On Nov. 16, the Death Penalty Information Center released the results of one of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted of Americans’ views on the death penalty. Out of the 1,500 voters who were polled, a clear majority of voters (61%) would choose a punishment other than the death penalty for murder, including life with no possibility of parole and with restitution to the victim’s family (39%), life with no possibility of parole (13%), or life with the possibility of parole (9%).
And, in states that have the death penalty, a plurality of voters said that a politician’s support of repeal of the death penalty would make no difference in how they voted; and a majority (62%) said either it would make no difference (38%) or they would be more likely to vote for such a representative (24%).
This poll reflects the growing concern in this country about the administration of the death penalty, particularly the unfairness, the cost, and the real risk of executing the innocent. When given the option of life without parole, more Americans are deciding that this sentence is a viable alternative to the death penalty that can hold offenders accountable, keep society safe, save money, and remove the risk of wrongful executions.
When our elected officials understand that they can be for policies that are “smart on crime” and not just “tough on crime” without losing their seats, things will change. Those of us who believe that there are better, smarter ways of preventing violent crime, supporting victims’ families, and holding offenders accountable than the death penalty must educate our lawmakers, giving them the room they need to learn about the issue and make the choice for repeal.
Read more here.
Today is International Human Rights day, celebrating the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, that set forth guiding principles regarding the value of human life and the way we live together.
The document affirmed the right to life for all people without qualification. Though there was debate at the document’s creation, and even a proposed amendment creating an exception for those legally sentenced to death, Eleanor Roosevelt urged the committee to resist this amendment. She argued that the declaration should create a universal charter of human rights toward which societies could strive, leading to the day when no government would kill its own citizens for any reason.
Today also makes the 6th anniversary of the founding of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights (MVFHR). The founding group of MVFHR gathered at the UN Church Plaza in New York City, offered public testimony, and signed a document stating, “In the name of victims, we pledge to end the death penalty around the world.”
MVFHR’s first public statement shortly thereafter stated:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that sets forth the most basic principles regarding the value of human life and the way human beings ought to treat one another, was inspired by victims, demanded by victims. It grew out of the suffering of millions of civilians murdered under the brutal regimes of the Second World War, and its adoption on December 10, 1948 was a way to honor the loss of these lives, and an attempt to give meaning to the loss, by asserting that such violations are neither moral nor permissible under any nation or regime.
Now is the time to raise our voices again and insist that violations of human life in the form of the death penalty or other state killings are not permissible under any nation or regime. It is time to call for the abolition of the death penalty because the only way to uphold human rights is to uphold them in all cases, universally.
We believe that survivors of homicide victims have a recognized stake in the debate over how societies respond to murder and have the moral authority to call for a consistent human rights ethic as part of that response. Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights is the answer to that call.
TADP is deeply grateful to all individuals, particularly those who are survivors of murder victims, who work on behalf of human rights around the world through the abolition of the death penalty. We, like Eleanor Roosevelt and those who created this Declaration in 1948, continue to work for the day when we live in a world without the death penalty.
Learn more about MVFHR.
Today on Channel 5’s MorningLine Show in Nashville, the topic was Tennessee’s death penalty with TADP’s Executive Director, Stacy Rector, as the featured guest.
The discussion ranged from Tennessee’s much litigated lethal injection protocol to the needs of surviving family members of murder to the morality of the death penalty in general. The phone lines lit up throughout the show with voices on both sides of the issue joining in the discussion.
Overwhelmingly, callers raised emotional, philosophical, and moral arguments concerning the death penalty. As I noted on the program, these arguments are important but do not get at the real problems with the application and administration of the death penalty system in Tennessee. The data show that the death penalty, in its current form, continues to be unfairly applied–disproportionately affecting the poor, racial minorities, and those with mental illness; is extremely expensive, costing more than life without parole to maintain; and risks the execution of an innocent person. In fact, Tennessee has released 2 people from death row in the last few years who fought their wrongful convictions for over 20 years each before finally being freed. And they were the ones we found out about in time.
Regardless of our moral positions on the death penalty, as citizens, we need to take a hard look at the system to see if it is actually serving us in a smart, effective, and accurate way. I don’t believe that it is. Instead of wasting our resources on the death penalty, we could better use them to support surviving family members of murder and law enforcement, for drug treatment programs, mental health care, and education–all of which will do more to foster healing in victims families and to prevent more violence in the future than the death penalty ever could.
You can view a clip of the show here.
Photo provided by Kate O’Neill
Columnist Pam Strickland voices her concern over Tennessee’s new lethal injection protocol in her most recent article for the Knoxville News Sentinel. The new procedures call for the warden to brush the eyelashes of the condemned inmate, while calling out the inmate’s name and shaking him or her in order to determine whether the inmate is conscious. In the article, Strickland notes the intimate nature of the proposed rule change along with the news coverage it received. Strickland writes, “The procedure was so unusual that it was reported on news sites across the country from the Los Angeles Times to The New York Times.”
Considering former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens voted in 1976 to end the moratorium on the death penalty, it would seem highly unlikely that his retirement plans could include a career as an abolitionist. In spite of his early judicial record, Justice Stevens has proven to be an influential proponent of ending capital punishment. A recent article written by Justice Stevens and published in The New York Review of Books serves as yet another argument by Justice Stevens against “the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes.”
Governor Bredesen and First Lady Andrea Conte will host the 8th annual “Season to Remember” memorial event at the Capitol tomorrow, Thursday, December 2, at 5:30 p.m. This event remembers murder victims in Tennessee and gives surviving family members the opportunity to hang commemorative ornaments in memory of their loved ones.
The event originated in Davidson County. Then Mayor and now Governor Bredesen moved the event from the Nashville Metro Court House to Centennial Park to accommodate the growing crowds. In November 2003, Governor Bredesen and First Lady Conte expanded the event statewide calling it “Tennessee Season to Remember,” and invited families from all over the state to take part.
We encourage all TADP supporters to attend this powerful event. Each year, members of TADP staff attend, as well as participants in TADP’s Sharing Our Stories: Murder Victims’ Families Speak who also hang ornaments on the wreaths to remember their family members.
Regardless of how one feels about the death penalty, there can be no debate about the pain and suffering inflicted by murder and the life long journey towards healing that these surviving family members travel. As a society, we must never forget these individuals who lives were taken so tragically and must take the time to remember their lives, their hopes, and their dreams while supporting their families, particularly during this time of the year.