The Death Penalty Blog : Displaying 284-303 of 340

Serving as Attorney General: Eric Holder and William Bradford

Posted by Margo Schulter on December 12th, 2008

Eric Holder, Barack Obama's nominee for Attorney General of the United States and a personal opponent of the death penalty, might draw inspiration from a worthy historical mentor and predecessor in this high office: William Bradford (1755-1795).

Bradford, a premier law enforcement official and jurist during the Revolutionary and early federal eras, served as Attorney General of Pennsylvania and then as a Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. These were exciting and often tumultuous years when Pennsylvania moved to enact a more humane scheme of criminal justice and build a modern prison system.  In 1794, he was appointed U. S. Attorney General under President George Washington, serving until his death the following year.

Bradford deserves special credit for two legal innovations presented in a report to the Governor of Pennsylvania in 1793. The first was an argument that the death penalty may well in fact be "unnecessary," and thus unconstitutionally "cruel," for any crime including even deliberate murder.

Holding that the main purposes of punishment are "to prevent the offender from repeating the crime, and to deter others from its commission," Bradford concludes that imprisonment can meet both of these purposes. "If, therefore, these two objects can be obtained by any penalty short of death, to take away life, in such case, seems to
be an unauthorized act of power." Further, Bradford emphasizes that imprisonment leaves room for the "reformation" of the offender -- a vital goal more recently known as "rehabilitation."

Bradford's second and better-known innovation was his proposal for dividing the  crime of murder into degrees, quickly adopted by the Pennsylvania legislature in 1794 and since then by the vast majority of the States. Murder in the first degree as he originally defined it would be confined to acts of "deliberate assassination." His legislative program was aimed at abolishing capital punishment for all crimes other than first degree murder (and possibly high treason) as a first step towards total abolition.

As U.S. Attorney General under President Obama, Eric Holder may have the precious opportunity, as well as daunting task, of helping to complete his predecessor William Bradford's labor of reform by nudging the United States in the direction of the growing majority of world nations which have moved beyond executions to more enlightened means of law enforcement.
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A New Season

Posted by Mike Farrell on December 8th, 2008

Dear Friends,

There is a new season upon us; call it what you will, there is change afoot in the world. Whether you supported him or not, the election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States augurs a new vision for our country, a new thinking about our place on the globe.

According to the New York Times the recent election unleashed "a flood of hope" in the world community. With that flood, I trust, will come the opportunity not only for new thinking about America's place in the world, but also about the people's place in America.

An America that lives in hope, with a healthy excitement about promise and opportunity, is a nation that allows us to step away from the grip of fear that has lain over us like a shroud for too many years. It is a nation that looks upward, once again embracing the idea of community, daring to stand on principle, willing to find a better way.

At Death Penalty Focus, we believe this new era offers the opportunity to re-examine a system that incarcerates more of its citizens than any country on earth, a system whose costs rival what we spend on educating our children, and ask ourselves where this is leading. Instead of continuing this mad rush toward moral and economic bankruptcy, we believe it is time to turn away from retribution, to cast aside tired posturing about being "tough on crime" and begin being "smart on crime." And a way to mark this beginning, a way to demonstrate to our children that fear and hatred and a bloodlust for revenge serve no human purpose, is put an end to the execrable practice of state killing - the extermination of caged, helpless human beings - and replace it with a sentence of permanent imprisonment for those who might be a continued threat to public safety.

It is long past time for us to join the world's developed nations, all of whom have done away with capital punishment. This new and hopeful season provides the opportunity. We at Death Penalty Focus will do our part. With your help, we will succeed.

Please consider making a donation today. We need your help more than ever.


Mike Farrell

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Don’t forget to come out to our DPF Fundraisers!

Posted by Rebecca Rose McLaughlin on December 2nd, 2008

DPF has so many great events throughout the year, not only is it a chance to meet the staff and hear firsthand about the exciting progress we've made, it's also an opportunity for you to meet others in our movement! It's networking that creates strong communities of abolitionists, communities of mobilized, educated activists and advocates, ready to fight back and speak out in the fight to end the death penalty. We will need to rely on these communities for the long fight we have ahead. Don't miss your chance to meet others who share your passion and beliefs!

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Still Working, Still Waiting

Posted by Judy Kerr on November 20th, 2008
Bob Kerr, Abby, and Judy Kerr
Bob Kerr, Abby, and Judy Kerr

It has been just over one year since I became the Spokesperson and Outreach Coordinator for California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.  My brother Bob was murdered in 2003 and, while I still wait for someone to be charged in my brother's murder, my opposition to the death penalty grows stronger with everything I have learned in the past twelve months. 

As the Spokesperson for CCV, I have had the privilege to meet many murder victim family members whose reasons for opposing the death penalty vary, but whose convictions against capital punishment are consistent and absolute.  They are an inspiration to me.

In January, February, and March of this year, CCV had a crucial presence during the public hearings of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice on the death penalty.  I listened to the stories of many victims’ family members who had not spoken publicly before.  The stories I heard are as moving as they are inspirational. 

At the Annual Victims’ March during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in Sacramento I was struck by the sheer numbers of victims’ family members who stopped at the CCV table to sign their names to the growing list of family members and survivors who stand against the death penalty.  It became clear to me on that bright April day on the Capitol steps that when murder victim family members are presented with facts and honest appraisals of what the death penalty means to them and to society as a whole, they unite in opposition to capital punishment.

Last month, CCV completed a speaking engagement tour of Los Angeles and San Diego counties.  Once again we were met with victims who, without hesitation, conveyed their opposition to capital punishment.  There is no clearer voice of reason in this debate than the voice of the victims’ families proclaiming with clarity and resolve that the death penalty does not serve them, that the death penalty causes them more pain, and that the cost of the death penalty in every county in California is a cost that detracts from other vital services that can keep us safe and prevent further crimes.

Our efforts will continue to strengthen and grow.  Our strategy going forward is clear.  We recognize that the road ahead is long but never so long as the night when we lost our family members to violence.  Your support and dedication are part of the reason we continue to speak of our terrible tragedies and part of the reason we can raise our voices together against the death penalty.

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A life for a life?

Posted by Sheila Michell on November 20th, 2008

When one reads, as I did a few days ago, about a terrible crime: in this case, the unprovoked murder of a young girl, which took place twenty seven years ago [see article], one's initial instinctive response is quite likely to be "that man deserves to die".

And yet when one reflects further on the issue, what would the death of the murderer achieve? Some would argue that the victim's family would see justice done. But what sort of justice would that be? Many victims of crime have realized that a life for a life is no way to ease their pain. The life of their loved one will never be restored. Some of those who have lost people to violence are outspoken against the death penalty.

And then I read further into the article I discovered that the person who committed the crime had already been recognized as a sociopath and had served time in a mental facility. Why had he ever been let out? Perhaps society had failed him and itself with an inadequate mental health care system.

So what should society do in such a situation? In my opinion, a society who calculatedly murders anyone, let alone someone who is severely mentally ill, is only perpetuating the violence they seek to punish.

Let us also reflect on the practical implications of a death penalty in California today. This case has lingered on for twenty seven years with no resolution, which has cost the state millions of dollars, and forced the victims' family to keep waiting for an execution that may never happen. If there were no death penalty, the situation would have been resolved years ago with a sentence of life without parole. The murderer would die in prison without all the added cost of death penalty appeals and all of the media attention.

As it is now, he is more likely to die in prison than by execution. This less violent solution would free up resources to be spent on improved mental health care services or to support of victims of violent crime. 

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Read the fine print

Posted by Margo Schulter on November 19th, 2008

Let's hope that elected officials and others involved in shaping public policy -- which means all of us -- bother to "read the fine print" in the results of a new Gallup poll released November 17.

In brief, as emphasized by the headline "Americans Hold Firm to
Support for Death Penalty," 64% of those surveyed favored "the death
penalty for someone convicted of murder," with 30% opposed.

However, in paragraph 7 we learn that in the last Gallup survey
offering a choice between the death penalty and life imprisonment
without possibility of parole (LWOP), the split was in fact 47%-48% in
favor of permanent imprisonment.

Curiously, this 47-48 split is reported from a poll in May 2006, the
one in which Gallup says it "most recently" offered a "death vs. LWOP"
choice. As I asked the Gallup organization in a comment left on their
site, shouldn't this choice be included in every survey addressing
the death penalty?

In fact, the dramatic decrease in support for the death penalty when
LWOP is offered as an alternative is a long-established pattern, but
one we need to drive home to policymakers. In the real world, death or
LWOP is indeed the relevant choice: in California, mandatory LWOP has
been in place since 1977 for all offenses subject to a possible death

In such a climate of public opinion, rightly understood, the "middle
of the road" option for a public official such as President-Elect
Obama or California Governor Schwarzenegger is in fact a moratorium on

With death and LWOP so finely balanced in public opinion, getting out
this very fact is one vital step to a moratorium and eventual
abolition of the death penalty.

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Mike Farrell talking with GRITtv

Posted by Stefanie on November 18th, 2008
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A bit of good news

Posted by Sheila Michell on November 13th, 2008

The best bit of news I have read this week is that a county in Ohio is finding it difficult to gather a jury for a death penalty case. People, apparently, do not feel happy about taking responsibility for whether another human being lives or dies. To me, this is pleasing. Personally I do not think anyone should be given this responsibility; not jurors, judges, governors or the prison staff we ask to carry out the executions. As fellow human beings, none of us should have to carry this burden.

Each of us has been given life. If we suffer the misfortune of losing it due to the violence of another human being, nothing can restore it to us. The loss of our life would be the responsibility of the person who took it. This is a responsibility he/she should bear for the rest of his/her natural life. Even if the murderer were to ask for the death penalty, no one should have to accept the responsibility of fulfilling his request--killing another human being.

How many people who support the death penalty in theory would be prepared to carry out the act of carefully planned murder? Yes, I have met some who say they would gladly kill a person convicted of heinous crimes, but how would they do this in practice? Where does it put them in relation to the murderer?

In my opinion, if the world is to become a better place, the governments of the world should take the moral high ground by treating criminals with justice, not with violence comparable to the crime that was committed. Those who take the life of a human being and spoil the lives of other human beings should be incarcerated - and for the most heinous crimes this should be indefinitely - in prison with no possibility of parole. This way, the criminal can live to take responsibility for his/her action and work if they wish toward some sort of redemption before their natural death.

Sheila Michell is a volunteer with Death Penalty Focus. 

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We seek justice, not vengeance.

Posted by Lance Lindsey on November 12th, 2008

A statement given in opposition to California Proposition 6, also known as the Safe Neighborhoods Act, by Catholic leaders is also a powerful and eloquent expression of the principals and values that underlie our work in advocating for alternatives to the death penalty, especially within a religious context.

The following statement of the Catholic Bishops of California in opposition of Proposition 6 (the "Safe Neighborhoods" Initiative) was issued September 17.

In their November 15, 2000 document, "Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice," the U.S. bishops write:

"A Catholic approach begins with the recognition that the dignity of the human person applies to both victim and offender… As bishops, we believe that the current trend of more prisons and more executions, with too little education and drug treatment, does not truly reflect Christian values and will not really leave our communities safer. We are convinced that our tradition and our faith offer better alternatives that can hold offenders accountable and challenge them to change their lives; reach out to victims and reject vengeance; restore a sense of community and resist the violence that has engulfed so much of our culture."

As bishops, we seek justice, not vengeance. We seek a type of justice which addresses crime in terms of harm done to victims and communities, not simply as a violation of law. We seek a type of justice which holds people who commit crimes accountable, but encourages victims to forgive, so that there can be healing. The type of justice we seek is "restorative justice."

Communities do have a right to establish and enforce laws to protect people and to advance the common good. At the same time, our Church teaches us to not give up on those who violate these laws. Despite their very different claims on society, the lives and dignity of both victims and perpetrators should be protected and respected.

As bishops, we oppose Proposition 6 because it advances a retributive rather than a restorative justice model for dealing with crime. Proposition 6 would create multiple new crimes and additional penalties, some with potential for new life sentences. Proposition 6 could also curtail the participation of nonprofit organizations in community councils that determine county-level policy for juvenile justice.

Although Proposition 6 was introduced in good faith by those with legitimate concerns about "safe neighborhoods," it offers more of the same criminal justice policies which have failed in the past - and it will cost Californians billions of dollars without increasing public safety.

We encourage those who deal with criminal justice issues in California to join with each other to craft a wise, humane and effective policy for dealing with crime in our state. We as Bishops in the state of California will continue to work toward a true spirit of restorative justice, believing that only by addressing the issue from the perspective of "restoration" can our neighborhoods truly be safe.

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Dreaming of Change

Posted by Alejandro Villaseñor on November 10th, 2008
Alejandro Villaseñor

This weekend I spent time in Los Angeles with my sister. On Sunday morning we sat down and watched a political talk show; Obama's acceptance speech came on. My sister asked if I could believe it. I couldn't believe it, still can't. I didn't cheer Tuesday night. I didn't smile, laugh, or even cry. I was in shock. My sister pointed to her wall, where she has a replica of Norman Rockwell's The Problem we all Live with, which depicts a young black girl being escorted to school by several US Marshalls. My sister asked "A black president in country that only recently dealt with that, really?" We both looked at each other and simply smiled.

She then asked me, "Do you think we can get rid of the death penalty?" My first thought was to say, No way! We have a long way to go but I stopped myself. I looked at her TV and Obama was still on. I looked at my sister and said, "Sure, why not? If we all work together we can get rid of this horrible death sentence. I mean we just elected a black man president." I then let myself dream of change.

Imagine the change in our criminal justice system. Imagine a criminal justice system without the death penalty, without an archaic, racist, and costly death penalty. Imagine a prosecutor not being allowed to manipulate the system deciding who gets to face the death penalty and who gets life without parole. Imagine a criminal justice system without the death penalty.

Four years ago, if you would have told me that in the next election we would elect a black man as president of the US I would have looked at you and said something like: Get out of here, you're crazy. Well here we are.

So now I say to you, if we work together we can live in a society that no longer has a criminal justice system which throws away money and people by sentencing them to death. WAIT! Before you tell me to get out of here and tell me that I am crazy. We just elected a black man president of the US. Imagine a criminal justice system without the death penalty. Clearly anything is possible if we work together. So lets work on this and eliminate the death penalty.

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Posted by Rebecca Rose McLaughlin on November 4th, 2008

Just a reminder, when going to the voting booth on election day, make sure you are informed of the candidates stance on the death penalty, not just for our local/state elections, but nationally as well.  Our battle is really gaining momentum and it is imperative that we have as many politicians in office who are on our side! 


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No Exceptions, No Excuses

Posted by Yoko on October 22nd, 2008

"Look at you!  You are just like us!" was one of the many cogent quotes from the movie "Death Sentence" that I recently watched on television.
The film depicted the tragic murder of a young man from a wealthy, happy family who was killed at gunpoint by a gang member right front of his father.  It was a gang initiation killing.  The boy was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This boy's father was informed by a lawyer before the preliminary hearing that the perpetrator would probably be sentenced to about 3 years or so regardless of this brutal slaying (which would rarely, if ever, happen in real life).  The character is shocked and decides to kill his son's murderer himself.  He testifies in court that he was unable to clearly see the suspect's face so that the case will be dismissed and perpetrator will be freed. 
He executes his son's murderer but in return the perpetrator's brother who is also a gang member tries to exact revenge upon him.  In the end, after a bloody battle between these two men, the gang member, left to die in a pool of blood, says "Look at you!  You are just like us!"
After watching this film, I couldn't help but notice the similarities between this type of vigilante revenge killing and state sanctioned killing, both of which are done in the name of justice. However, justice should not be mistaken for revenge.  Revenge killing will never be a solution. State sanctioned killing lowers us to the level of the condemned prisoner, despite the fact that it is done legally.  This type of killing will never bring peace of mind to anyone. I believe this kind of barbarism should not be allowed.

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The naked simple fact...

Posted by Lance Lindsey on October 17th, 2008

It is useful to remind ourselves, as well as those who believe that killing prisoners represents a legitimate form of justice, that in fact the death penalty is a very rare and marginal criminal justice practice not only in the US but also globally. 90% of all executions in America take place in only handful of Southern states and, according to Amnesty International, nearly 90% of known executions throughout the world are carried out in just five countries (China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the USA).

The vast majority of US states and nations do not execute their prisoners. All Western democracies, except the US, have abolished the death penalty a long time ago.

Our opponents often like to paint the abolitionist community as marginal and out of touch with the mainstream. In fact, support for the death penalty both here and abroad is dramatically diminishing, and advocacy for alternatives like permanent imprisonment is becoming the preferred sentence over death, according to a recent poll in California, and thus the genuinely mainstream position.

As former California Governor Pat Brown expressed it: "The naked simple fact is that the death penalty has been a gross failure. Beyond its horror and incivility, it has neither protected the innocent nor deterred the wicked."

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Families of Murder Victims Call for End of Death Penalty

Posted by Stefanie on October 10th, 2008

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Rev. Carroll Pickett: The evolution of a death penalty opponent

Posted by Stefanie on October 1st, 2008

An interesting interview from the Dallas Morning News:

For 15 years, the Rev. Carroll Pickett was a witness to state-sanctioned death. As a prison chaplain in Hunstville, he presided over 95 executions. After each one, Mr. Pickett recorded his thoughts on tape. The documentary At the Death House Door chronicles his anguish as he eventually concludes that some of the men he led to death were innocent.

Dallas Morning News editorial writer Colleen McCain Nelson interviewed Mr. Pickett via e-mail this week.  Read the interview.

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Troy Davis execution is stayed until Monday, September 29th

Posted by Stefanie on September 23rd, 2008
Troy Davis

Less than 2 hours before his scheduled execution, death row prisoner Troy Davis received word today that the U.S. Supreme Court had stayed his execution until Monday, September 29th. 

Davis, who is on death row in Georgia, has always maintained his innocence.  7 of the 9 witnesses who testified against him at his trial have recanted their testimony.

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Critical Decision in Citizens’ Hands in Japan

Posted by Yoko on September 16th, 2008

I’d like to talk about the Japanese judicial system again.
In Japan, all the criminal and civil cases are tried only by lawyers and judges.  Even though the public can witness the trials, a jury system made up of members of the public has never been used.
However, a new citizen judge system will start next year.  This means, unlike the U.S jury system, six citizens who are randomly elected, will share their opinions and decisions with three judges, not only in the verdict phase, but also the sentencing phase.  More importantly, this system applies to ONLY SERIOUS CRIMINAL CASES that are mainly comprised of murder (including death penalty cases), manslaughter, arson, kidnapping and child negligence cases. 
The theory behind this citizen judge system is that public opinions should be heard and reflected in court decisions so that trials will (ideally) be even more just and fair.  As I mentioned before, however, over 90 % of Japanese people support the death penalty.  This new public interaction with the legal system may provide Japanese people with a unique opportunity to become aware of the serious issues surrounding the death penalty.  On the other hand, this new system will allow the public to decide who should live or die, and could prove to be an outlet for the public’s outrage towards the perpetrators of heinous crimes.  I don't know which direction this process will take­ whether it will make the system more fair or less.  Even though it’s very controversial, I hope this new legal process will at least stimulate more lively and informed discussions in the future.
Unfortunately, since my last blog entry, another 3 death row inmates were executed in Japan last week.  Lately, executions have been occurring about every two months.  Compared with the last 10 years, the number of the death verdicts handed down has been rapidly increasing, as is the pace of the executions.  These new developments, sadly, go against the worldwide trend to reduce and eliminate the use of the death penalty. 
A previous Japanese minister of justice said, “Once a death sentence is finalized, execution should be carried out promptly.”  This really horrified me.
Fact:    35 executions last 10 years (9 executions were carried out in 2007)
            13 executions in 2008 only

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"Justice was served...."

Posted by Lance Lindsey on September 10th, 2008

It is often assumed by some that the only response by murder victims' family members is to demand the death penalty for the perpetrator. However, increasingly the alternative sentence of life without parole is being sought by prosecutors and families who have lost loved ones to murder because it provides a less prolonged, traumatizing legal process in reaching finality and justice. In fact, in a recent poll, the majority of Californians prefer the much less costly sentence of life without parole over death as the ultimate sanction. And of course throughout the world, the majority of nations have long ago stopped executing their prisoners in favor of alternative punishments that are not only more humane, but also more fair and just.

To learn more about this growing move away from demands for the death penalty by district attorneys and the victim rights community, I encourage our readers to check out California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, or Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, which are advocacy organizations made up solely of individuals who have lost loved ones to murder and who advocate for alternatives to the death penalty.

Here is an excerpt from a recent SF Chronicle article about one of several cases in the Bay Area that illustrates alternative responses by murder victims' family members and the trend away from the use of judicial homicide as part of the state's pursuit of justice:

Life sentence in Oakland slaying of professor

Henry K. Lee, SF Chronicle, September 6, 2008

Troy Tyrone Thomas III was convicted in July of murdering John Alfred Dennis Jr., 59, a teacher at St. Mary's College in Moraga and City College of San Francisco. Prosecutors say Thomas killed Dennis with the intention of assuming his identity.

Thomas entered guilty pleas to all the charges against him, including murder with the special circumstances of burglary and financial gain, said Deputy District Attorney Mark Jackson. Prosecutors opted not to seek the death penalty…..

The sentencing came after the victim's nephew, Josh Dennis, began weeping while addressing the court.

"In some weird, twisted way," Dennis said, pausing to control his emotion, "in some way I forgive you for what you've done." He said that's what his uncle would have wanted.

"I'm not God, because what he can do is forgive and forget," Dennis said. "I can't forget."

The Rev. Jay Matthews of St. Benedict's Catholic Church in Oakland told the judge, "John was a wonderful, bright light and a wonderful mentor to so many people in this community. John's demise will leave a great void in our community."

Matthews told Thomas, "We forgive you as well."

In an interview, Jackson said, "Justice was served, and Mr. Thomas will spend the rest of his life in prison, where he cannot harm anyone else."

Thomas' attorney, Assistant Public Defender Richard Foxall, said the guilty plea and sentence was "the right resolution."

For the complete story click HERE.

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Please take a moment to read this!

Posted by Rebecca Rose McLaughlin on September 2nd, 2008

 I wanted to make sure all of our supporters, and especially our potential supporters, had a chance to read this stirring op-ed written by Ronald Carlson.

(I would have posted just the link to this article, but it looks like his op-ed is no longer available online at

From the Star-Telegram, Sunday, August 3, 2008

Time to end the death penalty's cycle of violence by Ronald Carlson

 June 13, 1983, and Feb. 3, 1998, are two days that will forever be etched in my memory.

On that fateful day in June, I lost my dear sister, Deborah Thornton, senselessly murdered along with her friend Jerry Lynn Dean.

Fifteen years later, I witnessed another senseless act of violence: the execution of Karla Faye Tucker, the woman condemned for the crime.

Before I lost my sister, I had no opinion on the death penalty. But Deborah's tragic death made the question of capital punishment a painfully personal one. When I learned of the murder of my only sibling, who had helped raise me after our mother died, I was filled with hatred. I would have killed those responsible with my own hands if given the opportunity.

But when I learned that those responsible - Karla Faye and her friend Daniel Garrett - were in fact facing death sentences, I was uncertain that justice was being served.

I've since had 25 years - almost half my life - to examine the subject, and the conclusion I've come to is a clear one: We as a society should not be involved in the practice of killing people.

Wanting to see those who killed your loved ones suffer the same fate is understandable - no one can sit in judgment of those who have faced such loss - but our justice system should not be dictated by vengeance. As a society, shouldn't we be more civilized than the murderers we condemn?

Finding faith is what led me to this conviction and helped me confront my pain and anger.

Turning to God enabled me to realize that, while lashing out might satisfy our instinctual desire for revenge, we as a society must strive not to indulge those desires. Jesus preached the need to love one another and the sanctity of life - all life, no exceptions, no asterisks to the rule.

What could be a more egregious violation of his teachings than the state executing its own citizens in retribution?

The death penalty does nothing more than continue the cycle of violence that is corroding our society.

I have stood more than one time with Death Row families as they prepared to watch their loved ones head to the execution chamber. The pain that they feel is no different from the pain that I felt for my sister. When we engage in the practice of capital punishment, we force more people to suffer through the tragic loss I had to endure. We simply create more victims - victims of the very criminal justice system meant to protect us.

The broken nature of this system makes the practice of capital punishment all the more unconscionable. From inadequate counsel to the staggering number of wrongful convictions, it is morally deplorable to continue with the death penalty while these problems persist. Daniel died in prison before his execution could be carried out, but I was present at the execution of Karla Faye as a witness on her behalf. It was one of the most highly publicized executions in Texas history.

Karla Faye's religious conversion while on Death Row had led many, including Pope John Paul II, to express support for clemency, but it was to no avail. Watching the execution left me with horror and emptiness, confirming what I had already come to realize: Capital punishment only continues the violence that has a powerful, corrosive effect on society.

While many advocated sparing Karla Faye's life because of her redemption story, I consider myself an advocate for all life - and an opponent of all killing, whether it be the murder of innocent victims or the execution of the condemned.

As I watched Karla Faye die, all I could think was this: I can't see Jesus pulling the switch.

Ronald Carlson lives in Houston and is an advocate against the death penalty.

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My Mission at DPF

Posted by Yoko on August 20th, 2008

As a Japanese national, I have a unique perspective on the death penalty.

Many people are surprised to learn that Japan, like the United States, has a death penalty. What surprises people most is that Japan still uses hanging as its method of execution and that hangings are carried out in secret.   The condemned prisoner, their lawyers, and the family of the condemned do not know when the execution is scheduled to occur.  They are usually notified the morning of the execution and this information is made public the following day. (It used to be completely hidden from all parties until the policy was changed in December 2007.) According to the recent public poll, over 90% of Japanese people support the death penalty.
When I lived in Japan, I didn't have an opportunity to discuss the death penalty or even think about it seriously.  I simply accepted it as part of life in Japan.  In fact, due to my political ignorance at the time, I used to support the death penalty.
But as you may have guessed, I now fall into the ten percent of Japanese people who oppose the death penalty.
Its the perception of many people that the condemned don't have the right to live because they are responsible for the taking the lives of innocent victims. Of course, I now strongly disagree with that thought construct and believe that every human being deserves to live. 
Because of my own experience here in the bay area and the knowledge that I've acquired by attending school here, I am now committed to educating my friends regarding the issues surrounding the death penalty.  This is one of the main components of my mission at DPF!

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