Category Archives: 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.)

I do not want his death

This is  guest post by the Rev. Dr. Margaret Aymer Oget, associate professor at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Thank you Margaret for your words and witness and for allowing them to be shared here.

I know this is not popular, but I don’t want them to execute Dylann Roof.

First, it perpetuates the culture of violence and legitimates the utterly illegitimate system of state-sponsored execution. He becomes the monster who proves the rule.

Second, it treats him as though he is some extraordinary exception that can be rooted out, like a noxious weed, rather than a young adult radicalized by white racist Christianist terrorists intent at creating a race war. Cf. Girard: the Scapegoat

Third, it means he never has to grow up, face what he did, and explain it to himself and to us, aloud. He can die a martyr and never once look in the eyes of the children whose parents he killed, the parents whose children he killed, the parishioners whose pastor he killed, or the legislators whose colleague he killed.

No, I do not want his death. I want those who radicalized him — on trial — for murder. I want their ring dismantled. I want the connections between that ring and the larger structures of systemic racism to become so plain that every and any one can read it.

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

#danielonmymind

I have been remiss in posting about the death penalty. It is part of my privilege that I can “become too busy” or “have other things to do.” The reality is that I can choose to engage this issue or not. That’s a choice many of my sisters and brothers do not have.

Today, I choose engagement.

The State of Georgia has set April 27, 2016 as the date to execute Daniel Anthony Lucas. Lucas was convicted for the 1998 murder of eleven-year-old Bryan Moss, fifteen-year-old Kristin Moss, and their father Steven Moss. Two children and their father.

There seems little doubt as to his guilt. His crime is heinous. I cannot begin to imagine the grief and pain endured by those who love Bryan, Kristin, and Steven. My heart breaks for young lives ended too soon; my heart goes out to those who grieve.

But execution is not the answer. It will not restore Bryan, Kristin, and Steven.

Responding to killing with killing pays no honor to the person that Bryan, Kristin, and Steven were and might become.

Execution says more about us than it does about the person we execute. It lowers us to the level of those who kill.

Nothing justifies the murder of Bryan, Kristin, and Steven. But the execution of their killer is not the answer. Life imprisonment is.

The National Coalition against the Death Penalty suggests several actions we can take:

  • Contact the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles and ask them to halt this execution: contact them via email at clemency_info@pap.state.ga.us, by tweet at @GA_ParoleBoard or by phone at (404) 656-4661. If you prefer to send a letter, here is their mailing address: State Board of Pardons and Paroles, 2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive SE, Suite 458, Balcony Level, East Tower, Atlanta, Georgia 30334-4909.
  • Contact Gov. Nathan Deal to influence his Parole Board: While the parole board is the only entity that can grant clemency, its five members are appointed by the Governor. Contact Gov. Deal and urge him to intervene at Governor Nathan Deal, Office of the Governor, 203 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334. You can also contact him by phone at (404) 656-1776, via this link or by twitter@GovernorDeal.
  • If you live in Georgia, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
  • Attend a vigil organized by the Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, around the scheduled execution.
  • Please share this information with your friends, especially those in Georgia, and ask them to help halt the execution of Mr. Lucas by taking one of the actions listed above.

It is time to end the death penalty.

See you along the Trail.

 

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

Decent people

I oppose the death penalty for a number of reasons. Andrew Stroehlein, European Media Director of Human Rights Watch, expressed one of the most important reasons in these terms:

You don’t reject the death penalty because the criminals are decent people. You reject the death penalty because you are decent people.

 

 

Our position on the death penalty says as much about us and our characters as it does about the person and the character of the person facing the death penalty.

Brian, the wife of my friend Bruce Reyes-Chow,  was murdered at his place of work in 2008. In the wake of the execution of Kelly Gissendaner and the four executions (Richard Glossip’s execution was stayed until Nov. 6 due to questions about the lethal injection drug that would have been used) scheduled between now and October 7, Bruce shares some “Thoughts on the Death Penalty and Remembering Brian.” He writes in part:

We are that family who has lost a loved one and we do not believe that the death penalty is right, just, or humane. Did the killer of Brian extend the same compassion, justice, or humanity, no. Are there times when rage and sadness manifest themselves into wanting revenge, certainly. But we also know that responding to evil with evil, hate with hate, and murder with murder pays no honor to the person that Brian was or to the world that he hoped we would become.

So for the very reason that so many scream. “Death! Justice! Vengeance!” in honor of the person who has been lost, even in the midst of our own rage, sadness, and our own yearning for retribution, we plead, “Life! Compassion! Dignity!” in honor of the person we lost.

Our position on the death penalty says as much about us and our characters as it does about the person and the character of the person facing the death penalty.

I am honored that Bruce and his family have chosen to be friends with me.

See you along the Trail.

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