Category Archives: Death Penalty

They ride

In the early morning they rise.
People and horses they ride.
They pray and eat.
Riders mount horses
and into the pale light, in prayer
together hey begin to ride.

Through the mist,
they ride.
Through the fog,
they ride.
Through the cold,
they ride.
Through the rain,
they ride.
Through the snow,
they ride.
Through the ice,
they ride.

To remember,
they ride.
To tell the story,
they ride.
To bear witness,
they ride.
To grieve,
they ride.
To heal,
they ride.
To hope,
they ride.

For the 38+2,
they ride.
For justice,
they ride.
For the people,
they ride.
For themselves,
they ride.
For the future,
they ride.
For us all,
they ride.

To Mankato,
traveling  through the past,
inspiring the present,
shaping the future,
they ride.

25 December 2021
North East, Maryland

Learn more about the Dakota 38+2 and the 2021 Memorial Ride.
View Dakota 38, a documentary about the ride for reconciliation and hope.
A Memorial Run from Fort Snelling to Mankato also takes place on December 25-26

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Filed under Antiracism, Capital Punishment, Death Penalty, Human Rights, Photo

He’s in Hospice – Stop the Execution of Gerald Pizzuto Jr. in Idaho

The state of Idaho prepares to execute a man in hospice.

The crimes of which Gerald Pizzuto, Jr. was convicted are horrible. I grieve for the families of Berta Herndon and her nephew Del Herndon.

But the execution of Pizzuto will not bring the Herndons back. There are many reasons to oppose executions. Executions lower us to the level of those who kill. The violence of an execution feeds violence. Executions negate any possibility of repentance and restoration. Executions do not deter crime. In this case, there is the additional reality that Pizzuto is terminally ill. Killing Pizzuto would be cruel and unnecessary. Sign this petition to Idaho’s governor and the state Pardons and Parole Commission to grant clemency, call off the execution, and allow Pizzuto to die a natural death.

Gerald Pizzuto’s attorney notes: “At 64, Mr. Pizzuto is a frail shell of the man he once was. He has stage 4 cancer and is approaching natural death. The idea that such a sick, feeble man presents enough of a danger to society that he must be executed is far-fetched.” For more than a year, Pizzuto has been in hospice care on Idaho’s death row, suffering from advanced bladder tumors, along with type 2 diabetes, and a variety of heart and lung diseases. According to his defense team, he’s been prescribed 42 different drugs in the last year, and his medical records say he has “begun experiencing memory loss and mild disorientation associated with the death process”.

Pizzuto does not deny his responsibility for the murders of Berta Herndon and Del Herndon. His clemency petition notes that he “is not making excuses for the 1986 deaths of Berta and Delbert Herndon.
He accepts responsibility for his role in their murders and is remorseful for their deaths. He has
carried those regrets for 34 years on death row.” You can read the clemency petition here (including horrific details about abuse he endured in his childhood that left him with brain damage).

Killing Pizzuto would be unnecessary and cruel. That cruelty could extend to the state workers asked to carry out the execution of a prisoner in such a debilitated condition. This might well leave them with lifelong burdens known to exist with other former executioners. Please sign this petition urging that the execution of Pizzuto be cancelled. Please pray for those who love Berta Herndon and Del Herndon.

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Filed under Capital Punishment, Current Events, Death Penalty, Human Rights

Support justice for Julius Jones

Tell the State of Oklahoma to commute the death sentence on Julius Jones.

I oppose the death penalty.
Executing people to keep people from committing crimes has proven ineffectual.
Execution lowers us to the level of those who kill.
The violence of an execution feeds violence.
Execution negates any possibility of repentance and restoration.

And innocent blood could be shed. An innocent person could be executed,

Julius Jones may be innocent. The evidence points strongly in that direction. He has a petition for commutation before the Pardon and Parole Board. This Board can

Julius Jones sits on death row in Oklahoma, despite maintaining his innocence and despite compelling evidence that he may have been wrongfully convicted.

At the time of the crime for which he was convicted, Julius was a 19-year-old student athlete with a promising future, attending the University of Oklahoma on an academic scholarship. It is clear that Julius’ lawyer did not adequately defend him, and that explicit racial bias played a significant role in the process.. For example, his supporters point out that:

  • Eyewitnesses place Mr. Jones at his parents’ home at the time of the murder, miles away from the crime scene. 
  • Mr. Jones’ co-defendant admitted to being involved in the crime and is now free after testifying against Julius. He was heard bragging that he “set Julius up.” Mr. Jones’ co-defendant matches the only eyewitness description of the shooter based on the length of his hair.
  • Newly-discovered evidence shows that at least one juror harbored racial prejudice that influenced his vote to convict and sentence Mr. Jones to death. One juror reported telling the judge about another juror who said the trial was a waste of time and “they should just take the n***** out and shoot him behind the jail.” 

Julius Jones, who is African American, was convicted and sentenced to death in 2002 for the murder of Paul Howell, a prominent white businessman, in 1999. There can be no justification for the murder of Paul Howell. It is a violation. It is tragic. But, an execution will not, can not bring Paul Howell back to life. An execution of the wrong person will also be a violation and a tragedy.

Tell the State of Oklahoma to commute the death sentence on Julius Jones.

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Filed under Antiracism, Capital Punishment, Current Events, Death Penalty

Faith Leaders Sign-On Letter Opposing Federal Executions

I signed on to a letter opposing federal executions. I invite my clergy friends to join me. Here is the information:

In Collaboration with Clergy Emergency League, Red Letter Christians, Vote Common Good, L’Chaim: Jews Against the Death Penalty, and others…

As ministers to many of our greatest societal problems, we advocate for systemic solutions to violent crime that address our communities’ needs for justice, equity, and love, not vengeance. In this moment, the first step we are taking is to raise awareness among citizens and members of our congregations about the new crass and harsh ways the death penalty is being implemented. Thus, we call for an immediate halt to the executions that have been scheduled by our federal government.

It has been 131 years since the last time there was a federal execution under a lame duck president. But already, there have been post-election executions on November 19, December 10 and December 11, 2020, and now three more are scheduled for January 12, 14 and 15, 2021. The final execution is set on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Details of these cases raise questions of innocence/culpability, issues around serious mental illness, intellectual capacity, fairness, racial bias, and other horrific issues that plague our modern death penalty.

Between July 14 and December 11, 2020, the federal government has overseen 10 executions. The alarming speed with which these executions have been scheduled and carried out should deeply trouble all Americans.

Join me in signing the letter opposing federal executions.

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Filed under Antiracism, Capital Punishment, Death Penalty

Stop the execution of Rodney Reed

This is urgent. On November 20th, Texas is scheduled to execute Rodney Reed for the rape and murder of Stacey Stites. Horrible crimes. Crimes that Rodney Reed most likely did not commit.

Mountains of evidence exonerates Rodney Reed. All of that evidence was kept from the all white jury that convicted him. Instead, the evidence implicates the victim’s fiancé – local police officer Jimmy Fennell – who has a history of violence against women, including being convicted for kidnapping and sexual assault soon after Rodney was wrongly sent to prison.

Governor Greg Abbott has stopped an execution before. He can again. A huge public uproar right now could force Abbott to free Rodney Reed and stop this execution. Sign the petition today!

Find other ways to help.

Gov. Abbott should stop this execution because a significant amount of evidence points to Rodney Reed’s innocence. Executions are irreversible. There can be no do-overs. The lack of absolute certainty (which exists in many cases) should give significant pause before the state carries out this or any execution.

Let’s suppose, just suppose that Rodney Reed committed these crimes. That seems highly unlikely, but let’s suppose. Sound reasons still exist for halting this and every execution:
Executing people to keep people from committing crimes has proven ineffectual.
Execution lowers us to the level of those who kill.
The violence of an execution feeds violence.
Thou shall not kill.

We are better than this.

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Filed under Capital Punishment, Current Events, Death Penalty, Human Rights

Nicholas Kristoff on the death penalty

Nicholas Kristoff has published an opinion piece in the New York Times on the death penalty: When We Kill.

He looks and reasons in favor of the death penalty and counters them, often relying on studies and specific cases. Read the whole article, but here is Kristoff’s summation:

There is no evidence that the death penalty deters. It costs hundreds of thousands of additional dollars per prisoner. It is steeped in caprice, arbitrariness and racial bias. It is fallible — and when it fails, it undermines the legitimacy of our judicial system.

Kristoff also notes that:

One peer-reviewed study suggested that at least 4.1 percent of those sentenced to death in the United States are innocent. With more than 2,700 Americans on death row, that would imply that more than 110 innocent people are awaiting execution.

Wouldn’t killing one innocent person be one too many?

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Filed under Current Events, Death Penalty, Human Rights

Human Rights Day, Seventy Years On

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This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

The Declaration, and the commitment of UN Member States to affirm and implement its principles, has resulted in the dignity of people uplifted, untold human suffering prevented and the foundations for a most just world have been laid in the treaty regime built upon the Declaration. It is both an aspirational, visionary document and a set of standards that permeates international law.

The Declaration articulates a vision that has been built upon and used to extend rights and protect people around the globe. In a world where exploitation and violation are so strong, we can be grateful for the many ways in which the Declaration has had an impact. Its successes are many.

At the same time, violations of international law and human dignity are perpetrated in many countries. In a report released on Friday, a team of experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council noted that:

Recent memory is replete with multiple examples of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Impunity reigns supreme in many countries undergoing conflicts or political upheavals, encouraged by narrow national objectives, geopolitics and political impasse at the United Nations Security Council.

The report expressed concern that an “upsurge of nationalism and xenophobia seen in countries of asylum, at a time of rising forced-migration” is “reversing the gains of international humanitarian cooperation of the last 70 years.”

UN News notes that :In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, the UN is urging people everywhere to “Stand Up for Human Rights”.

One way to do that is to  choose a place in the world where human rights are abused (including in the United States of America) and become informed. Take one action today that affirms and celebrates the worth and dignity and rights of others.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Death Penalty, Human Rights, United Nations

Stop the execution of Marcellus Williams!

Marcellus Williams is scheduled for death on Tuesday despite circumstances that he might be innocent. Sign a petition to the Governor of Missouri to halt the execution.

Why should we halt the execution?

Mr. Williams might be innocent.
But even if he is not, executing people to keep people from committing crimes has proven ineffectual.
Execution lowers us to the level of those who kill.
The violence of an execution feeds violence.
Thou shall not kill.

Background from Amnesty International

The state of Missouri is scheduled to execute Marcellus Williams on August 22 despite a lack of solid evidence used to secure his conviction and a new report from a DNA expert that his lawyers argue supports his claim to innocence.

“The death penalty is abhorrent in any circumstance, and as we have seen time and time again, the capital justice system is capable of error,” said Zeke Johnson, senior director of programs at Amnesty International USA. “The state of Missouri must not allow this execution to go forward, and must commute the sentences of all of those on death row. There is no acceptable way for the state to kill its prisoners.”

Williams was convicted of the 1998 murder of former St. Louis reporter Felicia Gayle by a jury consisting of 11 white jurors and one black juror. Williams is black and Gayle was white. There was no forensic evidence or eyewitness testimony linking him to the crime. The jury was not presented evidence of Williams’ background, which included severe abuse and mental disability.

Two experts retained by the appeal lawyers have concluded that DNA testing conducted in December 2016 on the murder weapon excludes Williams as the contributor of the male DNA found on the knife. The lawyers have just filed the latest expert report they have obtained on this with the Missouri Supreme Court in a bid to obtain a stay of execution.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Capital Punishment, Current Events, Death Penalty

Advocate for Jennifer Dalquez on Orange Day

UNiTE_Poster_CThe UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, managed by UN Women, has proclaimed every 25th of the month as “Orange Day” – a day to take action to raise awareness and prevent violence against women and girls.

If you are looking for another action for this day, March 25, 2017, consider signing this petition to save Jennifer Dalquez, a migrant worker from the Philippines sentenced to death by in the United Arab Emirates. She sits in prison in the U.A.E. awaiting appeal from her death sentence at the Al Ain Judicial Court on March 27, 2017.

The killing of Jennifer Dalquez by the state would be an obvious example of violence against women. However, according to reports by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Jennifer’s case involves further violence.

Jennifer claims self-defense when her former employer attempted to rape her in December 2014. Dalquez fatally wounded her employer during the ensuing struggle to protect her life from harm.

Jennifer is one of many overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who leave their country to earn a living and provide for their families. These workers often struggle to seek safety and justice while working overseas. We learned about Jennifer Dalquez through the prophetic witness of migrant ministries and organizations that advocate for overseas Filipino workers.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s General Assembly has long opposed the imposition of the death penalty. In addition, the General Assembly’s human trafficking policy focuses on the protection of workers and workers’ rights, including freedom from abuse and exploitation, in response to globalization and migration.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines have sent letters to the president of the Philippines and to the president of the U.A.E. .

The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has asked Presbyterians to “join in prayer that Jennifer Dalquez be spared from execution” and to “show our support through the online signature campaign that appeals to the United Arab Emirates government to respect Jennifer’s plea for self-defense and to overturn her death penalty conviction” and to “further our resolve to protect workers and workers’ rights, including their safety and justice in the Philippines and for OFWs throughout the world.”

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Capital Punishment, Death Penalty, Human Rights, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Ask United Arab Emirates President to Pardon Jennifer Dalquez

Philippines-CIA_WFB_MapMy colleague Catherine Chang and partners from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines hand delivered a letter for President Duterte of the Philippines on Friday, March 24, 2017. The letter was delivered to a presidential aide.

The joint letter from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines asks President Duterte to appeal to the United Arab Emirates’ authorities to overturn the death penalty for Jennifer Dalquez who is currently awaiting her appeal hearing that will take place on March 27, at the Al-Ain Court of Appeals. You can learn more about Jennifer and sign a petition on her behalf asking His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates to pardon Jennifer Dalquez and repatriate her to her family in the Phillipines.

Here is Catherine’s reflection on delivering the letter:

Many thanks for your prayers for our earlier morning visit to Malacanang Palace (equivalent to the White House) to hand-deliver a joint UCCP-PCUSA letter for President Duterte, about Jennifer Dalquez.

**The Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella received our small delegation which included 2 UCCP colleagues, Karrie Palaruan and Jason Caperas, and myself. We gave him our letter, and spoke for almost 30 minutes. He assured us that he and his staff will try to facilitate everything possible for an appeal from the death penalty.
***Hoping to find a way to share the joint letter via FB so that you can see it and share it!
***Keep those prayers coming for Jennifer and her family, UAE authorities, and the Philippine government.

Some background

Catherine Chang and her husband Juan Lopez serve as mission co-workers of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Their ministry helps Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) partner churches address issues of migration and human trafficking.  They are based in Manila, the Philippines. The UN’s International Labor Organization estimates 21 million people around the world are victims of forced labor.  Human trafficking is a worldwide problem, including within the United States. Countries in Asia are increasingly vulnerable. Cathy and Juan will work with Asian churches and non-governmental organizations to help coordinate efforts related to ending this scourge. They will also resource the Presbyterian Human Trafficking Roundtable, made up of various programs of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, Presbyterian Women in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the Office of the General Assembly,  in their work to support US congregations concerned about the issue.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Capital Punishment, Death Penalty, Human Rights, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)