Yesterday the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty sent us this great op-ed posted on The Orlando Sentinel’s web site by former Florida prison warden Ron McAndrew about why the death penalty is flawed and should be abolished. You’ll find it here.
There’s an extensive rebuttal posted after the op-ed by Dudley Sharp, a pro-death penalty advocate, who tracks op-eds opposed to the death penalty and attempts to refute them in ways that seem to support his arguments. Everything he talks about can be answered by facts on The Death Penaly Information Center’s website. If you choose to respond to Mr. Sharp’s comments, you don’t have to rebut every single point. Pick one thing (innocence, cost, etc.) and respond briefly to that.
I hope you will read Warden McAndrew’s op-ed. He spoke at the NCADP conference in January and received a standing ovation. His witness as someone who oversaw executions in Florida is a powerful one.
Just after 4am this morning, the Connecticut Senate voted 19 to 17 to repeal that state’s death penalty. This follows the unexpectedly overwhelming 90-56 vote in the House last week. The bill is now on its way to the desk of Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell, who in media reports is saying that she still supports the death penalty and is suggesting that she may veto the bill.
If you live in Connecticut, please call and e-mail Governor Rell. If you live in others parts of the country, think about who you know living in Connecticut and forward this action request to them. Ask them to contact Governor Rell and tell her to “please sign the bill to repeal the death penalty in Connecticut” The phone is 860-566-4840. The email: Governor.Rell@ct.gov
Letters, blog posts, and comments expressing a similar sentiment on the web pages of Connecticut newspapers would be useful as well.
This vote represents another milestone for the abolition movement, demonstrating that the public and lawmakers alike are becoming convinced that the death penalty is a costly, unfair system that cannot be trusted to convict and sentence only the guilty.
Congratulations to the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty for this stunning achievement.
On May 14, Diann Rust-Tierney wrote a compelling article for The Huffington Post concerning the Paul House case and its implications for other cases of possible innocence, specifically the case of Troy Davis. Davis currently sits on Georgia’s death row and is awaiting a decision in his case by the U.S. Supreme Court. If the Court refuses to hear his case or otherwise grant relief, his execution date could be set at any time. Read full article here
In 1991, Troy was convicted in the murder of off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail largely on the basis of eyewitness testimony – no physical evidence links him to the crime. Since his trial, seven of nine eyewitnesses have recanted their original statements, yet federal law prevents these new eyewitness statements from being heard.Troy’s execution had been scheduled for September 23rd, 2008. On September 12, 2008 he was denied clemency by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. Two hours before he was to be killed he received stay from the U.S. Supreme Court pending its decision as to whether it would hear his appeal. On October 14, 2008, the Court denied his request for relief so that his evidence of innocence could be heard in a legal proceeding. Just one day later, Troy Davis’ execution was set for October 27 at 7pm EST. On October 24, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay pending further examination and possible acceptance of a new appeal. On April 16, by a 2-1 vote the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Troy’s appeal but issued a 30 stay to allow time for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Tuesday, May 19th is Troy Anthony Davis Global Day of Action, an event sponsored by Amnesty International and endorsed by the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Take action for Troy Davis
As I was getting ready for work today I walked out of the bathroom to hear Paul House’s name on the Channel 4 News. I ran to the screen only to catch a segway into the next news brief. Shrugging it off, I figured it was a quick update to the June 1 retrial or another trial extension request, as it’s happened twice before. I figured I could check the story online when I made it into the office.
Much to my surprise, as I walked in the door of TCASK this morning, Joyce House was calling on our phone. “We have good news today,” she said. “Paul’s been exonterated! We talked for a moment of the relief and joy that the House family is feeling today after 23 years of frustration and fighting for Paul’s life.
After what has seemed like months or years of testing of the DNA evidence preserved from the 1985 rape and murder of Carolyn Muncey, District Attorney Paul Phillips finally requested for the murder charges held against Paul House to be dropped. Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood accepted such request and now, after 22 years on death row, Paul House is free.
Paul House joins the ranks of over 130 men who have been released from death row after evidence of their wrongful convictions have emerged (often DNA evidence). This long battle over the guilt or innocence of Paul is a perfect example of the millions of dollars that are fueled into our death penalty system, often with a final result being the reversal of sentencing and also the risk of condemning and killing an innocent man.
We rejoice with the House family as they feel some relief from this long struggle but also acknowledge and share our greivance with the Muncey family as their loved one’s case now has become unsolved.
Check out some of the news coverage on this story:
Tennessean Article: State drops charge against former Death Row inmate Paul House
Knox News Article: Prosecutor drops murder charges against ex-death-row inmate House
Yesterday a Colorado bill that would have repealed the death penalty and dedicated the savings to solving cold cases failed by just one vote in the Senate. The Colorado House voted in favor of repeal by one vote last month. The bill would have redirected $1 million currently spent on the death penalty to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for investigating unsolved crimes known as cold cases of which Colorado has 1,400. Senator Morgan Carroll, a Democratic co-sponsor of the bill, believed passage of this legislation would have resulted in more cases solved and more killers held accountable. “Justice at least means: find the person who did it,” Ms. Carroll stated.
Though the bill did not pass, with a vote of 17-18 in favor of the legislation, yet another state demonstrates that public confidence and support of the death penalty is faltering. Citizens are becoming more educated about the failure of the death penalty as a public policy and lawmakers are listening. The death penalty is often hailed as serving victims and their families, but with precious resources spent on pursuing the death penalty, at least 1,400 victims of murder in Colorado have yet to have their cases solved. What about those victims and their families?
Kudos to all in Colorado whose organizing efforts catapulted that state’s movement towards abolition into the national spotlight and who are now poised for success in the next legislative session.
Yesterday Paul House’s federal public defender, Stephen Kissinger, argued before a three judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that the state of Tennessee has persisted in a pattern on delay in dealing with the Paul House case and should be barred from trying him again for the murder of Carolyn Muncey.
Kissinger informed the court that every additional piece of evidence tested for DNA in preparation for this new trial, at the taxpayer’s expense, has not matched House and only bolstered his claims of innocence.
Judge Gilbert Merritt pushed the state as to whether or not it would ensure that this trial happen in June and could not get a straight answer. The Judge went on to state that there appeared to be “pure stubbornness and vindictiveness on the part of the state” in its unrelenting pursuit of House given that the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that if the new evidence had been presented at the time of his trial, no reasonable juror would have convicted him.
The panel has taken the case under consideration and did not indicate when it would rule.
The House case is one more example of the state’s inability to admit an error. Instead, untold resources are being wasted on this pursuit of House who already spent 22 years on Tennessee’s death row and who currently is confined to a wheelchair with aggressive multiple sclerosis.
Read more here.