Monday, February 25, 2013

Death Penalty: Ten myths and facts about the death penalty

Death is a colonial legacy . British Lawyers are making relentless effort to get it abolished. 

Here are ten myths about death listed by them full text can be had on the link gclid=CLOl_s350LUCFQQb6wod_m8Ahw#.USsUiaVkPsY

Death Penalty: Ten myths and facts about the death penalty by  Clive Stafford Smith on 04 March 2011

Every 3 hours someone is put to death by their government. Is this justice? Watch first-hand testimonies by Reprieve lawyers and clients. Read ten hard facts about the death penalty. Decide for yourself.

 MYTH  1 
Only guilty prisoners are sent to their death.
"Reversal of an erroneous conviction demonstrates not the failure of the system but its success" 
- Justice A. Scalia


Professionals in the justice system know that innocent people have been executed.
"20 years spent on death row before exoneration shows a failure of the system, not its success." - Marc Callcut
In the absence of any official study, Reprieve believes that over 300 innocent people may be on death row in the USA today. There may be thousands more who have been wrongfully convicted and awaiting execution elsewhere in the world.
Since 1973, 138 people have been sentenced to death in the US, then later exonerated.  1, 227 individuals have been found guilty and executed, suggesting a rate of wrongful convictions of 11.2% (1 exoneration for every 8.8 executions). 
  • Cameron Todd Willingham is widely recognized as the first "officially" innocent person executed in the US. He was convicted of arson resulting in the deaths of his 2-year-old daughter and 1-year-old twins.  Leading arson experts agree that the “finding of arson could not be sustained”.  Willingham was executed in 2004 by lethal injection.
  • In Louisiana, Clive Stafford Smith and his team proved that the state wrongfully charged people 73.4% of the time (126 out of 171 cases).  Clive Stafford Smith said:
“One of the executions I witnessed was one of an innocent man: Edward Earl Johnson, who was executed in a Mississipi gas chamber in 1987”.   Many amongst the correctional officers believed in Edward’s innocence."
Other Reprieve death row clients have maintained their innocence: Kris MaharajKenny RicheyRyan MatthewsNeil RevillLinda Carty.
  • Even Chief Justices believe that innocent people have been executed.  Harry Foggle, Chief Justice of VI Judicial Circuit, Florida has said: 
“In my own experience, I know of four persons convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death who later were found to be innocent."
  • Illinois Governor George Ryan appointed a 14-member commission on capital punishment to examine Illinois's death penalty.  He declared the nation's first moratorium on executions. The Governor commented that his state's death penalty was fraught with error, noting: 
"The Illinois capital punishment system is] so fraught with error and has come so close to the ultimate nightmare: the state's taking of innocent life."
To read tragic stories of exonerated prisoners, click here.
In the rest of the world, thousands of innocent people are executed.
With 1,712 executions in 2008, China kills more prisoners than the rest of the world put together. Thousands of people are executed by a dysfunctional criminal justice system.
A lawyer in China has said:
“It is painful being a lawyer in China.  99.99% of those accused of a crime and face the death penalty are found guilty and executed. Lawyers are no use at all. In every death penalty case that I defended, all my clients were executed."
Families are left with a sense of helplessness and anger towards the state who killed their loved ones. Sometimes the family is not even informed of the execution.
Singapore is the world’s leading country for use of death penalty per capita, with one hanging every 9 days. There are no juries, with a small group of judges making the final decision.  People are hung without fair trials. When the Singapore Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong was asked in 2003 about the execution rates, he stated: 
“I’ve got more important things to worry about”.
To date, only 4 death row prisoners have been exonerated.  The process of finding their innocence took 28 to 34 years.
There were 53 death row prisoners in Japan at the end of December 2000. Among them, 25 people claimed they were totally innocent, or partly innocent, of the charges against them and were making appeals for retrial.
Even in cases where journalists agree there has been a miscarriage of justice, the door to retrial will not open.
 India is worst in this case.

Myth #2 - The death penalty reduces crime


The death penalty acts as a deterrent to potential criminals


The death penalty does not deter crime. It stimulates it.
  1. The death penalty does not deter crime
  • new, comprehensive study states that there is absolutely no evidence that the death penalty deters crime. A panel at the National Research Counsel claims that no research about capital punishment to date can be trusted. Neither has it been investigated in the past 35 years whether the death penalty deters crime more than other punishments (e.g. life in prison). 
US states practicing capital punishment have murder rates at least 48% higher than the states with no death penalty, and studies in the UShave consistently shown that the death penalty is not a deterrent.
88% of criminologists do not believe the death penalty is an effective deterrent (Do executions lower homicide rates? The views of leading criminologists, a study by Professor Michael Radelet and Traci Lacock). A recent poll found that only 1 in 100 American police chiefs feel the death penalty has a serious impact on crime.
“I am not convinced that capital punishment, in and of itself, is a deterrent to crime because most people do not think about the death penalty before they commit a violent or capital crime." -Willie L.Williams, Police Chief, Los Angeles, CA
  •  People do not consider the consequences of their actions at the time they commit murder.
People who commit murders either believe they will not be caught, are acting in a moment of a blinding anger or passion, or are substance abusers who murder impulsively. Furthermore, because the death penalty is discretionary, a defendant could not know in advance whether he would be sentenced to life or death.
2. The death penalty stimulates crime.
In the US, research shows that homicide actually increases on either side of an execution. Social scientists refer to this as the "brutalization effect":
  • Executions desensitize the public to the immorality of killing, increasing the probability that some people will be motivated to kill; 
  • The state legitimizes the notion that vengeance for past misdeeds is acceptable;
  • Executions also have an "imitation effect" in which people follow the state's example.  If people feel the government can kill its enemies, they believe they can too (Bowers and Pierce, 1980; King, 1978, Forst. 1983).
Ultimately, the death penalty teaches our children that killing is an acceptable way to deal with problems.

Myth #3 - The death penalty saves money


The death penalty saves money. It costs less to kill people than to imprison them for life.


The death penalty costs millions more than a sentence of life without parole. Taxpayers' money could be used more efficiently on crime prevention programs and police.
  • Death penalty trials require a lot more work.  The appeals process is longer and more expensive.
- In Kansas, death penalty trials cost 16 times more, and appeals 21 times more, than in non-death penalty cases.
- In California, the annual cost of the present death penalty system is currently $137 million USD. It would cost 70% more ($232m) if critical reforms - to ensure fair trials and eliminate wrongful convictions - were put in place.  By contrast, a system of life without parole would cost $11.5m.
"People will say we can't put a price on justice, but in fact, we do put a price on justice when we are not able to give our district attorneys, our police departments, our attorney general the funding they need." - Democratic Rep. Gail Chasey
  • Some counties have been pushed to the brink of bankruptcy, repeatedly increasing taxes to fund extremely expensive capital cases. 
A lot of the money fed into the death penalty system could be used for programmes aimed at reducing crime in the first place.
  • Prisoners' time could be used meaningfully in prevention or education programmes, even from prison.
"My heart goes out to troublesome youngsters because I 'see' myself in them. And it is my heart to do it. I can explain my heart’s desire to help youngsters understand how wrong decisions can lead them down a path that can lead to prison. I could influence and encourage them to make better choices and strive to further their education. I could use my past mistakes as examples. I could inspire them to believe in themselves and pursue legitimate careers. I could do it, if given the opportunity, because I know how to relate to troublesome youngsters: I’ve been there. Perhaps I could persuade the adults presiding over organizations created to help youngsters or juvenile correctional facilities out there to give me a chance to work or speak with these kids (…). Once they see how the kids respond to me, they [the adults] will be impressed… " - A Mungin, from death row in Florida.  Mungin is involved in an educational program with the Victoria’s Academy.

Myth #4 - Only evil people are executed


Only evil people are executed. People on death row are truly evil.


There is a lot more to a human being than his worst action. 
  • Prisoners on death row are usually people who have suffered terrible abuses and become the product of their environment.
Most people on death row have been let down by their family and society from a very early age.  Justice should not be about killing them at the end of a difficult life path. It should be about preventing them from getting onto that path in the first place.
  • There is more to a human being than his worst action.  Research shows that people can change and suggests that a vast majority of murderers have the potential to change, if given a chance.
Further to the Furman v. Georgia decision that the death penalty constitutes a cruel and unusual punishment in 1972, 322 people were released from death row in the USA.  In nearly 90% of cases, released prisoners never again committed any violent felonies. In 7 out of 10 cases, the reason for re-incarceration has been technical violations (such as failing to inform a parole officer of a change of address) or non-violent crimes (such as an alcohol offence). The level of faith, support from family and friends, and education proved to be critical factors in positive reintegrations. (Source: Joan Cheever’s book Back from the Dead).
“That’s what he wanted to tell me on the phone, when we arranged to meet. That it is possible to change. That a life can be turned around. That he’s not the same as he was when he was 21. He knows many people, especially the victim’s families, will never be able to forgive him. It’s even harder, Leroy says, to forgive yourself (…). He says he knows he can never give back the life he took and he says he struggles daily, trying to give something back to his community. (…)  Leroy frequently gets calls from friends and neighbours for advice on how to help their own troubled sons. He appears to be a model citizen and a good neighbour”. (Back from the Dead, Joan M. Cheever)
  •  Many criminals suffer from mental illness.
Many people around the world fail to acknowledge the diminished responsibility of someone who acted as they did because they suffer from a mental illness.  No-one in his right mind would rape a baby or chop up their mother, girlfriend, or neighbour.
Reprieve has worked with psychiatric doctors in a number of our cases to secure a diagnosis and treatment, or to act as expert witnesses for our clients. Read about Akmal Shaikh, who was executed in China, despite overwhelming evidence of serious mental health problems.

Myth #5 - Death penalty trials are a fair process


Death penalty trials are a fair process. Trials and appeals are closely scrutinised. The defendant's basic rights are protected.


People are executed around the world every day because they did not have a fair trial.
"As someone who both served as a prosecutor and a defender, it is clear to me that if we cannot execute the death penalty with absolute perfection and fairness, and it is undeniably clear that we cannot, then we are unqualified to execute anyone at all." - Aundre Herron, former prosecutor and defender whose older brother was murdered in 1994
At the jury level, research has shown that almost 50% of jury members decide the penalty before the sentencing phase of the trial. This is before they have heard the penalty phase evidence or received instructions on how to decide the punishment.
At the defence level, up to 1 in 4 condemned inmates have been represented at trial or on appeal by court-appointed attorneys who have been disciplined for professional misconduct at some point in their careers. Not convinced? Read about the disastrous trial of Linda Carty, a British national on death row in Texas. Of all of Reprieve's clients, she is the closest to execution. Please help us save her life.
At trial level, many factors can cause a wrongful conviction, including:
At appeal levelUS Supreme Court Justices have held that the Constitution doesn’t prohibit executing an inmate who had a full and fair trial, even if he later convinces an appeals court that he is innocent. (See Herrera v. Collins)
Reprieve assists British citizens facing the death penalty abroad. We try to provide assistance to cases at all levels, from trial to clemency. While our original focus was on British nationals, our EC Project allows us to extend this work to nationals of other countries.
Eastern and Middle Eastern countries
In Malaysia, Chan King Yu, one of Reprieve's clients, was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. Thanks to Reprieve's work, Chan's conviction was overturned after it was discovered the police had lied in court.
In Pakistan, after more than five years in prison without trial, and having suffered torture at the hands of the police, Naheem Hussain and Rehan Zaman are currently facing execution. Torture techniques used to make them confess include falaka (whipping the foot with a rod or cane rendering them unable to walk), "inverse strappado" (being hung from a hook then kicked and punched repeatedly, causing shoulders to dislocate), extinguishing cigarettes on their skin and yanking out their fingernails. Ropes were used to pull their legs apart whilst wood turned like a garrotte to effectively paralyze their legs. The men frequently passed out so water was thrown on them until they revived.
In Laos, former prisoners held in Phongthong prison, have reported they were intimidated and beaten. They also reported seeing other prisoners having their genitals burned. The 20-year-old Londoner, Samantha Orobator, pregnant at the time, was facing execution in Laos. After a brief "show trial", she was given a life sentence instead of execution due to her pregnancy.
In China, Akmal Shaikh was executed despite his severe mental illness and vulnerability - Watch here. Akmal's tragic death was a shocking failure of the Chinese legal system.
In Japan, the justice system tends to place great reliance on confessions obtained under physical abuse, sleep deprivation and denial of food, water, and toilet facilities. According to a 2005 Amnesty International report:
"Most have been sentenced to death on the basis of confessions extracted under duress. The potential for miscarriages of justice is built into the system: confessions are typically extracted while suspects are held in daiyo kangoku, or 'substitute prisons', for interrogation before they are charged. In practice these are police cells, where detainees can be held for up to 23 days after arrest, with no state-funded legal representation. They are typically interrogated for 12 hours a day: no lawyers can be present, no recordings are made, and they are put under constant pressure to confess. Once convicted, it is very difficult to obtain a re-trial and prisoners can remain under sentence of death for many years."
European nationals
Reprieve can assist foreign clients potentially facing the death penalty abroad. We try to provide assistance to cases at all levels, from trial to clemency. While our original focus was on British nationals, our EC Project allows us to extend this work to nationals of other countries.

Myth #6 - The death penalty applies to everyone equally

The death penalty applies to everyone equally, regardless of race, wealth or background. 
People who are convicted of the same crime receive vastly different penalties, across the world and within the same country or even case.
Murderers considered the 'worst of the worst' usually do not get the death penalty because they are often found severely mentally ill. Ethnic minorities, the poor, the mentally retarded, mentally ill, and sometimes even juveniles are most likely to be executed.  Depending on where you are in the world, you may be sentenced to death for drug smuggling, homosexuality or simply being gullible.
  • Race
"One of you two is gonna hang for this. Since you're the nigger, you're elected." - Texas police officer to Clarence Brandley, charged with the murder of a white high school girl. Brandley was later exonerated in 1990 after ten years on death row.
Racial and ethnic disparities mar the American criminal justice system. The ethnicity and race of a defendant is a major factor in determining who lives and who dies in criminal cases.  Race is more likely to affect death sentencing than smoking affects the likelihood of dying from heart disease.
"In 82% of the studies [reviewed], race of the victim was found to influence the likelihood of being charged with capital murder or receiving the death penalty, i.e., those who murdered whites were found more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks."- United States General Accounting Office, Death Penalty Sentencing, February 1990
A recent study by the Pew Centre found that black adults were 4 times more likely than whites to be under correctional control. By the end of 2007, 1 in 11 black men were in jail or prison. This leaves little doubt that simply the colour of a defendant’s skin can mean the difference between life and death.
Reprieve's client Kenny Gay, born in Swindon, was convicted along with another man – also sentenced to death - for killing a police officer in Los Angeles. New evidence that Kenny did not fire the gunshots that killed the officer, along with issues of ineffective counsel and conflict of interest, seriously undermined Kenny's conviction and death sentence.  Because Kenny is black and the police officer white, Kenny probably never stood a chance of fair treatment in the courts.
  • Poverty
In the US, 95% of people get sentenced to death simply because they cannot afford proper legal representation at their trials. Unable to pay for an attorney, these prisoners are forced to rely on court-appointed lawyers. The average US state appropriates less than .01 percent of their budget for the defence of the indigent. In many jurisdictions across America, burned out attorneys, tired of the heavy caseloads, low salaries and poor working conditions of indigent defence often quit the public sector.
In Middle Eastern countries, death row defendants can be pardoned by the victims' family if they pay “blood money”. Those defendants who can pay this tariff are released, but those without money are usually executed. Recently, in Iran, a lawyer stated
"By collecting 200 million tomans ($200,000), you can save the lives of three to four youngsters."
  • Mental Illness
Despite being in clear violation of international law, the execution of mentally ill prisoners is alarmingly common. At least five of Reprieve’s current clients have a serious health problem, including severe depression, bi-polar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The mental anguish that comes from years of waiting to see if you will live or die, often in solitary confinement for up 23 hours a day, only serves to exacerbate these disorders.
Watch the story of our mentally ill client Akmal Shaikh, who wanted to usher in world peace with a song on rabbits and who was executed in China instead.
  • Mental Retardation
People who are mentally retarded are frequently sentenced to death.  These defendants can be easily influenced or intimidated by the police or prosecutor, anxious to please by saying what they believe the authority wants to hear and sometimes even giving a false confession. Mentally retarded defendants are not supposed to face the death penalty. However, many prosecutors dispute the fact that a defendant meets the criteria for mental retardation and should still face the option of being put to death.
See the cases of Ryan Matthews, sentenced to death at age 18, but later exonerated by DNA evidence. He had an IQ of 71. Howard Neal , IQ of 54, confessed to multiple homicides after spending two days in police interrogation without ever seeing a lawyer.
  • Juveniles
In violation of international treaties, juvenile prisoners in some countries are executed for petty crimes committed at an age as young as 13.  Today, 21 juveniles wait on death row in Iran with a further 100 awaiting execution for crimes committed before the age of 18. They usually don’t have money. They die.
Watch the story of Mohammed Hassanzadeh , executed by hanging at the age of 16. Another teenager, Atefah was executed in Iran at the age of 16 for adultery, even though she was not married.

Myth #7 - Executions are humane

Executions are humane. The process is painless and orderly.
There is no decent way to kill a prisoner. Hanging, stoning, beheading and electrocuting all constitute cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment.
“Six of my clients have been executed. Two were by gas chamber, two by electric chair and two by lethal injection.  Executions are disgusting. Of course, as a witness you don’t see everything, they cover the face of the condemned with a hood or they are paralysed by chemicals but you know that they suffer terribly.” -Clive Stafford Smith
The prisoner is strapped to a gurney and injected with a barbiturate which knocks them out.  This is followed by pancuronium, a paralytic.  It is then topped with potassium chloride, stopping the heart.  Lethal injection was introduced as a more “humane” way of killing, but all too often it has gone wrong.  Romell Broom even walked away from his execution still alive after repeated failed attempts to locate a suitable vein.
If the dose of barbiturate is not sufficiently concentrated or the IV is not inserted properly, the prisoner remains awake, able to feel pain but frozen in silence due to the paralytic effect of the pancuronium.  He suffocates slowly until the potassium chloride shocks the heart so severely it stops beating.  If the prisoner remains conscious at this point the pain is excruciating.  On average, prisoners suffocate for 15 minutes before dying.  It was reported in one case that it took up to 34 minutes until the condemned died.
  • The electric chair
The electric chair is infamous for terribly botched executions, requiring multiple jolts before ending the prisoner's life.  Clive Stafford Smith has attended such executions.  He says:
"When the executioner throws the switch that sends the current through the body, the prisoner cringes from torture, his flesh swells and his skin stretches to the point of breaking. He defecates, he urinates, his tongue swells and his eyes pop out. In some cases, the eyeballs rest on the cheeks of the condemned. His flesh is burned and smells of cooked meat. When the autopsy is performed the liver is so hot it cannot be touched by the human hand."
Not convinced?  Listen to the botched execution of Alpha Otis O’Daniel Stephens, killed by electric chair.
  • The gas chamber 
The gas chamber was invented during the First World War.  The Nazis used gas chambers to carry out their agenda of genocide.  It is still the method of choice for execution in 5 US states.
The prisoner is placed in the gas chamber and strapped to a chair, the door is sealed.  When the warden gives the signal, the executioner, in a separate room, pulls the lever, turning cyanide into liquid. This causes a chemical reaction releasing hydrogen cyanide gas.  The gas rises through holes in the chair where the prisoner sits.  Prisoners are advised to take deep breaths after the gas is released, told this will considerably shorten their suffering.  Imagine forcing yourself to deeply inhale the substance you know will kill you, but the deeper you breathe, the less you will suffer.
Reports from the chamber include this horrifying testimony:
"At first there is evidence of extreme horror, pain, and strangling. The eyes pop, the skin turns purple and the victim begins to drool."
  • Hanging
To work, the rope used in the hanging must be properly adjusted to the weight of the condemned. If not done correctly, the executed may be violently decapitated, as seen in the execution of Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Saddam Hussein’s younger half-brother. On the other hand, the prisoner may suffer a slow death lasting 10-20 minutes.
  • Executions by shooting 
Shooting does not guarantee instant death.  An interview with Thailand's last executioner (by shooting):
Question: "Has he missed?"
Executioner: "They all died. But not all of them die instantly. I needed to keep shooting for 3 to 5 minutes for some of them to die."
The Malaysian star, Chavoret Chauboon, in an interview with Philip Golingai, commented:
"If the escort did not tie the convict to the cross tightly, the convict could wriggle. And when the bullets missed his heart there would be lots of agonizing screams."
  • Stoning and beheading  
During a stoning, men are buried in a hole to the waist whilst women are buried up to the shoulders. The public hurls stones of a certain size at the convicted, often resulting in a slow death.   The condemned may be spared their life if they can free themselves from the hole.  
A man describes a beheading in Riyadh:
"At 9 a.m., the executioner gently lowers the blade to jab at the condemned’s neck, which jerks the prisoner’s body to attention. Then the real blow: the blade is drawn high up, and then swung back down. It cleaves skin, muscle, and bone with a hollow, echoing thud. A lurid crimson waterfall chases the head to the granite with the sound of a wet rag being wrung out over a stainless steel sink. The body sways forward, snaps up, and slumps off to the right."
Michael Portillo believes he has found a painless and humane way of killing -- nitrogen gas.  Portilla reported:
"...that nitrogen could do the job in about 15 seconds, and the prisoner would not feel pain - on the contrary he would feel euphoric, like being drunk."
For those awaiting execution, the mental anguish they suffer is in breach of their right not to experience torture, inhuman or degrading treatment.  Such mental anguish has become so common on death row that in legal circles it is simply known as “the death row phenomena”. Accordingly, the European Court of Human Rights refused the extradition of a German national to the US.  The UK's Privy Council has also decided that executing an individual “after holding [them] in an agony of suspense” for more than five years would be inhuman and degrading.
In Japan, 97 inmates currently await death by hanging.  Each day they wait for execution, facing a sentence that could be enforced at only a few hours' notice. Some live like this year after year, sometimes for decades, not knowing when they will be executed.  This can lead to the development of serious mental disorders.

Myth #8 - Executions help victims' families to heal


Executions help victims’ families to heal.
"I said to the warden, 'Could you give me his body so I could kill him again?' I was filled with much hate. Then I felt like I knew what it was like to be a killer because I felt I could be one". - Sandra Miller, a mother's comment on her son's murderer


Whilst we cannot speak for all victims’ families, it is clear that not all families are healed after the execution. Rather, the death penalty creates more victims and more brutality.
Sandra Miller, 2 years after the execution of her son’s murder, testified:
“It [the death penalty] doesn’t bring closure.  It’s an impossible thing. Nothing can bring closure to the death of a child”.
While waiting for "closure", Miller says she became an alcoholic, had two heart attacks, fell into a deep depression and attempted suicide several times. (Interview of Sandra Miller, Does the death penalty bring closure?)
  • On the side of the victim's family
Society tells us that justice is punishment for the offender. Punishment also helps victims' families to find some sort of closure. However, many families find that an execution does not bring the relief they were hoping. The pain remains.
Death penalty trials often become media shows and the dignity of the loved one is lost. Furthermore, the appeals process may last for decades, delaying any sense of closure the execution may bring to a victim's family. However, alternatives such as a sentence of life without the option of parole may allow families to see the offender punished in a more timely manner.
“When the execution does happen, they [the victim’s family members] find that they are still left empty, unsatisfied and unhealed and afterwards. They have been victimized again, this time by the system they sought to give them justice. Capital punishment desperately disappoints the families, and it degrades, dehumanizes and debilitates us as a society.”  - Marietta Jaegger Lane, Senate Judiciary and murder victim family member.
Alternative “restorative” programmes have been shown to be more meaningful and effective solutions in helping victims' families to heal. The programmes recognize that to heal the effects of crime, the needs of the individual victims and communities must be met. They give offenders the opportunity to become meaningfully accountable to their victims and hold them responsible to repair the harm they have caused.  Retributive justice, on the other hand, only punishes the offender by “throwing him away” without requiring him to take responsibility.
Restorative justice includes programs such as victim-offender mediation, reparative probation, restitution programs and community service programs. Read more about the Murder Families Victims for Reconciliation and the Journey of Hope. These organizations led by murder victim family members and address alternatives to the death penalty.
  • On the side of the family of the executed member
Execution is another homicide, creating more grief in another family: his own. This leaves scars on the lives of many people, possibly for longer than just one generation.
A testimony from Robert Meeropol (born Rosenberg), son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, executed in 1953 when he was six, states:
“As far as I know no one has studied how the execution of an immediate family member impacts children. We don’t even know how many children have an immediate family member on death row in the United States today. Worse, we don’t know the effect that having a parent executed will have upon their impressionable lives, and the cost society may pay, for that impact. As far as I can tell no one has bothered to study this even though these children are all innocent victims of the state’s efforts to kill their loved ones. 

And this disregard is matched by apparent indifference to the families of the executed. I was also unaware of their needs. But I’ve begun to redress that ignorance today. (…) I’ve met my brothers and sisters of shared suffering. We’ve been isolated for too long. We’ve been silent for too long.  We have gathered here to end our isolation, and to proclaim to Texas, the USA and the World that we will bear our victimization in silence no longer.”
 Myth #9 - The Bible supports the death penalty
The Bible preaches retribution. Jesus supports the death penalty.
"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth"
"You shall not take vengence, nor bear any grudge but you shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Lev.19:18).
People have been arguing for decades over interpretations of the Bible.  The Church has officially declared its opposition to the death penalty.  The concept of "mercy" is preached in the majority of religions.
“People toss in quotes from the Bible to back up what they decided anyway: they want to not only practice vengeance but also have God agree with them” - Sister H.Prejean
If Jesus were in a courtroom, would he instruct the jury to sentence an offender to death?  Clive Stafford Smith has often asked jurors that very question (watch here).  Listen below to one of his BBC Radio 4 readings on religion and mercy.
It is understandable for victims' families to want revenge.  However, history shows time and time again that seeking vengeance does not bring relief.
Urgent appeal: Please sing Amazing Grace for Linda Carty, facing execution in Texas. Learn more on our "Sing Amazing Grace for Linda Carty" campaign.

Myth #10 - The death penalty is not political


The death penalty is not political.


The death penalty is often driven by politics rather than a desire to repair social problems and bring justice.
  • Politicians in the US, from prosecutors to presidents, choose symbol over substance in their support of the death penalty. Campaign rhetoric becomes legislative policy with no analysis of whether the expense is really in the interest of the people.
Research shows the existence of gubernatorial election cycles in state executions, suggesting that election year political considerations play a role in determining the timing of executions. Analysis indicates that states are approximately 25% more likely to conduct executions in gubernatorial election years than at any other time. Elections, especially in the US South, also appear to dictate the probability that African-American defendants will be executed more often than white defendants. 
These findings raise concerns that state executions may fail to meet the constitutional requirements defined by the U.S. Supreme Court inGregg v. Georgia. Gregg held that the death penalty was not "cruel and unusual punishment" as long as it was applied judiciously and carefully.
  • The "strike hard" policy in China parades alleged criminals in public, with details of the crime they committed.  Public sentencing is attended by thousands of people.  In 1996, 1,000 people were executed in only two months' time.
Executions are also driven by economics. Organs are taken from the executed and sold. Families are often not informed of the execution, leaving them in a state of utter despair and hopelessness. Could the booming transplant industry be in fact, the other hidden factor driving the death penalty?
  • In the Middle East, the death penalty is considered necessary to protect government interests, rather than society's.
Iran's parliament has just approved a bill making it criminal to publish web blogs and sites that would “spread mischief” or “undermine the authority of the State”. The new law currently considered would allow the death penalty for “offensive bloggers”, a way to gain control over the blogging phenomenon.
Watch related video here
“Spreading mischief or undermining authority” includes many different offences, such as homosexuality, which is punishable by hanging. Watch a video here.
  • In sixteen countries across Asia, drug smuggling is punishable by death.  Asia is under enormous pressure from the West to crack down on the drug trade which is mostly funded by consumers in Western countries.
However, those who produce and sell the drugs rarely face prosecution. The mules trafficking the drugs – usually because of a combination of economic duress and coercion – end up facing the ultimate punishment

No comments:

Post a Comment