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CAPITAL PUNISHMENT -- THE DEATH PENALTY:

Developments: Year 2001

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Recent developments:

bullet ACLU Execution Watch Counter2001-JAN-6: USA: Major moratorium campaign: The American Civil Liberties Union is mounting an anti-death penalty campaign. They are calling on a moratorium on future executions. They write: "Right now, more than 3,500 inmates sit on Death Row in America. Almost all are poor, and a wildly disproportionate number are people of color. In addition, most had legal representation that ranged from inadequate to grossly incompetent."
bullet2001-JAN-7: Oklahoma: Major series of executions planned: Nine people are scheduled for execution over the next 30 days in this state. Wanda Jean Allen is one; she is black, a lesbian, and mentally impaired. According to the ACLU, "Allen suffers brain damage and has been declared clinically borderline retarded, but her trial attorney and juries never knew about her mental incapacity." The state paid her lawyer $800 to represent her. He had never dealt with a capital case before. She is scheduled to die on JAN-11. 1
bullet2001-FEB-15: Canada: Extradition of murder suspects: In an unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the government cannot extradite accused murderers to states in the U.S. which exercise the death penalty. Officials in the state involved must first promise that the accused will not be executed if found guilty. They wrote, in part, "in the Canadian view of fundamental justice, capital punishment is unjust and it should be stopped." Mexico has required assurances before it extradites individuals to the U.S. More details
bullet2001-FEB-8: Oklahoma: Church promotes moratorium: 11 people were executed in the year 2000 in this state. Eight more have been scheduled or carried out for this year - one every Tuesday and Thursday. The Anglican Bishop of Oklahoma, the Rt. Revd. Robert Moody, has asked his diocese to prayerfully address the issue of capital punishment and critically look at how it impacts on the society at large. He asked that, on execution days, churches to ring a bell for two minutes at 6 PM. Alternatively, they could drape an outside door in black or tie ribbons around trees or utility poles. Bishop Moody said, "I recognize that Christian men and women differ on this issue. However, as your bishop, I ask you to prayerfully address this issue anew...For me, I have concluded that capital punishment contributes nothing that betters our society and I cannot imagine our Lord condoning capital punishment."
bullet2001-MAR-21: Georgia: Superior Court judge suspends use of electric chair: A Fulton County Superior Court judge Wendy Shoob banned the state from executing people in the electric chair until the Georgia Supreme Court rules whether the method violates the Constitutional ban against "cruel and unusual" punishments.
bullet2001-APR: USA: Roman Catholic leader criticizes execution: "Daniel Buechlein, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Indianapolis, Indiana, and Bishop Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church have criticized the planned execution of Timothy McVeigh." He will be executed by lethal injection on MAY-16 in Indiana; his will be the first federal execution in four decades. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has decided to permit survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing and members of the victim's families to observe the execution on closed-circuit TV. Some local merchants are selling T-shirts to commemorate the event. Bishop Griswold said that such activities: "conjure up images of executions in the Middle Ages and Roman times when these events were public entertainment. Such an atmosphere demeans our judicial system as it promotes frenzy and revenge. A public ritual of death can only coarsen our spirits and deaden our sensibilities. Though undoubtedly Timothy McVeigh committed one of the most heinous crimes in the history of our country, I fear that execution as spectacle can only poison the soul of our nation." Archbishop Buechlein commented: "The good of society requires that we rise to the challenge of a measured and larger vision. The death penalty seems to fan the flame of revenge, rather than foster a genuine sense of justice in society." 2
bullet2001-MAY-30: Chile: Death penalty abolished: Congress passed a bill to abolish the death penalty in April. President Ricardo Lagos signed the measure into law on MAY-30. The penal code has commuted the death penalty to life imprisonment which now means imprisonment for 40 years. The penal code had previously provided the death penalty by firing squad in cases of murder of a family member, kidnapping of children or violence against them, and kidnapping of adults that caused the death or murder of police agents. 3
bullet2001-JUN-3: TX: Supreme court overturns death sentence: The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of Johnny Paul Penry, 45, a convicted killer from Texas. His lawyers estimate that he has an IQ between 50 and 63, and has the reasoning ability of a seven-year-old. He still believes in Santa Claus. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote the majority opinion. she said that the judge's jury instruction was "ineffective and illogical," and did not permit the jury to consider mitigating evidence of the defendant's mental retardation and childhood abuse. If tried again, it will be Penry's third trial for the same crime: that of raping and murdering Pamela Carpenter, 22, in 1979. 
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2001-JUN-11: Execution of Timothy McVeigh: At 8:14 local time, he was executed in Terre Haute, IN, for the terrorist bombing which killed 168 people at the Afred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, OK on 1995-APR-19. Some thoughts on the execution:
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President George W. Bush announced: "This morning, the United States of America carried out the severest sentence for the gravest of crimes. The victims of the Oklahoma City bombing have been given not vengeance but justice. And one young man met the fate he chose for himself six years ago...Today, every living person who was hurt by the evil done in Oklahoma City can rest in the knowledge that there has been a reckoning."

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Amnesty International said that the U.S. government has allowed vengeance to triumph over justice and distanced itself yet further from the aspirations of the international community. "President George W. Bush's record on the death penalty is well-known across the world...By refusing to step in and impose a moratorium on federal executions, he has further damaged his and his country's reputation." During his five years as Governor of Texas, he permitted 152 state executions. Many were in violation of international standards. At least one involved a foreigner who was not allowed to contact their embassy after being arrested. Some executions were of criminals who were children at the time of their offense. Others were of severely mentally handicapped adults.

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Some voices of individuals:
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"Timothy McVeigh was a cold-blooded murderer. He will not be missed. But the way he died was sad, pathetic and wrong."

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"A rite of national purification."

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"Before Tim McVeigh was executed, there were 168 deaths associated with the bombing. Now, there are 169 deaths, and the creation of one martyr. Further, his siblings and parents must morn the state murder of a member of their family. Snuffing out one life is too great a price to pay so that some victims and families of victims may feel a sense of vengeance or closure. If we want to prevent future terrorist acts, we won't have Timothy around to analyze."

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"Judgment day."

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"He didn't suffer at all. The man just went to sleep, or as I said, the monster did. I think they should have done the same thing to him as he did in Oklahoma."

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"McVeigh is a coward and a low-down bastard. Somebody tried to take my life, they deserve to burn in hell."

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"We feel at peace now."

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"I won't have closure. My pain won't go away."

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"All life is precious. It's a sad day."

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"An eye for an eye. That's what we are here for."

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"Rot in Hell, McVeigh."

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2001-JUN-14: OK: Human Rights Watch (HRW) urges state to stop executions: Oklahoma leads the U.S. in executions during 2001. The state has executed 13 people so far this year. Over the past 20 years, seven or more men on death row have been exonerated and released. According to HRW, "Recent reports that an Oklahoma City police forensic scientist may have offered misleading and improper testimony in a number of capital cases underscore the need to reconsider the death penalty." HRW has written Oklahoma governor Frank Keating (R), urging a moratorium on executions.

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2001-JUL-6: CT: Execution of mentally retarded banned: Governor John Rowland of Connecticut signed a bill into law which prohibits the execution of offenders with mental retardation. It also authorizes a study of possible disparities in prosecutors' decisions to seek the death penalty based on a defendant's or victim's race or economic status.

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2001-AUG-4: NC: Execution of mentally retarded banned: Governor Mike Easley signed a bill into law that forbids the execution of mentally retarded individuals. He said: "The prosecutors and legislators feel this is a fair bill. I have sincere reservations because I support the death penalty and I believe that a defendant who knows right from wrong, and is capable of assisting his counsel in his defense in court, should be subject to the same punishment as anyone else." However, support from the state's district attorney's association and Attorney General Roy Cooper were "compelling factors" in his decision to sign the bill. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, this brings to 18 the number of states that have some type of ban on executions of the mentally retarded. Jonathan Broun, a spokesperson for the Center for Death Penalty Litigation said: "North Carolina is joining what is a national viewpoint that it is wrong to execute the mentally retarded, that we should not be killing people with the minds of children". Opponents of the legislation argued that supporters were trying to use it to gut the death penalty in North Carolina.

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2001-OCT-22: TX: Execution of teenage offender: Gerald Mitchell, 33, was executed in Huntsville, TX. He had been found guilty of committing murder while he was 17 years of age. Rick Halperin, a history professor at Southern Methodist University and president of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty said: "The world does not recognize, in general, a 17-year-old as an adult." But Texas, 22 other states in the U.S. and about a half-dozen other countries do. 4

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References:

  1. "Bias and stereotyping sent mentally impaired lesbian to death row, ACLU tells OK Clemency Board," at: http://www.aclu.org/news/2000/n121500.html
  2. Chris Herlinger, "U.S. religious leaders condemn sentences in two high-profile crimes," 2001-MAY-2, PCUSA News.
  3. "Chilean cardinal applauds end to death penalty," at: http://www.zenit.org/english/archive/0106/
  4. Diane Jennings, "Execution gets little notice despite youth of defendant," Dallas Morning News, at: http://www.dallasnews.com/

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Copyright 1997 to 2001 incl. by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Extracted from our main death penalty essay on 2000-FEB-13
Hyperlinks checked: 2000-FEB-13

Last updated 2001-DEC-6
Author: B.A. Robinson

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