guest post. She is a writer from http://www.arrestrecords.com and you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Death Penalty in the USA
This post by ArrestRecords.com is filled with simple and informative graphics on the Death Penalty in the USA. The graphics include data regarding:
- countries and states with the most executions,
- methods of execution,
- statistics on race, “the single-most reliable predictor of whether someone will be sentenced to death,”
- wrongful convictions and reasons for them,
- and public opinion about alternatives to the death penalty.
The Death Penalty in the USA. Produced from ArrestRecords.com
Senate Bill 19 can still pass this year! Join in the effort at our monthly DCODP meeting, Monday 4/28/14 at 5:30 pm. LOCATION: Wilmington Friends Meeting House, 1st floor Social Room, 401 N. West St, Wilmington, DE 19801. Park in the parking lot on the 5th Street side or on the street. Ring the doorbell at the West Street entrance. Call 302-379-0488 for info. All are welcome!
Comment on CNN’s Death Row Stories from Richard Kiger
Tonight (Duckett [the death row inmate]) is interesting if only because it suggests that some on death row may be there for a good reason. The prosecutor this time did not seem to be as irresponsible as in earlier episodes. Actually, he was pretty decent. There are still problems with Brady material, questionable evidence from a lab (the FBI), unreliable witnesses, what is probably poor training of officers with respect to gathering evidence, and credibility issues.
I am a little surprised that Frank [the investigator] went to Edna Buchanan [the journalist] when he did and that she published without checking things out more carefully. It’s understandable she feels burned and his credibility is now at issue, at least in terms of his judgment and procedural skills. It also troubles me that the defendant seemed, to me, a little cavalier about the situation during the interview.
The allegedly related case in the neighboring county is interesting also. The evidence of misconduct seems pretty thin in terms of what we were told. Can his wife testify against him? I don’t know. There may be a disqualification here because they were married at the time. On the other hand, it does not appear that he told her anything, but, rather, that she observed something, that is, he came home with tangible items that she saw and this made her wonder what he had done. That could be a critical distinction. If she can testify, it remains a good question whether she has a motive to get rid of him, and we don’t know based on what we have been told.
The defense lawyer was a poor choice, it seems. It sounds as though he didn’t do much of anything. On the other hand, what did he have to work with, that is, did he have the resources to conduct discovery and perhaps hire a private detective (something hinted at by the woman who recanted and then un-recanted). Mounting a defense to a case is very expensive; all litigation is expensive. This is one of the problems with a public defender as the defense lawyer: you may be getting a dedicated advocate who is very experienced and knowledgeable, but who is hamstrung by lack of resources to do these very things. Some public defenders are not much, but many are very good lawyers who do their best and work for justice for their clients. I am not knocking PDs, but pointing out that the system does not always allow them to do the kind of job they would like to do.
When you put all these issues side by side, the case against Duckett seems pretty weak and it is natural to wonder if there was a miscarriage of justice. Frank’s misgivings about his innocence are problematic. As individuals, we are all entitled to our opinions as to whether someone is guilty. That’s not the point in a trial. The point is, did the government carry its burden to play by the rules and so present the jury with the evidence it needed to decide if the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I think we are entitled in this case, as presented, to conclude that the system was flawed and so Duckett should not have been convicted. Whether he is guilty of some other crime is irrelevant to this crime.
This brings up another issue. If there is a case against him in the other matter, why does prosecution in that case depend on whether he is set free in the case that was tried to the audience tonight? The answer, of course, is money, but that is cold comfort to the family of the girl who was killed. Is it not cruelly inconsistent to say that the family of the one girl deserve closure, but the family of the other girl can wait another 26 years before they get the same closure? That just doesn’t wash.
All in all, this is an interesting episode because the person on death row appears to deserve to be there, but not for the crime that brought him there. I take that to be the point of tonight’s episode, but if so, the presentation may have been a little subtle for the point that needs to be made. We remain where we have been, presented with a flawed system that is untrustworthy when it comes to convicting people for crimes they are alleged to have committed. I am not ignoring or minimizing the importance of many other reasons to abolish the death penalty, but merely trying to focus on the issue presented.
Saint Ann’s Catholic Church, 691 Garfield Parkway, Bethany Beach, Delaware, will host a free adult education panel on the death penalty this Thursday, March 13th at 7:00pm.
- Brian Boyle, Campaign Manager from the Delaware Repeal Project, will speak about Delaware’s death penalty and current legislation.
- Kristin Froehlich, whose brother was murdered, is the current Board President of Delaware Citizens Opposed to the Death Penalty. She will speak about how the death penalty harms victims’ family members.
- Barbara Lewis will speak about her experience as the mother of former death row inmate Robert Gattis, whose 1992 death sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole.
- Rev. Walt Everett, whose son was murdered, will speak about forgiveness.
Check out the recent article in the Coastal Point newspaper.
Please spread the word to friends and contacts in that area. Invite a friend who may be ambivalent or who supports the death penalty. Everyone will learn something.
For more information, call (302) 539-6449.